In this edition of Music Hall Studies you will find these great performers. Click on their names for a short taster.
Hetty King was a remarkable performer, an unparalleled theatrical phenomenon. She was the only music hall artiste ever to appear in ten successive decades. Her career spanned some 85 years. Her meticulous attention to detail in mannerism, costume and gesture, the perfection of her pantomime and her mesmerising finesse convinced many that she was the finest exponent of male impersonation in music hall history. Hetty had troubled relations with her two greatest rivals for this crown. She always resented and denied any suggestion that she had copied Vesta Tilley in her early period. She appeared to have a more open dislike of little Miss Shields, as she once called Ella Shields.
In a rare interview in 1952, Max Miller said: My comedy is the natural, homely, comfortable sort that brings everyone together. People recognise in my work — or so I hope! — everyday feelings and happenings familiar in their own lives. These days, I go on several times during a performance simply because I like it that way. After all, you can get your applause only once. The intimate contact that can be established seems to me to belong to the very spirit of variety. I like my audiences — and I feel better and work better when I find they like me. This may explain why I enjoy interruptions when I can hit back with a quick gag. But I think it is important to know how far to go with this sort of thing, a technique that may take years to learn.
The Lancashire comedian, George Bass, was praised by The Times for being really funny without being offensive. For many years, his stooge was Stanley J. Damerell. But, when they were appearing at the Palace, Burnley, in January 1928, Bass collapsed on stage. Twelve days later, he died, aged 40. Damerell quickly needed another career. He had already written some songs. Now, it was time to build on that talent. He was very successful, his best known song being Lady of Spain, which he had a hand in writing. Others were Lets All Sing Like the Birdies Sing and Rileys Cowshed.
Clapham and Dwyer
From 1926 to 1942, Clapham and Dwyer were a highly successful and archetypal cross-talking comedy double act. Clapham, always wearing a top hat and sporting a monocle, had a capacity for spouting a form of hesitant nonsense. He was slim and gave the air of being slightly aristocratic. It was the job of Dwyer, squat and rotund, to try to understand what he was going on about. Their act was called A Spot of Bother, some of which centred on a cow named Cissie, who, for no reason at all, cropped up in conversation from time to time. The comedy of Clapham and Dwyer now appears to be irritating rather than funny, but, in its day, it struck a public nerve.