Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Hotel Metropole’

New Oxford Theatre (Little Nellie Kelly), Romano’s, Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies), Murray’s River Club and The Riviera

Friday 27th July

We are back in London. Lorenzo has been very busy with an assortment of family business issues. Taking Papa’s advice he is also thinking of opening a restaurant. Then he surprises me by leasing a rather splendid and perfectly placed apartment in Bury Street just below Piccadilly. It is spacious and very roomy. Since Millie is in London he asks her to help re-decorate and furnish it but it is going to take a while before it is all complete and we can have a party.

I have got tickets for the theatre and as usual meet Monty and Dolly at the Criterion for drinks. We tell them all about our adventures on the Riveria and Aix-le-Bains before going to the New Oxford Theatre to see Charles B. Cochran’s production of George M. Cohan’s song and dance show Little Nellie Kelly. The elegant but rather snooty actresss, simply called June, plays the lead and the other stars are Sonnie Hale, Maidie Hope and Anita Elson. It has an interesting story, with pretty frocks, pretty faces, pretty dances, clever people and moves along at slap-dash speed.

The programme for Little Nellie Kelly

Although Eileen Idare of Idare et Cie costumed the entire show, Dolly was called in at the last minute to design several modern gowns for Anita Elson and Maidie Hope, all executed by Peron, where she is now house designer. They are exquisite.

“This all happened via Eddie Dolly”
she explains “he was responsible for the dances and ensembles and was not entirely happy with some of Idare’s creations.”

The show is a mish-mash of traditional musical comedy, a romantic drama, a good ‘spoof’ crime play and a satirical revue but dancing is one of its most important features, which suits me down to the ground. There are speciality dances from the graceful and charming Forde Sisters, Henry de Bray and Terri Storey are superb in the flirting salesman dance, Santry and Norton provide some amazing acrobatic turns and Sonnie Hale and Anita Elson feature in Dancing My Worries Away.

‘Hmm that was as clean and exhilarating as a glass of dry champagne or two’ says Monty afterward. He also reminds me that Marion Forde was an American and that I had seen her in En Douce at the Casino de Paris earlier in the year and in cabaret at Le Jardin De Ma Souer.

Afterward, I take them all to Romano’s restaurant for dinner to give Lorenzo a feel for an Anglicized Italian restaurant with an international flavour. Of London’s restaurant’s few have a more distinctive character and atmosphere than Romano’s. The founder was Nicolino Alfonso Romano, affectionately called The Roman who died in 1901. He had been head waiter at the Café Royal in 1870s and out of his savings he bought a fried fish shop in the Strand and converted it into his restaurant. Romano’s has become a London institution and famous throughout the bohemian world as a resort of characters, literary journalist and theatrical and sporting notables. It has a façade of butter coloured magolica tiles and the bright and comfortable dining room is handsomely decorated in Moorish style. One side of the room is covered with a series of painted panels beneath glass and framed in Moorish shape showing a series of views of the Bosphorus all very blue and sunny looking. Sofa seats and wide arm chairs stand beneath the paintings and on another side of the room is a great alcove with Moorish arches

Romano's Restaurant

The cuisine prides itself on its specials of chicken curry, sauté de beuf and two key dishes filet de sole tabarin and chicken a la Lombarde. The menu tonight consists of Germany (a soup made by adding yolk of egg to white consommé), Mousseline de Homard Grand Duc (Lobster mousseline), Becasse au fumer (woodcock) with Salade Japonaise, biscuit Glace aux Avelines (iced sweet brought to the table on the back of a swan cut out of a block of ice is a pretty conceit). We also partake in the 1875 brandy which is famous.

‘Just so you know’ I say ‘King Edward when the Prince of Wales had his own private room and cutlery here…’

We are still feeling frisky so decide to pop into the Embassy for a spot of socialising and hoofin it. As we arrive there are squeals of delight as Eva runs over and gives me a big hug. She is with Aubrey who is very chatty too. They soon run off to dance. Then Priscilla arrives with a crowd. She comes over, kisses me on both cheeks and says we should meet soon. Peggy Marsh is also here surrounding by admirers and she too comes to visit and whispers in my ear.

‘Well Fynes my dear’ says Lorenzo with a smirk ‘looks like you have acquired a harem.’

Saturday 28th July

After a lazy day we meet Priscilla and a friend called Dora at the Criterion for cocktails. They are both looking divine in gowns by Isobel Couture of Maddox Street, who they tell us is becoming very much de rigueur. Priscilla is wearing a beaded net gown with silver tissue and pink ribbon and Dora has a frock of shot blue and silver tissue with the ceinture (waist band) relieved with pearls. Later, we make our way to the Metropole Hotel in Northumberland Avenue. We go straight to the Restaurant des Ambassadeurs which has an atmosphere of sombre hotel stateliness. The roof is painted to resemble a gorgeous torquoise blue sunset with scudding golden clouds and the lights are encased in enormous pink silk flowers that glow. We dine excellently and for some reason all feast on the same thing: a Filets de Sole Calypso, one of the masterpieces of the chef M. Graillot. The filet is cooked in fish stock and Chablis along the parsley, tarragon and paprika and topped with peeled prawns.

After dinner we take our seats in the ballroom. I have seen the cabaret here many times before but we thought it would be good to let Lorenzo see one of the best cabarets in town. I have forgotten to mention before that the ballroom area has been decorated by Ashley Tabb and comprises jade green pillars that sweep upwards to a great cream roof picked out in jade lace. The orchestra sit in a deep blue alcove flanked by two pale orange lamps. Extreme decorum and the austereness of unemotional Britain seem the keynote. I still love the Chinese lanterns made of hand painted silk that swing across the room and add a lovely flourish to the décor.

The ‘Midnight Follies’ programme, produced by Carl Hyson, is still the same and the numbers Paradise Lane, Hawaiieen, China Love, Pinkie, Cutie, The Follies Derby, Zwadir and Gipsy Night in June are still fresh and invigorating and a pot-pourri of excellent dancing, songs, costumes, lighting and effects.

Sunday 29th July

Lorenzo has hired a car and a driver and we take a late afternoon drive into the country and with Priscilla and Dora visit the area around Maidenhead. We take boat rides on the Thames and have a lovely picnic which the ladies arranged. Later, when it is getting dark we head off to Murray’s River Club near Maidenhead bridge on the edge of the river. It is a magnificent old Georgian building that has been transformed into a glamorous rendevous of ragtime and romance by Jack May who owns and runs Murray’s club in Beak Street.

‘The club is in what was the old Manor house of Maidenhead, inhabited by a generation of staid gentlemen called Herring.’ I tell them all ‘you can see their sign – a fish – still turning slowly on the house weathercock above.’

We forgo the boat rides from a mooring at the end of the lawn and instead take cocktails outside on the lawn. Strings of fairy lanterns and little lights pop up everywhere in the flowers and trees and white coated waiters wizz about with amazing dexterity.

We walk into the house and take a dance in a blue-ceilinged Japanese ballroom before taking dinner on the verandah overlooking the green sloping lawn and the river. Albert, the maitre d’hotel insinuates himself into the foreground with a pencil, dropping gentle hints which develop into our dinner.

‘I am told he was a trusted waiter on King Edward’s staff at Biarritz in 1906’ I mention.

As the evening progresses the place is hopping. No surprise really since it is only a short drive from London and always attracts a lively crowd. It is also particularly popular with the theatrical contingent and we notice several stars of the stage.

Murray's River Club at Maidenhead

The dance band is wonderful and plays such delightful songs as ‘The Dancing Honeymoon’, the alluring fox trot ‘Chicago’ and ‘Come On and Dance.’ We alternate dancing in the ballroom or outside on a crystal floor open to the sky.

Monday 30th July

We visit a strange place on Dora’s recommendation for a quiet night out. The Riviera Dance Club is located in splendid isolation in Grosvenor Road on the river and is a mock Roman Villa originally designed by one of the Stanleys.

‘It’s chief attraction is that it is unlike any other dance club anywhere. It has a much more refined and soothing atmosphere and is far less frenetic than West End Clubs’
Dora explains in the taxi.

It is in fact a private club and Dora is a member. We have to ring the front doorbell as at a private house to gain admission. It is not a large venue but has a very chic air and the décor divine. The main dining room has oyster grey stone pillars and the dance floor is flanked by black and silver brocade walls. At dinner, the windows are open to the river and there is a luscious light breeze. One dines in peace. Later, a small band plays rather subdued music but people do dance. The words ‘awefully nice’ describe the people and the place.

We have a long conversation about this ‘n’ that and both ladies quiz Lorenzo about the purchase of his apartment and his plans for the future. It is decided that when Millie has finished decorating and furnishing, the ladies will help Lorenzo arrange a welcome party. They are awfully nice.

‘Hmm this interesting’ I say at last ‘it is very seldom that you find a dance club that is content to remain just itself; that does not rely on gourmetic cuisine, the presence of celebrity, the glamour of a crowd, exhibition dancers, the lure of a late night and unlimited bubbly.’

‘What you mean is it is dull’ says Dora with a laugh.

I think she might be right. We leave early and head off to dance at the Embassy.

Read Full Post »

The Empire, the Rendezvous, Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies), Court Theatre (Carte Blanche) and Murray’s.

Thursday 12th April 1923

I am taking out Priscilla Fry one of Mama’s latest matches. Priscilla is beautiful like Eva but not quite as spectacular. However, she certainly has more umph. She is wearing a sumptuous ‘baccante’ gown from Elspeth Phelps (Paquin) in gold tissue and sunset tinted georgette decorated with fine leather leaves which sets off her auburn hair perfectly. She was educated in Switzerland, comes from a very well respected family, she paints, she sings and she loves dancing. She also has an opinion.

We have cocktails at the Criterion before seeing Alfred Butt’s new show at the Empire called The Rainbow, a fairly typical lavish Albert de Courville revue. The comedienne Daphne Pollard does an amusingly grotesque dance with Fred Leslie, Ernest Thesiger is hilarious when dressed as Miss Violet Vanbrugh to sing The Price of Love, the dancing of Gaston and Andree was superb and the knockabout comedy of Willie, West and McGinty is excellent. There were also several spectacular scenes including My Lady’s Boudior, In Old Versailles, Indo China and the Great Street in Scarlet and Gold featuring amazing costumes by Hugh Willoughby.

The programme for the Rainbow

The programme for the Rainbow

Within the show is a segment called The Plantation, comprising a coloured entertainment set on a mythical Southern plantation on the Mississipi which has caused a little furure.

“I particularly liked Lola Raine and Alec Kellaway’s pretty singing duet ‘Sweethearts.’’ Says Priscilla afterward as we walk through Soho. “The 16 Empire Girls were superb in this number too. But, I also rather enjoyed The Plantation.”

“Well I must admit I rather liked that bit too. It is good to see something completely different. The dancing was amazing especially Leonard Harper and his wife Osceola Banks and the acrobatic Archie Ware in the Crackerjacks troupe.”

We meet Monty for dinner at the Rendezvous at 45 Dean Street with its latticed windows and rows of quaint Noah Ark trees in green tubs outside. It is in fact a row of two old houses knocked into one, The two front rooms are decorated to represent the parlours of an old English farmhouse with heavy thick black beams, walls panelled with green cloth in wooden frames, electric lights as old lanterns and silver wine coolers with ferns on window sills.

We are greeted by the ruling spirit of Luca Martini and taken to our table in the back room which is decorated in dark oak and mirrors with oriental carpets and a handsome oak gallery.

“He is as cheerful as the cocktail.” I say. “And endures endless witticisms about his name but remains sweet and dry. But one does not get on his wrong side. He is a rather fiery Italian and devoted to Mussolini and thus a fascist.”

The clientele of the restaurant comprises every class of Londoner from Princes to Arts students and it is a Soho landmark.

“There are fashions in Soho restaurants.” I continue “As a rule when a Soho restaurant becomes the fashion it is doomed. It loses its character, its intimacy, its charm and the cuisine declines. And like a faded beauty it lives upon past reputation. This place is one of the few exceptions.”

We have a delicious dinner comprising melon cantloupe, crème fermeuse, aile de poularde en casserole and aubergine a l’espagnole. We partake their two specialiaties as well with Sole Rendezvous (the fish is cooked in white wine sauce) and Souffle Gallina, with branded cherries served in a little lagoon of fine champagne cognac which is set alight. All washed down with a nice Vieux Pre champagne and a bottle of Mottoni.

“Ah, so you went the Empire did you? Because therein lies an interesting story.” Says Monty “Alfred Butt rejected an offer to stage Lew Leslie’s Plantation cabaret show from New York starring Florence Mills on the grounds of cost so Charles Cochran stepped in and secured it for the Pavilion. Butt then engaged another coloured attraction called ‘Plantation Days’ for the Empire that was running at the Green Mill Gardens in Chicago. But Cochran and Leslie issued an injunction against Butt for using the name of The Plantation as it was misrepresenting it as the original Florence Mills show. There was been a huge fuss that is still ongoing.”

“I have heard that there has also been huge opposition to the importation of black musicians and entertainers.” Says Philippa. “Daddy owns a newspaper and tells us all about these things.”

“Yes, you are right Philippa. On opening night the audience hissed and booed.”

“There is nasty odious man called Hannan Swaffer who whipped up a frenzy of racism in the Graphic I believe.” Philippa replied.

“Very disrespectful if you ask me.” I say “Considering where all our dances and jazz music originated from.”

“Very profound Fynes, but you are right of course!” Says Monty. “By the way did you enjoy the songs? They were all from a Yankee composer called George Gershwin. I think he is going to be big.”

We decide the night is still young. Monty suggests a visit to The Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole. “They have added a novel attraction called The Follies Derby.”

The cabaret show has some wonderful scenes including an Hawaiieen number, China Love with the dancing of Vera Lennox and Carl Hyson, Zwadir (the God’s of Passion) and Gipsy Night in June. The costumes by Gordon Conway are magnificent.

The Follies Derby is indeed packing in the audience night after night as one can enjoy the excitement of Newmarket in miniature! The chorus girls in the guise of bookies distribute coloured discs representing racing colours. The odds having been called, four steeds made of papier mache and mounted on tiny wheels concealed in their hoofs appear and they race, albiet rather slowly, across the floor with the winner snapping the tape at the end of the line. What fun!

The highlight for me of course was the speciality dancing of Carl Hyson and Peggy Harris. I watch them intently. However, the featured artist is Odette Myrtil and what a lady she is. This French born artist scored a triple hit as a violinist, dancer and singer. She is a clever performer and, according to Monty she bears a strong resemblance to Mlle Polaire.

Odette Myrtil

Odette Myrtil

“Odette made her first appearance on the stage at the age of 12 at the Olympia in Paris. Florenz Ziegfeld saw her and engaged her for his Midnight Frolic in 1915.” Says Monty “She has been in great demand ever since. We ought to see her in the revue at the Court Theatre.”

Priscilla is a rather capital dancer and even taught me a thing or two. I think we are going to get on fine.

Friday 13th April

I am moping around at home when Monty phones to say he is bored and fancies a night out and says he has got tickets for Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre.

Monty tells me .“I am told it has been modelled along the lines of the Mde Rasimi productions in Paris and all the dances have been arranged by the rather clever Max Rivers who is also one of the specialist dancers. He has just returned from a two-year dancing trip around Europe, so you should enjoy his performance.”

It is a little of a trek out of town but worth it as the show turns out to be rather original, whimsical and colourful. The humour is provided by Tubby Edlin and the Two Bobs, the latter are hysterical when they sing Spain, Spain, Spain with Bob Adams dressed as a large Spanish lady with Donna Rosita and Bob Alden as typical bandaleros.

The French touch is made clear with Odette Myrtil (who doubles up later at the Midnight Follies) singing the charming ‘Bon Soir Madame La Lune’ dressed as a pierrot and standing under the light of a street lamp, packing in all the poetry and melancholy of Montmartre.

“Let’s go to Murray’s Club.” Says Monty. “Dolly will be there with Eddie.”

When we arrive Dolly and Eddie are on their second bottle of champagne.
“I am celebrating boys.” she says with a big grin. “I have just got the job to design all the costumes and gowns for Graham Cutts’ film Woman to Woman that will star the American actress Betty Compson. I am so excited.”

“Congratulations my dear.” Says Monty.

“Wow! Dolly that is terrific.” I add. “Is this film to be based on the stage play of the same name?”

“Yep, it is Fynes… we start shooting in mid May so I have got a lot of work to do!”

Harry Day who controls the revue productions at the Palladium has been assigned the responsibility for all the entertainments at Murray’s for the next two years. His first attraction is called ‘Harry Day’s Crystal Cabaret’ and is derived from his show Crystals that is running at the Palladium and which I have to confess I have not seen.

This is perhaps the first time that a full company of fifty performers has been seen in a dance club. The principals include the comedian Jimmy Leslie and Harry Day’s wife Kitty Colyer, But the star is the very eccentric Douglas Byng as a dude wearing an eyeglass and small moustache. He has a curious mixture of sophistication, schoolboy humour and double entendre that works perfectly in cabaret.

Douglas Byng

Douglas Byng

Dolly loved the costumes designed by George Crisceudo.

After the show, we are milling around and suddenly Monty darts off and talks to a rather attractive lady with a large group of people. He beckons me to join them.

“Fynes, let me introduce Peggy Marsh.” He says to a vivacious, leggy, dark haired beauty.

“Why howdy.” She says.

“We know each other from New York.” Monty says. “Peggy has been in the wars recently and certainly needs cheering up!”

Could have fooled me. She looks more than happy. Hmm that name rings a bell.

“Ah I am sorry to hear that. What has been wrong?”

“My husband Buster Johnson accidentally shot himself in September and died in January. But we were getting divorced!” She says.

Peggy Marsh

Peggy Marsh

A little later when Peggy is powdering her nose, Monty tells me her story which I do now remember. She was a chorus girl in New York but had worked in London during the war where she met and fell in love with fellow American Henry Field, the multi-millionaire heir to the Marshall Field department store in Chicago. She had a son by him but Henry returned to New York and married the right kind of girl. Peggy followed him, got a job in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and secured a financial agreement for her and her son. But then disaster struck. Henry died and the agreement was not honoured. Peggy went to court and eventually reached a settlement before marrying Buster.

“She is now in London and dancing in Ciro’s and is likely to appear on the West End too before long.” Adds Monty.

Peggy is great company. And, naturally an excellent dancer. We hit it off. I am not surprised that she also likes lunch.

Read Full Post »

The Piccadilly Hotel, the Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies) and The Flames of Passion.

Tuesday 5th December

Eva telephones me at 6pm “Fynes where have you been?”

“It is my second day of working Eva.” I say with a deep sigh.

She ignores my news “Well I am bored. I know we are going to the Hotel Metropole later but can we go for dinner first?”

“Of course we can.”

“Oh thank you Fynes. You are a dear. Can you pick me up at 7. I want to go to the Piccadilly Hotel to see the new ballroom.”

I pick her up and I am staggered at how beautiful she looks in a simple pale yellow gown encrusted with pearls from Worth. It is rather nice snuggling up to her and her chinchilla fur coat in the cab as it is rather cold.

The Piccadilly is an impressive hotel built in 1909 and favoured by Americans. We have dinner in the main restaurant which has some of the finest oak panelling in London. We admire bright crimson carpet with a large and impressive gold pattern and the general Louis XIV style decor. We eat a striking dinner.

The Piccadilly Hotel

The Piccadilly Hotel

“Did you know that the Piccadilly was the only London hotel to place adverts in the New York press?” I tell Eva.

She takes no notice as she tries to read the menu. I decide what we will eat because Eva has no idea about French. I could be unkind and say she has no idea about English either.

To start we have Les Hors d’oeuvre Moscovite comprising numerous little Russian dainties on toast. At once savoury, piquant and sharpening this was a good alternative to caviar. The salmon was delicately cooked with a creamy curd between the flakes with La Sauce Mousseline et les Concombres. The saddle of lamb (La Selle d’Agneau Orloff ) was exquisite. This dish was named after a former Russian ambassador in Paris. The lamb is roasted, filleted and sliced. A purée of mushrooms is layered with the lamb in the form of the original saddle. It is covered in a sauce Soubise with sliced truffles and garnished with braised lettuce, potato noisettes and stuffed tomatoes.

The Casse Royale brought pheasant, quail and larks. The latter was stuffed with foie gras and served with a Cumberland sauce. To round things off we had L’Ananas Glacé which was not too creamy and the best fruit to close a long dinner with its slightly acid tang.

After coffee and liqueurs we wander off. The new ballroom was opened in October and I am embarrassed to say that this is the first time I have been despite my love of dancing.

As we walk down the stairway from the restaurant I say “This must be one of the most beautiful ballrooms of the metropolis.”

“Metropolis?” queries Eva innocently “what’s that?”

The lofty and well ventilated room is extremely large and decorated once again in the Louis XIV style and I have been told it has a capacity of 4-500 people. At one end is a handsome gallery for musicians and it has a marvellous oak floor.

De Groot’s Orchestrasupply the first rate music and we dance to our hearts’ content. And, I have to say that despite not being a linguist Eva does know how to look good and dance.

In an intermission we watch Mr and Mrs David Leslie perform some novel dances. This is their first engagement in London but they are, I am told,well known at Claridge’s in Paris, on the Riviera and at Etretat. Later, several sketches are provided by another couple called Mabel Holmes and Wallis Norman, of whom I know nothing.

We move onto the Metropole Hotel in Northumberland Avenue and the Whitehall rooms where the Midnight Follies hold sway. The hotel was opened in 1885 and as we know Jack Haskell staged the first cabaret show here in October 1921, just over a year ago. Since then there has been a major battle with the London County Council who were horrified at the thought of a hotel providing a cabaret. It is perfectly legitimate for a private member’s club to stage a show but not seemingly a hotel or restaurant. So the LCC have been imposing severe restrictions on cast, sets and costumes in an attempt to close down the Follies and set an example to other aspiring cabarets. Of course behind this all is the rather boring Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks (‘Jix’ to the cartoonists) who seemingly abhors anything that gives people pleasure and has a reputation for hating nightclubs and drinking.

London’s swankiest place is the main ballroom which was a big lofty room lit by Chinese lanterns with a cluster of small supper tables arranged in a horseshoe fashion around a good sized dance floor in the centre. There were also discreet corner alcoves and a few even more discreet boxes but we were sat on larger tables on the edge of the dance floor as ‘the wishers-to-be-seen’.

The Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole

The Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole

We are in a swell (that is a nice American word isn’t it?) party with Dolly, Monty and Dorothy Dickson and a host of other acquaintances and friends including a dour looking Aubrey. Who is clearly not happy that I have taken Eva out. It looks like the whole of London has turned out for tonight’s show in demonstration against the LCC and that idiot Jix!

Dorothy remarks “Good news. The LCC gave consent for an elaboration of the show right at the last minute. Carl has been frantic and Gordon designed some amazing new costumes for the chorus which you will love Dolly I am sure.”

“Oh how rude of me – this is my friend Gordon Conway” Dorothy adds introducing her companion – a gorgeously chic attractive redhead wearing a provocative navy blue and white polka dot dress.

“We go back a long way” Monty tells me quietly “she is an amazing illustrator and costume designer and very close to Dorothy. She is married to the business man Blake Ozias but I do not know where he is tonight.” It turns out Monty and Gordon were dancing partners in New York.

Dolly and Gordon hit it off like a house on fire, no doubt talking shop and swapping notes.

On the stroke of midnight the orchestra stops playing, everyone hurries back to their seats, drums roll, trumpets blow a fanfare and the curtains open to reveal a series of glittering tiers descending to the stage. The show begins as a bevy of showgirls in wonderfully spectacular costumes descend to the floor.

The show staged by Carl Hyson has been produced by Paul Murray and is presented by three statesmen of the London theatre – George Grossmith, JAE Malone, Andre Charlot.

Carl appears in one number assisted by Vera Lennox and Cecile Maule-Cole and in another by Marjorie Spiers. The leading lady is Gertrude Lawrence, the star of Andre Charlot’s show A-Z, who I suspect is going to go a long way and is an admirable and sparkling personality. Dorothy tells us that she is no newcomer to cabaret having spent two years as the star at Murray’s club not so long ago. Another feature is the dashing, tall and robust Tex McLeod who does rope tricks and tells stories and goes down a real treat.

Gertrude Lawrence

Gertrude Lawrence

“He is from Texas and is all round cowboy” Monty says “he appeared in numerous wild west pictures before finding cabaret another forte for his talent. His banter is a close imitation of our famous comic Will Rogers. ”

The Midnight Follies has been designed to attract modern people who wish to dine well, dance the latest steps, then relax, drink and be happy to enjoy the cabaret. The whole atmosphere was one of young gay abandon. It is magnificent.

After the show we resume dancing. I have been dancing energetically with Dorothy and have two dances with Dolly. When we get back to the table Eva whispers “I really don’t like that Dolly Tree.. You dance with her all the time and leave me on my own.”

“Well Eva, all I can say is that I have counted at least 4 of your other beaus here. If you are that bothered I suggest you go and dance with one of them. Look Aubrey is very keen.”

I get up and ask Gordon to dance. Eva wanders off, but snubs Aubrey and finds Biffy instead. She ignores me for the rest of the evening and Monty tells me that Biffy takes her home. At 2pm I start thinking about the fact that I have to go to work and decide it is best not to stay out all night. To be my surprise the next day Eva phones and thanks me for her night out. It would appear I have been forgiven.

Wednesday 6th December

Mama wants to go to the cinema to see The Flames of Passion, the new film starring the American actress Mae Marsh at the New Oxford since the reviews have been excellent.

“I am told that the story is as broad as it is long, as fascinating as it is complicated and is improbable as it is unique. And yet it is very entertaining. Besides Lucile has dressed everyone and I want to see the result!”

The dramatic story is about a dissolute chauffeur who betrays a beautifully innocent young girl and through a vagary of fate kills his own daughter only to discover her true identity. However, there is also an amazing ballet scene created by Miss Purcell, the celebrated instructor, that softens the rather gloomy nature of the plot. Having said that Mae Marsh is superb and is supported by a galaxy of brilliant British stars such as Eva Moore, Hilda Bayley and others.

A scene from The Flames of Passion with Eva Moore and Mae Marsh

A scene from The Flames of Passion with Eva Moore and Mae Marsh

“Although it has some comedy touches, the tragic vein of the story is well suit to Mae Marsh who plays such distressed heroines so well” says Mama afterward “I am now looking forward to the next Graham Cutts’ film with Mae Marsh called Paddy the Next Best Thing, with more Lucile finery I am sure!”

Read Full Post »

 

The Criterion, the Winter Garden Theatre and the Queen’s Hall Roof.

Tuesday 19th September

 I meet my oldest school friend Aubrey for an early dinner at the wonderfully elegant Criterion Restaurant on Piccadilly Circus. It has long been a favourite of my family and is actually a large collection of restaurants all in one building. We sit in the East Room on the first floor, which has been famous for half a century. It still keeps its decoration of white and gold, panels painted with Watteau subjects and the dainty harmony of rose and grey in carpets, furniture and curtains. The music from the orchestra perched in a gilded cage above the big entrance hall comes to us softened by distance. We are near enough the large picture windows to see the rush and swirl of Piccadilly Circus below. I eat and drink modestly, after all a long night awaits me, but I take advantage of my favourite dessert Croûte Caume; an admirable dish with banana, pineapple and apricot in kirsch. We swap stories about our respective summer holidays. Aubrey has just returned from a long trip around Europe and I have to say is looking rather radiant.

The Exterior of the Criterion Restaurant, Piccadilly, London.

The Exterior of the Criterion Restaurant, Piccadilly, London.

I like it here” he says.

“Did you know that it was opened by two Englishmen who were famous caterers in Melbourne in the days of the gold fever?” I reply.

“Oh really”Aubrey says completely disinterested as he sips a glass of sherry. “I am so sorry I missed you at Deauville…. by the time I arrived Alphonso King of Spain was causing such excitement. Not least because he was seen every night in the company of your new friends the Dolly Sisters in the Casino with Fausto, the son of the Marquis de Viana. Equally, the gossip at the Potiniére was rife, with sightings of both of them leaving the rooms of those naughty girls at the Hotel Royal each afternoon.”

“Well they are still delectably adorable” I reply tartly “despite the gossip.”

Aubrey changes the subject again by talking about the Aegean crisis and the conflict between Greece and Turkey over Thrace but then asks abruptly “Where are you going tonight?”

 “Oh I am meeting Monty and his friend Dolly Tree and we are going to the opening night of The Cabaret Girl.” I reply, relieved that I do not have to hear all his insufferable details about politics; sometimes he can be a real flat tyre. You see he has some sort of strange job at the Foreign Office and loves to discuss current affairs ad nauseam. “Dolly has designed the costumes for some of the main scenes. It is supposed to be an amazing production and Dorothy Dickson is incredible…”

 Monty and Dolly meet us at our table and I make introductions. She is wearing a delightful creation; a white frock with a velvet top and a skirt of silk fringes over silver lame and three rows of lovely pearls. ‘Elegant simplicity’ which is I gather, one of her hallmarks.

 Aubrey is instantly flirtatious “Why, hello my dear. You look simply divine. Such a fascinating gown.”

 She is use to such attention and deals with Aubrey with great aplomb. “Why thank you Aubrey, That is your name isn’t it? Well, if you like it you can have it! It might just fit you dear.”

We leave and get in a cab to the Winter Garden Theatre in Drury Lane where we are ushered in on the VIP list to a cosy box replete with champagne on ice. The show was magnificent. The plot was in the familiar musical comedy vein of rich boy must marry a suitable bride to acquire his inheritance but falls in love with a showgirl instead.

The last act formed a representation of the ‘Midnight Follies’ at the Hotel Metropole with costumes designed by Dolly. There was an Hawaiian chorus who accompanied Dorothy Dickson when she sang ‘Ka-lu-a’ and Heather Thatcher appeared in a sumptuous Oriental tableau. This was followed by a series of mannequins dressed in a range of bewilderingly eccentric outfits.

Dorothy Dickson in The Cabaret Girl

Dorothy Dickson in The Cabaret Girl

 “They are amazing Dolly, you must be so proud” I whisper to her with a peck on the cheek.

 “Although the plot is rather predictable I think this is going to be a big hit’ Monty says afterward. ‘The book is witty, the music quite above the commonplace, the cast exceptional and last but not least your dresses are divine. I will write a glowing review of course.”

We toodle back to the Criterion for an hour of dancing in the Italian Roof Garden. This is one of the prettiest places to dance and dine. Vine-decked loggias surround the room with a blue ceiling, a silver moon and stars that give the illusion of being in a roof garden. It is a picturesque setting made to look like an Italian landscape. Aubrey is there with a crowd and we have a delightful time. Just as we are about leave Eva walks in. Aubrey rushed up to her and kisses her on both cheeks.

 “Fynes dear boy. Let me introduce you to the delightful Evangaline Lampton” he says with a beaming smile ‘we met in Paris last week and had a spiffing time on La Tournee des Grands Ducs.”

 “Oh we already know each other Aubrey dear. We met in Deauville and Fynes took me for dinner last night, didn’t you?” she says sweetly and kisses me on both cheeks.

Aubrey is bright red and looks as if he is about to explode. I am smiling to myself. I certainly do not tell Aubrey everything and it looks like neither does Eva.

 “We had better get going” says Monty coming to the rescue. “Otherwise we will miss the show.”

We are going to The Queens Hall Roof, where the cast of the Cabaret Girl will be celebrating their first night. Both Aubrey and Eva decide to come with us and we all hop in a cab and race up to Langham Place at the top of Regent Street. The Queens Hall is the premier music venue in London and very grand indeed with a blue-green colour scheme, an arched ceiling with a painting of the Paris Opera House, by Carpegat, with attenuated cupids clad in sallow pantaloons and seating for 2,400. At the top of the building was a smaller cigar shaped hall with windows in the ceiling where a cabaret show had been staged since April.

Programme for Cabaret Follies at the Queen's Hall Roof

Programme for Cabaret Follies at the Queen's Hall Roof

 “This reminds me a little of Ziegfeld’s Roof Garden in New York.” Monty says as we all take our seats and order some supper and champagne. Dolly introduces us to many of the cast of The Cabaret Girl who sit at adjacent tables. Monty knows Miss Dickson of course because he has interviewed her several times both in New York and London. “She is a jewel” he says and then adds “she started off as a society dancer with her husband Carl Hyson in Chicago and they became big stars in cabaret and then on the New York stage.”

 Just in time, we catch the midnight edition of the new show called The Cabaret Follies. It has been produced by Jack Hylton, one of our new and most original jazz band-leaders and the actor Jack Buchanan and is a striking production. There is a beauty chorus of 16 gorgeous girls who appear in 8 numbers, including one where they support Flora Lea, a one time Ziegfeld girl when she sings Evergreen Eve. All the girls and Flora are decked out as a confection of foliage. The glamorous American sisters Josephine and Helen Trix, wearing Molyneux gowns, which give the effect of old red lacquer, were sensational with their amusing antics and singing fabulous songs. Henry de Bray and May Vivian were equally wonderful principals and the elaborate costumes of Oriental splendour for the finale ‘Song of India’ were magnificent.

The Trix Sisters

The Trix Sisters

A scene from The Cabaret Follies

A scene from The Cabaret Follies

Don’t worry I didn’t design the costumes this time. My friend Guy de Gerald did. Alas, I was far too busy on other projects.” Dolly tells us as we all gawp at the end.

 Within seconds the band starts playing and everyone starts to dance. Aubrey grabs my arm “Fynes, you are a cad. Why didn’t you tell me about Eva? I bet she is one of those women your mother has lined up for you isn’t she?”

 “I never thought about any of it being that important.” I reply innocently with a smile.

 After returning from the bathroom, Eva wanders up to me, also clearly intent on having a quiet word. “Fynes, I do like you and I love our nights out together” she says sweetly fluttering her eyelashes and caressing my arm “but, please remember that I like going out a lot. And, well, I really like Aubrey, and Biffy, and Clarence, and Peregrine, and Bottom, and Smarty….and,  I am not quite ready to settle down yet and choose. You understand darling don’t you?”

 “Peregrine Wilberforce-Watson too?” I say aghast “He’s even more boring that Aubrey!”

 Aubrey gets up and smooches with Eva while I dance with Dolly.

 “I had forgotten just what a great hoofer you had become Fynes” she says “I think you ought to dance with Dorothy you know. I think she may well like your style.”

 I ask Miss Dickson to dance and soon I am spinning her around the dance floor as Aubrey looks on in amazement as he treads on Eva’s toes.

 “Hey mister” she says in her wonderful American accent. “You are a swell dancer. I might just need you in the show! Where did you learn to be so good…”

 “Ah that is my secret” I say mysteriously. I always find it is best not to reveal everything.

“Do you like London?” I ask.

 “Oh yes very much so. I have been here for just over a year and we are having a ball. But I am so glad that cabaret has come to London. When I arrived I was disappointed that there were few supper clubs and cabaret shows that one could go to late at night. Now they are springing up all over the place. London is truly becoming brighter.”

 “London is truly brighter with you here my dear” I say. And, I mean it. She is so sweet and so pretty and boy oh boy what a dancer.

 

Read Full Post »