In this edition of Music Hall Studies you will find these great performers. Click on their names for a short taster.
George Formby senior
Of all the great stars of music hall, none was greater than George Formby senior. He really was a comic genius, with a subtle and delicate act, full of perception, sympathetic and gentle, of human frailty, which he himself represented. Severely ill throughout his life with chronic tuberculosis, he was famous for his patter with the audience, sometimes chatting away during half the song, while the orchestra gamely kept going. His stage persona was an unassuming Lancashire lad whose puzzled reaction to the situations, in which he found himself, created ample opportunities for observation and comic inventiveness.
Because of the length of the bill at the first Royal Command Performance, staged a century ago, some acts were severely cut and were unable to do themselves justice, while others, in particular, Wilkie Bard, were allowed to overrun or did so by default. The programme shows he was meant to sing his best known number, I Want to Sing in Opera. In the event, he presented his song scena, The Night Watchman, which was a fairly recent addition to his repertoire.
Elsie and Doris Waters
The extent of the archive of the much-loved double act, Elsie and Doris Waters, became clear when an exhibition was staged at the museum in their home town in West Sussex. On the death of a nephew, his executor offered the archive to the curator, who travelled to London and returned with several suitcases of costumes, scripts, gramophone records, songs, letters, photographs, scripts and posters. They provided the evidence that Elsie and Doris never stopped working and never threw away anything connected with the two Cockney women they created, Gert and Daisy.
The Fox Has Left His Lair
One question we are always being asked is: What was the name of the man featured in the musical huntsmen sketch? The comedian was Denny Willis and the sketch was called The Fox Has Left His Lair. For those who have not seen it, it is pure knockabout comedy with Denny playing an unrehearsed member of a small chorus of men. He gets everything wrong and is frequently knocked to the floor, a much harder accomplishment than it sounds. The humour is based on exquisite timing.