Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Grafton Galleries’

Islington Film Studios (The White Shadow). Ciro’s, Piccadilly Hotel, Embassy, Ciro’s and Grafton Galleries

Wednesday 13th June

I almost forget my new role as a film extra in Graham Cutts’ second film with Betty Compson. If it was not for Mama I would not have got up at 6am. I missed appearing in the filming of Woman to Woman and so Dolly Tree persuaded me to register with the production office for this new film and I have several appearances to fulfil. I have strict instructions from her for what I must wear. It is strange arriving at the rather dreary and grubby surroundings of the New North Road and Poole Street in Islington and see the huge old power station which is now a film studio. I meet Monty in the foyer and we are given full instructions of what we have to do by an energetic little man called Alfred Hitchcock and a charming lady called Alma Reville.

We are to be extras in the important Montmartre cabaret scenes. Dolly Tree and her team tweak our outfits before we enter the studio itself to be transported into an illusion of Paris.

“Boy oh boy this is magnificent.” I exclaim to Monty as we walk onto the set of a life-sized reproduction of a Montmartre boulevard. We stroll with others through a big arched door into a long gallery, down stairs onto the main floor of a cabaret with drinks bars in big alcoves beneath the gallery. We take our places at one of the tables with two spectacularly attired young ladies amidst dozens of other characters.

“Blimey this is like the real thing.” Says Monty. “The bohemian atmosphere of Montmartre is all pervasive. Look at the mix of people they have assembled. We are typical British Tommies, but there are French habitues, artists, nondescript dilettantes, sailors, waiters, flower sellers and of course delightful specimens of Parisian femininity.”

We do several rehearsals under the instruction of Graham Cutts before the sequence is filmed by Claude MacDonnel the cameraman. I am in awe watching Betty Compson, Clive Brook, Henry Victor and other leading players doing their stuff against the backdrop of us riff-raff. It is a fascinating experience. Monty has already interviewed Miss Compson, and during a break, she recognises him and blows him a kiss.

Later, we all meet for drinks at the Criterion. Dolly tells us the ins and outs of the film. “It was to be called The Awakening but now it looks like it will be the White Shadow. There is a little grumbling because various people think the entire process is being rushed. Let’s hope it will be as good as Woman to Woman which was a joy.”

We go to Ciro’s for dinner and once again are entertained by Billy Revel and Floriane giving their wonderful exhibition of burlesque dancing.

Thursday 14th June

Despite the fact it is summer time, the London dance clubs are not suffering from any depression in trade despite the time of year. I have been visiting the Embassy, Ciro’s, the Grafton Galleries and Murray’s, rather frequently and they are all crowded.

Tonight I am out again with Eva at the Piccadilly Hotel for the Soiree des Fleurs. The décor in the ballroom is amazing and the entire room is awash with flowers of all kinds. I see many of my old friends including Aubrey who buzzes around Eva like a bee around a honey pot. Eva is entranced by the Piccadilly but I am eager to visit the Embassy where I have agreed to meet Dolly and Monty and others to watch a special cabaret appearance.

When we get there the place is crowded to overflowing. Luckily Dolly has secured seats around a very good table with Eddie Dolly and Velma Deane. The legendary Irene Castle is dancing with a young man called Billy Reardon for a short season to Ambrose’s band.

Irene Castle & Billy Reardon

“It is said that she is receiving £350 per week for the two weeks. It was clearly a shrewd move on the part of Luigi as the place is packed.” Says Monty. “She is rather snooty though and refused to let me interview her because I once made a remark about her that she did not like.”

“What was that?” Asked Eva, who normally just smiles.

“I said that she was a better screen actress than a dancer.”

Nevertheless, Irene has a tremendous reputation as a dancer by reason of her brilliant partnership for so many years with her late husband Vernon Castle. Sadly I never saw them dance but have heard all about them. I have to say her performance was disappointing. And yet she received standing ovations.

“Though she showed much vitality and personality, it must be confessed that judged purely as a dancer she left much to be desired.” Said Monty.

“I agree.” I said. “There was a great sameness about all her movements.”

Eddie is more specific “Her abrupt kicks with a straight leg, though amusing in a foxtrot or one step are quite out of place in an exhibition valse.”

Eva says. “Her frock is divine. I am told it is from Edward Molyneaux just like mine!”

We had not noticed that near to our table was a large throng fronted by Fred and Adele Astaire. Irene and Billy emerge from behind the scenes and are greeting warmly by them. When asked how she was finding her trip to London I overhear her say loudly “the English are doing nothing new in the way of dancing, but they are doing their dancing decently.”

Friday 15th June

I am spending the evening with Priscilla Fry and we have decided to decamp to the Grafton Galleries. She is wearing a baccante dress in gold tissue and sunset tinted georgette decorated with fine leather leaves. Another very alluring gown from Elspeth Phelps-Paquin.

I love the expansive nature of the Grafton which creates a comfortable sense of space with its big hall. I have never spent the entire evening here but have always arrived from somewhere else.

“Our evening will be a joyous, long drawn out affair in three acts: dinner, dancing and a great cabaret floor show.” Priscilla insists.

We arrive at 8pm to the wonderful sound of Paul Whiteman’s wonderful band on the orange and blue striped dias. Dinner is at 8.30pm and we dance in between courses. When Paul Whiteman’s band retires at about 10pm to rush off and play in the show Brighter London at the Hippodrome, an English band takes their place. Monty and Dolly join us and a little later the cabaret begins. A bevy of gorgeous girls arrive from behind the curtain and sing and dance. More ladies arrive clad in Trouville bathing costumes and sing along with a beautiful creature called Fayette Perry. Then Vanda Hoff (Paul Whiteman’s wife) with the Tomson Twins perform in a crazy trio of mirth.

“The Tomson Twins – Randolf and Jack are interesting.” Says Monty. “I met them in New York in 1921 when they were appearing in Two Little Girls in Blue. They are British but of Portuguese descent and were pilots in the Royal Air Force during the war. They are a very original act and their dancing antics very clever.”

Paul Whiteman returns from the Hippodrome at 12.15 and now the place is completely full as people have drifted in from dinner parties and the theatres and other clubs and we carry on dancing and having fun until 2am.

Tuesday 19th June

I am going to Paris tomorrow but have to take Eva once again to the Piccadilly Hotel. It is the start of Ascot week and the Piccadilly are conducting a Fete des Oiseaux all week. The ballroom has been transformed into an aviary with fake birds and feathers everywhere. Eva is in her element and loves it.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Frascati’s and the Grafton Galleries (The Midnight Revels)

Wednesday 29th November

Father decides to have a quiet word. “What is this?” he asks indicating a range of newspapers and magazines opened at particular pages on a table in his office.

“Oh that” I say sheepishly “well… I meant to tell you… but you were so busy and I forgot.”  There in black and white were my debut pieces as a restaurant critic. I explain all. Papa is patient and seemingly intrigued.

“Well, they are jolly good Fynes” he says approvingly “but it has got me thinking about your future again. I have decided that you will come into the business a few days a week to learn the ropes.”

My heart sinks. Work. How am I going to cope with my busy social life?

He clearly knows what I am thinking “Don’t worry it will not be too arduous dear boy. You can start at 10am and only do 3 days a week. And you will be away on the Riviera for several weeks early next year so you can build up to full time after that. You will get used to it.”

“Eva” I say on the telephone “I have had a fright. I need a night out. I will pick you up at 7pm and we will go to dinner at Frascati’s and then a cabaret.” Frascati’s is one of Eva’s favourite places. She can never say no.

Frascati’s at 32 Oxford Street is celebrated for its cosmopolitanism, which Eva still does not understand because it contains an ism. The façade comprises a handsome gold portico and gold metalwork frames the large windows. One enters via a yellow and gold revolving door into what Eva calls rather charmingly “fairyland.” There is simply nothing like it in London and the architect built one other in Amsterdam. Apart from the magnificent décor in gold and silver the proprietors of Frascati pride themselves on their flowers and floral decorations are everywhere.

Frascati's Restaurant

Frascati's Restaurant

We enter the spacious vestibule or lounge area with thick red pile carpets in futurist patterns, vividly coloured brocade settees, brocade curtains and large gilt chandeliers. Eva is looking ravishing tonight. She truly is a beauty and is noticed immediately by dozens of admiring eyes. It makes me feel good.

On the right of the lounge is the Grill Room with large open charcoal grills. The central space is the actual restaurant which is a spectacular and immense room called the Winter Garden that rises to a huge glass dome and also has a wide balcony that overlooks the space below.

We take an extensive repast that includes a bottle of Chablis and Les Pérles de Whitstable, La Crème Souveraine, La Ruche Financiere, Les Supremes de Perdreau Sans nom la Salade Lelia, La Parfait de Foie Gras et La Durprise Frascat Mignardises.

The Chef Jules Matagne, who was chef to late King Leopold of Belgians, maintains his touch and I send my compliments.

“So what fright have you had Fynes?” asks Eva sweetly. I tell her the story of my conversation with Papa.

“Yikes” she says “work” and carries on eating.

There is a wonderful orchestra and we dance on a dance floor that is shaped like a banjo following the curve of the balcony and extending into one of the restaurant wings and continue our conversation about nothing in particular.

Later, we take a cab around to the Grafton Galleries at 7 Grafton Street to meet Dolly and Monty to see the launch of a brand new cabaret show. The Grafton club has 5,000 members and it is regarded as the place you come onto from somewhere else. Its chief attraction is the vast ballroom, with a beautifully expansive high ceiling, that is perfect for dancing.

When we arrive Dolly and Monty are part of a big group that includes Dorothy Dickson and Carl Hyson.“Fynes, I want a dance later please” says Dorothy with a big smile.

“This place has been the Valhalla of dancing for more years than one cares to remember” Dolly tells me as I have only just joined the club “and I have been here countless times…you will love it here.”

“It is rather marvellous” I say “and certainly not like those postage sized dance floors that are seemingly popular in the more intimate smaller night clubs or restaurants.”

“I have been here many times before” says Eva “but I really do not think it is cosy.”

The general conversation is about the show. “It has been staged by fellow yanks Ted Trevor and Jack Haskell” says a rather puffed-up Monty “and we have been promised the largest cabaret spectacle yet produced in this country. When war broke out Ted Trevor was too young to join the American forces and so joined the British Royal Flying Corps. He stayed here and to took to his next love dancing. Jack is a fascinating chap. He was originally a dancer and before the war worked in Australia before coming to London. He actually staged the first edition of the Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole last year and has been working for George Grossmith.”

“Ah well” interrupts Dolly “You haven’t heard the latest developments Monty. You see they are both rather temperamental and had a tiff and Trevor stormed out. That means we are also denied the blissful dancing of Mr Trevor and his partner Dina Harris.”

“That’s a shame they are one of the best dancing duos in London” says Eva.

“Oh you need to see my dancing with Peggy Harris” says Carl “Peggy is Dina’s sister by the way.”

“Oh what fun” squawks Eva.

“Incidentally…” says Dorothy “Haskell might be fascinating but do remember he also had a tiff with the management over The Cabaret Girl and withdrew his services.”

The cabaret is called The Midnight Revels and it is in two parts with special lighting, quick change costumes and effects and a full chorus of twenty gorgeous girls. The star is the American cabaret artiste Jessica Brown, who had previously appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies and the Century Revue in New York and is a beautiful dancer.We particularly liked the quirky Operatic Tango provided by Lola Krasavina and Gilbert Stacey. However, the sensation of the night was provided by Evon Pinard as ‘The Lady in Bronze’ who danced around the tables just before the finale, wearing a tiny loin cloth and breast plates with her body totally bronzed. There were gasps from the audience and two ladies actually walked out!

Jessica Brown

Jessica Brown

Dorothy interjects “of course this might be new here but Evan Burrows Fontaine gave a similar semi-naked dance at the Palais Royal in New York some time ago and caused a similar furore.”

After the show Haskell comes over to our table with Jessica Brown and talks to us.

“Hello Dorothy. Hello Carl. Hello everybody. I hope you enjoyed the show.”

“Oh yes it was superb Jack” says Dorothy.

“… you were divine” says Dolly to Jessica.

“I will be changing the show every week so do come again!” Jack says.

“So you started our cabaret craze Jack” I ask “with the Midnight Follies?”

“Well sort of…. actually I did stage a show with the wonderful Odette Myrtil at Ciro’s in early 1917 but because of the war the government closed it down!”

I am beginning to think like a journalist and an idea for a story begins. I will write something about the origins of cabaret. I can talk to Mama and Papa about what they did before and after the war.

I have a delightful time dancing with Eva, Dolly and Dorothy. Jessica is a wiz too. She says she loves London but because of rehearsals has not been out much.

“I do like lunch. That is usually my breakfast” she laughs.

“Would you like me to take you for lunch?” I ask holding her tight.

“Oh yes Fynes. That would be terrific.

As we prepare to leave Carl tells us all “Oh don’t forget we launch the new Midnight Follies next week. Please do come along.”

Thursday 30th November

I meet Jessica for lunch at Ciro’s. We eat lightly and talk hugely. She is very entertaining and very sociable. We walk around London in the afternoon and I show her the sights. She is most appreciative.

Read Full Post »