Saturday, June 25, 2016

Henry Lee's "Great Men, Past and Present"

Henry Lee as Shakespeare
Two months ago, I wrote an article about the various actors who amused vaudeville audiences with impersonations of U. S. Presidents.  I am sorry to say that I overlooked one of the leading impersonators, Henry Lee. 

Lee had a long and illustrious career.  His career began in 1876, at which time a 16-year-old Lee made his debut at Wood's Museum in New York.  Theatre historian Robert Grau wrote, "[H]ere he played two performances daily, interpreting a different role every week, and often a half dozen widely different characters in the same period."

Following his apprenticeship at Wood's Museum, he appeared as Guildenstern in "Hamlet" at New York's Lyceum Theatre.  This was the first of several brushes that the actor had with The Melancholy Dane. 

Lee moved around a lot during this period.  In 1877, he became a member of the stock company of McVicker's Theatre in Chicago.  In 1878, he moved to Philadelphia to become a member of Chestnut Street Theatre Company.  Lee got to star in "Hamlet" while at the Chestnut.

In 1879, Lee acted in the stock company of Wallack's Theatre in New York City.  He made his first appearance at Wallack's in "Spellbound" on February 24, 1879.  He went on to appear in the company's "Miss Gwilt" (June 5, 1879) and "Woolfert's Roost, or a Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (August 18, 1879).

In 1883, legendary theatrical producer Charles Frohman cast Lee in the lead role of a 7-act crime melodrama, "The Stranglers of Paris."  Grau wrote, "It was in 'The Stranglers of Paris' that Lee first scored to an extent that stellar honors were accorded to him."  Issac F. Marcosson and Daniel Frohman wrote (in "Charles Frohman: Manager and Man"), "'The Stranglers of Paris' made quite a sensation.  The scenic effects were highly praised, and especially the ship scene, which showed convicts in their cages, their revolt, the sinking of the vessel, Jason's struggle in the water, his escape from death, and his dramatic appeal to Heaven."  

Lee became in demand for dashing leading man roles.  In March, 1884, he played leading man to acclaimed actress Sara Jewett in "That Man" at the Baldwin Theatre in San Francisco.  In November, 1884, he played leading man to acclaimed actress Fanny Davenport in the Haverly's Theatre production of "Fedora."

Sara Jewett
Lee secured the rights to "Human Nature," a social drama that debuted at London's Drury Lane Theatre in 1885.  He tried hard for the next two years to secure the play's production in the United States.  At one point, he appealed to John Lester Wallack to produce the play at Wallack's Chicago theatre, which had come to specialize in importing plays from France and England, but Wallack failed to see potential in the play.  It certainly did not help Lee's solicitation that the play had received a tepid response during its time in London.  In 1890, the U.S. rights to the play were picked up by Eugene Tompkins, who produced the play at the Boston Theatre under the new title "Soudan."  The lead role, which Lee had so desperately wanted to play, went to Henry Neville.  The play proved to be one of the biggest successes of the year, running for a total of 169 performances.


Lee co-wrote the play "Angela," which premiered on October 18, 1887, at the Madison Square Theatre.

In the Spring of 1888, Lee had a successful run in "Mystery of a Hansom Cab" at the Academy Theatre in New York.

Lee procured the rights to "The Cavalier" in April, 1888.  He premiered the play at The People's Theatre in New York City on June 8, 1888, and traveled with the play through major cities of the country.  As of April 15, 1889, the play began a successful run at McVicker's Theatre in Chicago.  Not everyone was entirely won over by his performance.  This became evident when the play took up residence at San Francisco's Alcazar Theatre on June 16, 1889.  The San Francisco Chronicle had this to say: "[Lee] is an actor of no deep dramatic power; he has a good voice and reads sometimes with great effect.  But he is staged and throughout theatrical.  His enunciation is not distinct and his declamation faulty.  Still his theatrical manner is well adapted to some of the strong scenes of the play. . ."

Lee starred in two plays in 1890.  He appeared in "The Suspect" at Lyon & Healy's Theatre in Chicago and "The Blue Officer" at the Madison Square Theatre.
 
Henry Lee
On January 12, 1891, New York's Evening World reported that "Monte Cristo" would "be produced on a big scale of scenic splendor" under Lee's management.  That year, Lee went on to produce "Monte Cristo" and "The Henrietta" at London's Avenue Theatre.  On May 24, 1891, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle explained plainly that Lee had failed in his endeavors as a manager and star in London.

A new development to Lee's London botch arrived in the press on August 2, 1891, at which time the Louisville newspaper the Courier-Journal rehashed the story without the slightest bit of subtly or compassion: "[Lee] has just made a disastrous failure of the production of 'Monte Cristo' and 'The Henrietta.'"  Now, the newspaper reported, the situation was made more scandalous by the fact that Lee's new bride had sued the actor for pawning her jewelry to pay off his creditors. 

Lee remained busy during this period, traveling to New York, Boston and Philadelphia in Walter Sanford's emotionally charged drama "My Jack."

On February 21, 1892, Lee debuted as a blind painter in "The Runaway Wife" at Crawford's Theatre in Kansas City.  This was yet another attempt of Lee to become a theatre impresario.  Lee had paid for the rights of the play from playwright McKee Rankin (great grandfather of stop-motion king Arthur Rankin Jr.).

After completing the run of "The Runaway Wife," Lee looked to star in a play about Aaron Burr, but he was never able to find financing for the project.  Instead, he turned up in a German comedy drama called "Fatherland" at The Union Square Theater.

On August 15, 1892, Lee was introduced as a villainous general in the war drama "The White Squadron."  Critics were pleased to see him in this new type of role.  Lee also garnered good reviews when he opened in "Current Cash" at Niblo's Garden in October, 1892.  The Times noted, "[Lee] assumes a number of clever disguises."  Lee managed in these recent efforts to establish himself as a versatile character actor.

Lee's next play, "A Gilded Fool," opened at Union Square Theatre on November 7, 1892. Nat Goodwin and Lizzie Hudson Collier played the romantic leads.  Lee played Collier's father.  The play remained a viable property for years.  Fox Film Corporation produced a film version in 1915.  The plot had enough romance, tragedy and conflict to appeal to a wide audience.  Chauncey Short is unable to earn enough money to pay for treatment for his sick mother.  After his mother dies, he inherits five million dollars from an uncle who had been traveling abroad during his mother's illness.  Short's bitterness causes him to spend his inheritance extravagantly.  Then, he falls in love with a banker's daughter and has to prove to her that he is not truly an idle and self-indulgent fool.

Lee's name did not make it into the press for the next two years.  It is understood that, during this time, the actor struck it rich by investing in a mining company in the South African Republic.  But money comes and money goes.  Lee lost his great wealth in the Jameson Raid in 1885. 

Lee was determined to recoup his losses and he understood that he could earn more money if he left the legitimate theatre for vaudeville.  He developed a unique vaudeville act, "Great Men, Past and Present," in which he impersonated a variety of famous men.  He introduced himself to the audience wearing evening dress.  He announced, "I shall endeavor to give you an impersonation of great men past and present.  If you do not like them, the fault is either theirs or yours."  Grau wrote, "Lee would save up his vaudeville earnings until he had accumulated a few thousand dollars and then he would embark in some enterprise which would permit him to shine as a dramatic star.  In this manner he was able to produce Cyrano de Bergerac."

On February, 1895, Lee arrived in Philadelphia with "Cyrano de Bergerac."  The Philadelphia Times' dramatic critic (credited only as "Raymond") wrote, "I regard Henry Lee as a great actor, of wonderfully fine qualities and splendid stage sympathies, but I do not think any actor living equal Mansfield.  But in this one part Lee can perhaps excel him."


As of May 2, 1897, Lee was back with his "Great Men" act at the Proctor's Fifth Avenue Theatre.  Grau wrote, "'Great Men' was [always] revived to keep the wolf from the door."  Lee tried to convince vaudeville managers to allow him to perform dramatic playlets, but they were only willing to book him to perform his "Great Men" act.  Grau wrote, "[V]audeville managers frowned on his ambitions. . . 'Great Men,' or nothing, was their ultimatum, and it broke Lee's heart."


Still, as it turned out, Lee left vaudeville for Broadway the next year.  He was featured in the musical burlesque "Hurly Burly" at Weber and Fields' Broadway Music Hall in 1898 and played Simonides in an 1899 Broadway production of "Ben Hur."  He also performed in a Shakespeare company in London.

He must have had to keep the wolves from the door again as he was back with his "Great Men" act in April, 1899.  He was briefly able to convince theatre managers to allow him to combine his impersonation act with third-act highlights from "Cyrano de Bergerac."

On March 3, 1900, Lee filed for bankruptcy.  It was at this point that he devoted his attention entirely to his "Great Men" act.  He was able to expand his performance when theaters booked him as a headline act, enacting fifteen impersonations in thirty minutes.  The Los Angeles Herald noted, "Not the least important factor in his hold upon the public's admiration is the wonderful speed and apparent ease with which he is metamorphosed so swiftly from one character to another."  By 1903, his act featured impersonations of Otto von Bismarck, Pope Leo XIII, Mark Twain, President Theodore Roosevelt, General Ulysses S. Grant, and General Robert E. Lee.


In time, Lee added many other impersonations to his act.  He preferred as his subjects world leaders (Kaiser Wilhelm II and Japanese Emperor Meiji) and business titans (Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockerfeller), but he also found writers to be excellent subjects as he could recite their eloquent literature to the audience.  He dressed up as Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Henrik Ibsen.  Among his other new subjects were Admiral John Paul Jones and Senator Chauncey M. Depew.  A show that he performed in April, 1904, was designed to focus exclusively on "the rulers of the world."  This performance included a novel appearance of Lee made up as Czar Nicolas.

Standing nearby was a valet, who Lee introduced to the audience as "John."  John helped Lee to quickly don coats, trousers, hats, ties and whiskers in his transformations.  The Los Angeles Herald described the dressing and make-up process in meticulous detail.  When it was time for the actor to become King Edward VII, he found John waiting offstage with "black mourning trousers and the coat on which are pinned the decorations that are worn by the king."  The newspaper further described Lee transforming from King Edward VII to Otto von Bismarck and then from King Edward VII to Pope Leo XIII.  Their account went as follows:
Lee is arranging the white wig and white drooping moustache which are needed to complete the "make-up."  Then the brows are made a bit heavier, the lines in the face are furrowed, and with a dash of grease paint on the lower lip to make it a bit stronger, Prince Bismarck is ready to walk on in full view of the audience.  Immediately behind the great chancellor walks Tyrris, the Great Dane dog that is Mr. Lee's constant companion, and which he uses in his Bismarck act.  The dog stands by his master for a few seconds and then makes his exit, Mr. Lee taking up his reading of an extract from one of the Iron Chancellor's great speeches, in which he tells of his standing by the ship of state for so long and now is about to retire.  The presentation is true to life and faithful, and shows the great art of mimicry possessed by Mr. Lee.  The curtain no sooner reaches the bottom of the stage than Mr. Lee dashes into his dressing room and casts off the Bismarck "make up."  He rubs down his eyebrows, removes some of the paint from his cheeks, inserts a wrinkle or two on either cheek and then smiles once or twice in a benign way, while "John" is assisting him to get into the long white cassock that is worn only by a pope.  The skull cap is donned, the great white ring is inserted on the middle finger of the right hand, and buttoning up the cassock you behold the bent figure of the pope of Rome, majestic in his bearing despite the drooping shoulders, the furrowed countenance and the pale, white face, which denotes great age.  Lee's characterization of the pope of Rome is a grand conception, and despite the fact that it takes but ninety seconds for him to transform himself from Bismarck into the pope, the picture is wonderfully made, and there will undoubtedly be crowds of Catholics especially who will go to the Orpheum this week if for no other reason than to see Lee appear made up as the head of the Roman church.
The Los Angeles Herald concluded, "Lee's work is of the highest order.  He is clever in all of his conceptions, he does not approach the vulgar in any of his caricatures and he displays a mimicry that denotes long training on the stage.  The actor who does this high class vaudeville work is a man who has acted with all of the celebrated men and women of the stage for twenty-five years, and although he has changed his stage tactics he is nevertheless put down in stage history as one of the few really great actors of the time."


The reviews of Lee's act were generally enthusiastic.  In August, 1904, the New York Clipper reported on the actor's performance at Keith's Theatre.  The newspaper said, "Henry Lee, in his masterful impersonations of great men, past and present, holds the head position on the bill, and right worthily, too, as he has no peer in his line of endeavor.  Each of his portrayals received hearty approval for their fidelity to the character impersonated."  The Philadelphia Times wrote, "[Henry Lee] may be called the human phonograph-biograph, for he is a living picture of the personages represented, and, in addition, furnishes the voice in some well-known speech of the distinguished men who is being represented."

People had a great curiosity to see how Lee changed from one character to another.  This inspired him to change his act.  In October, 1906, the Courier-Journal of Louisville reported, "Interest is added from the fact that all of his making up is done in full view of the audience." 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle expressed enthusiasm in regards to news that Lee had embarked on an international tour with "his famous transformation act."  Variety later noted, "[H]e travelled to nearly every civilized country in the world."

Variety columnist J. C. Nugent remembered meeting Lee at the Navarre Hotel in New York City.  He was sitting at a table with a distinguished group of actors, including Sam Bernard, Dave Montgomery, Maurice Barrymore, Lew Fields, and Bert Coote.  Nugent wrote, "He wore a clerical collar and spoke in the grand manner." 

The impersonators of this period were committed to being respectful of their subjects, which was a point that I made in my earlier article.  It was far different than today.  Consider the recent controversy over Will Ferrell's intention to mock President Ronald Reagan's struggle with Alzheimer's disease in a major studio film.  Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis called the project "cruel" and Farrell "heartless."


In his normal course of business, Lee acted neither cruel nor heartless in his portrayal of President Roosevelt.  The Omaha Daily Bee described the actor's impersonations as "artistic and pleasant."  The New York Times noted, "[Lee] delivers an eloquent and highly praiseworthy sentiment[al] characteristic of each [subject]."  In other words, he provided a tender rendering designed to elicit love, pity, or nostalgia.  But the protean actor did demonstrate a brief lapse in pleasantness and tenderness when he showed up at the Keith's Theatre in November, 1904.  The New York Times observed, "The managerial rule that bars politics from the theatre for fear of hurting partisan feelings is being shattered this week at Keith's, in nothing less than a caricature of the President of these United States."  The newspaper said that Lee took to "pounding hard at [Roosevelt's philosophies of] imperialism and strenuosity, to say nothing of various foibles of [his] personal character."

The audience reaction was mixed and, as it turned out, Lee suffered a backlash for his actions.  The New York Times concluded with the following defense of the actor: "It is certainly strange and regrettable that a nation as political as our['s] should be intolerant of politics on the stage."

In May, 1908, Variety reported, "Everything is in readiness for the commencement in Chicago Sunday of a unique experiment.  George Kleine, the big American importer of foreign independent films, George Lederer and Henry Lee, the impersonator, have entered into a partnership to give a novel moving picture show in the Auditorium, Chicago, the big show house which played 'Advanced Vaudeville' for a time last season."  Lee promised theatregoers "a combination of music, poetry, drama and a pictorial display."

More information on project was forthcoming.  Lee engaged the services of other impersonators to stage a show called "The Mimic World" at Chicago's 4,000-seat Orpheum Theatre.  The show, which was coordinated by dozens of theatre personnel, was a ninety-minute multimedia experience, featuring films, slides, prerecorded sound effects, a choir, and musical accompaniment. 

Grau later wrote in "The Theatre of Science," "Lee was an artist to his finger tips, but of business he knew absolutely nothing, and before I could exert my influence to check his wild enthusiasm, he became hopelessly involved financially. . . I advised Lee to preserve his vaudeville status and not sacrifice the $500 a week that was his for the asking to finance a project wholly uncertain as to the outcome.  But Lee, the dreamer, was not to be influenced."

Lee became preoccupied with the project.  Grau wrote, "At Lee's request, I journeyed to Chicago to witness the production. . . The spectacle of an auditorium of about 300 persons in the vast Chicago auditorium seating 6,000 was alone uninspiring enough to cast a gloom. . ."  Journalist Arthur Edwin Krows wrote in 1938, "My recollection is that the primary trouble was too much mixing of the media."  Grau wrote, "Unfortunately, [Lee] was a very poor business man.  His procedure, as a rule, was decidedly ill advised."

The fact that he was so closely identified with his unique specialty act came to be a handicap for the actor.  Grau wrote, "To the writer Lee had always expressed himself as deploring the vogue which this effort brought him.  I have been with him when he would send a message to some manager offering to cancel all his vaudeville engagements, which at the time brought him a weekly provision of $500, if he could get one-fifth of this sum to originate some new role on Broadway.  But it was not to be.  In the last two years the vicissitudes and experiences which Lee had gone through were simply unbearable to a man of his make-up."


It was bad enough that Lee had fallen into a rut, but the audiences at the major vaudeville houses had become bored with his act.  Grau wrote, "His position was truly desperate.  Finally this fine artist was forced to make a tour of second rate vaudeville theaters at a reduced salary, and this was the last engagement of his long and remarkable career."

A Variety critic saw Lee perform what may have been his last "Great Man" performance at the Plaza Theatre in May, 1909.  He wrote, "Henry Lee returns to his original offering, 'Great Men Past and Present,' making only a few changes in his subjects, but keeping the familiar arrangement of the presentation.  The new ones are Emperor William II, Hon. Joseph Cannon and Oscar Hammerstein.  All three were handled with the rare and skill in make-up that characterizes Mr. Lee's work.  Mr. Lee seems to be the only impersonator who realizes the ex-President is not a rough rider any more.  He dresses Mr. Roosevelt in civilian riding costume instead of the khaki uniform that has become a stage trade mark of Theodore."

Soon after his Plaza Theatre appearance, Lee introduced a new spectacle at the White City Amusement Park in Chicago.  The show, called "The Destruction of Messina," employed dozens of stage hands, electricians and pyrotechnic specialists to create the effect of a volcano destroying a city.  The disaster show made use of several effects machines, including a wind machine, a flame machine, sound effects machines and various electric lamps.  The big space, big cast and big machines employed by the show had, at the outcome, a big cost.  The high costs caused the park to shut down the attraction at the end of the season.

Lee died while undergoing surgery on November 10, 1911.  He was 51 years old.  Grau wrote, "Henry Lee had a heart so big that the tears would come to his eyes at the mention of distress of a friend.  He gave away his money in hard times as readily as in his palmy days.  To those who knew him well the struggle Lee made to keep up his outward appearance and to stave off the gradually evident signs of adversity was simply heartrending.  He was not without his faults, but from these he alone suffered.  With his demise the stage has lost a great actor - far greater than, perhaps, posterity will record."

After his death, counterfeit versions of his act turned up on the vaudeville circuits.  Acts billed exactly like Lee's act, "Great Men, Past and Present," were performed by several actors, including Joseph Callahan, Emil Merkle, and The Great Westin.

Grau sadly noted:
The death of Henry Lee was not accorded the prominence in the public press that would have been meted out to him a generation ago.  Perhaps this due to the fact that his achievements were little known to modern writers, but for all that the news came as a shock in the circles in which he was once a conspicuous figure.  The greatest misfortune that ever befell Lee was the success which he achieved in London in the music halls in the speciality which ever after he was enabled to conjure with.  "Great Men, Past and Present" was his undoing.  Lee tried hard, too, to regain the place he had made for himself on the legitimate stage, but he was regarded as a vaudevillian, and this is one instance where vaudeville really did retard a career.

Lloyd Hamilton: Pilgrim Son

Lloyd Hamilton in The Educator (1922)

Lloyd Hamilton, slapstick comedian extraordinaire, came from a prestigious family that was noted for its contributions to the founding of the United States.  Hamilton proudly mentioned his All-American roots when he was promoting The Optimist, a 1923 film that burlesqued our country's Pilgrim fathers.

The family's story in America began with Hamilton's 4 x great grandfather, William Hamilton.  William, the son of Galatin Hamilton and Jane Lauder, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on March 7, 1647.  He immigrated to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1668.  He later settled in North Kingston, Rhode Island, where he married Mercy Beere and had ten children (seven sons and three daughters).  Due to failing health, he moved into the residence of a daughter and her husband, Thomas Benedict, in May, 1749.  He was said to have died "easy in his chair" at the age of 102.


William was the subject of an extravagant tale that has remained prominent in various histories of Cape Cod.  The story later received mention in the New York Times (October 8, 1894), Alexander Starbuck's "History of the American Whale Fishery from its Earliest Inception to the Year 1876" (1878), and Duncan Oliver and John Braginton-Smith's "Cape Cod Shore Whaling: America's First Whalemen" (2008).  It was alleged in the story that William was the first man to kill a whale in Cape Cod waters.  William was alone at the seashore when he noticed a whale in the ocean.  He quickly rowed his boat out to the great beast, killed it with a harpoon, and dragged its carcass back to shore.  The State Journal reported, "The act was so unusual and daring that he was looked upon as a wizard, came near to being hung, and was taken up and confined in jail. . ."  William reportedly met other people arrested for suspicion of witchery and led the group into mounting a jail break.  The State Journal continued, "[They] marched through the town and informed the magistrates that if there was any more persons arrested for witchcraft they (the magistrates) would be hung."

Most other versions of the story leave out William's arrest and jail break.  These stories simply asserted that William's killing of the whale was attributed to, in Starbuck's words, "undue familiarity with evil spirits."  Historian Gertrude Wickham noted that William's family resettled in Rhode Island only after being "driven away as witches."  Starbuck, who found no verification of the incident in court records, doubted if the story of the Hamilton family's persecution was true.  He believed that Cape Cod residents were familiar enough with fishing skills to understand that killing a whale was nothing supernatural.  Besides, Starbuck claimed, "[T]he Cape was more an asylum for the persecuted than the source of persecution."  The fact that William's whale-slaying has been carried down in history books for more than 300 years suggests that something of the truth is present in the story.  


Lloyd Hamilton demonstrated his own troublesome whale-slaying skills on the big screen.  In Robinson Crusoe Ltd. (1921), Lloyd is taking a stroll on the deck of an ocean liner when he spots what he believes to be a whale in the water below.  He grabs a harpoon and launches it in the direction of the assumed creature, which turns out to be a floating mine.  The explosion that results is great enough to tear a hole in the hull of the liner and cause the ship to quickly sink beneath the waves.  Obviously, this act wasn't as daring or supernatural as it was dumb.  No footage or images of the scene are known to exist, but we do have a reworking of the scene performed by Three Stooges in Back from the Front (1943).

 


One of William's grandsons, Silas Hamilton, was also the subject of a historical legend.  The Revolutionary War was at the time causing death and destruction throughout the Colonies.  Silas, a resident of Danbury, Connecticut, was on horseback transporting a roll of red flannel cloth that he had obtained from a fuller shop when the British army arrived to burn down the town.  Silas was riled into action upon his confrontation with British forces.  The story, as detailed in "Commemorative Biographical Record of Fairfield County, Connecticut," continued as follows: "Remounting his horse he flew up Main Street with the troopers in full pursuits, and steadily gaining ground on him; one in advance and close upon him swung his sword to cut him down, when a singular but most fortunate accident occurred.  Silas lost a part of his hold upon the roll of cloth, and it flew out like a giant ribbon, frightened the pursuing animals so that he escaped with his life - and cloth!"  Silas' unusual escape comes across as a scene out of a Hamilton comedy.


The next descendant in Hamilton's family line was Hamilton's great great great grandfather, David Hamilton, who was born in 1697.  David married Anna Wright on September 3, 1727 in North Kingston, Rhode Island.  The marriage produced nine children (four daughters and five sons).  David worked as a deputy sheriff at one time, but he had much greater success later as a land speculator.  David remarried after Anna died in 1745.  His second wife, Sarah West, gave birth to two daughters, one in 1746 and the other in 1748, but both died in infancy.  David died in May, 1781, in Sharon, Connecticut.

Hamilton's great great grandfather, John I. Hamilton, was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, in 1732.  John fought in the Revolutionary War.  He was at first stationed in an outpost in Schoharie, New York, and later was stationed at Fort Edward.  He married Mercy Cornish.  The union of John and Mercy bore eight children (3 daughters and 5 sons).  John died at 85 years old in Montgomery County, New York, in 1809. 

Hamilton's great grandfather was a physician, Dr. Silas Hamilton.  This was a different man than the red cloth runner.  Silas was born at Stockbridge, Massachusetts on March 18, 1762.  He joined the army of the Revolution when he was fourteen years old, fighting with various regiments from 1776 to 1780.  He was stationed in the garrison at Ticonderoga, New York, under the command of General Anthony Wayne.  In July, 1777, he volunteered to join the militia company of Captain Amariah Babbitt, which led to him serving for one month in Colonel Seth Warner's regiment.  On August 15, 1777, he was one of the militiamen led by Warner into the Battle of Bennington. 

The Battle of Bennington was a key battle of the war and Warner's men played a pivotal role in its outcome.  British General John Burgoyne figured to gain control of the Hudson River Valley by capturing Albany.  The following was reported by Wikipedia:
Burgoyne's progress towards Albany had initially met with great success, including the scattering of Warner's men in the Battle of Hubbardton.  However, his advance had slowed to a crawl by late July, due to logistical difficulties, exacerbated by the American destruction of a key road, and the army's supplies began to dwindle.
Burgoyne sent a detachment of Indians, Loyalists and German dragoons led by Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum to raid Bennington for horses and supplies.  Baum believed that the town was only lightly defended, but the fact was that General John Stark had arrived in Bennington with 1,500 militiamen from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  Stark's men set out in a heavy rain to cut off Baum.

Wikipedia continued:
[Baum's] position was immediately surrounded by gunfire, which Stark described as "the hottest engagement I have ever witnessed. . ."  The Loyalists and Indian positions were overrun, causing many of them to flee or surrender.  This left Baum and his Brunswick dragoons trapped alone on the high ground.  The Germans fought valiantly even after running low on powder and the destruction of their ammunition wagon.  In desperation the dragoons led a sabre charge in an attempt to break through the enveloping forces. The charge failed horrendously, causing massive amounts of German casualties and gaining no ground on the rebels.  Baum was mortally wounded in this final charge, and the remaining Germans surrendered.

After the battle ended, while Stark's militiamen were busy disarming the prisoners and looting their supplies, Breymann arrived with his reinforcements.  Seeing the Americans in disarray, they immediately pressed their attack. After hastily regrouping, Stark's forces tried to hold their ground against the new German onslaught, but began to fall back.  Before their lines collapsed, Warner's men arrived on the scene to reinforce Stark's troops.  Pitched battle continued until dark, when both sides disengaged.  Breymann began a hasty retreat; he had lost one quarter of his force and all of his artillery pieces.
Wikipedia concluded, "The battle was a decisive victory for the rebel cause, as it reduced Burgoyne's army in size by almost 1,000 men, led his Indian support to largely abandon him, and deprived him of needed supplies such as cavalry and draft horses and food, all factors that contributed to Burgoyne's eventual surrender at Saratoga.  The victory also galvanized colonial support for the independence movement, and played a key role in bringing France into the war on the rebel side."

Silas married Achsah M. Barnes on June 20, 1793.  The couple brought forth thirteen children (6 daughters and 7 sons).  Silas was granted a soldier's pension on January 24, 1833, in the town of Victory, New York.  He died on February 6, 1847, at the age of 85. 

Hamilton's great aunt, Roxana, married an engraver and publisher, John Farmer.  In 1821, Michigan Governor Cass invited Farmer to move from Albany to Detroit to take charge of the University of Michigan.  His son, Silas Farmer, wrote:
Within two or three years after his arrival at Detroit, Mr. Farmer was engaged in surveying and preparing hand-made maps of the territory. . . He subsequently published, under various titles, twelve different maps of Michigan, Lake Superior, and Detroit, most of them being engraved by his own hand, and all who are acquainted with his works concede that they have never been excelled, and rarely if ever equaled in accuracy and completeness. . . In 1831 he compiled and drew for the Governor and Judges the first and only map transmitted by them to Congress, and that map is to this day the only legal authority and guide as to the surveys in the older portions of the city.  It was accepted by Congress as authoritative and is reproduced in Volume V of the American State Papers, Public Land Series.  In January, 1835, he issued the first published map of the city, which showed the size and correct outlines of the several lots.

His early maps of the Territory and State were sold by the thousands in all the leading eastern cities, and are conceded to have been greatly influential in promoting the extensive immigration to Michigan between the years 1825 and 1840.  In 1830, at Albany, New York, he issued the first Gazetteer of Michigan, a work relatively as complete as any gazetteer since issued.  He served repeatedly as District, City, and County Surveyor, and laid out many of the earlier roads and villages.
Farmer provided even more service to the state of Michigan.  He was the City Treasurer of Detroit.  He founded the first Methodist Episcopal Church of Detroit.  His son wrote, "He was an early advocate of the abolition of slavery, and would have sympathized with any and every effort made by the slaves to secure their freedom."

Hamilton's grandfather, Theron Hamilton, was born at Half Moon, New York, on July 26, 1807.  On September 13, 1831, Theron married Betsy McCollum, a resident of Cato, New York, on June 28, 1807.  In 1840, the couple moved from Port Byron, New York, to Burlington, Michigan.  In January, 1865, Theron moved his family to Marshall, Michigan, to accept the duties of Probate Judge for the county.  On November 19, 1875, the State Journal reported that Judge Hamilton died at his farm near Jefferson City and was buried in the "neighborhood burying grounds."  He was survived by his wife, two sons and an adopted daughter.

Hamilton's father, William Crane Hamilton, was born on February 16, 1846.  He married Hamilton's mother, Mary Edith McEntee, on September 23, 1875.  Mary was the daughter of Thomas Milton McEntee and Mary Jane Chaple.  Thomas was the City Attorney of Detroit from 1860 to 1863.  Thomas' brother, William Hervey McEntee, was also an attorney.  Hamilton got to poke fun at the lawyers in his family when he played an inept legal counselor in The Adviser (1921).

Lloyd Hamilton's mother, Mary Edith McEntee
Hamilton was a seventh generation American who descended from a whaler, a land speculator, a doctor, a city attorney, and a judge.  As a hard-partying slapstick comedian, he did not share the sober lifestyle of his forebearers.  He did not live as long as William (102 years), or David (84 years old), or John (85 years), or Silas (85 years), or Theron (68 years), or William (76 years).  He did not extend or expand the family line like William (10 children), David (11 children), John (8 children), Silas (13 children), Theron (3 children), and William (3 children).  But Hamilton enjoyed great distinction and great respect during his days.  It could be argued that he stands today as the best known and most beloved member of his outstanding family.


Additional notes: Going back further

The Hamilton clan descended from a Scottish nobleman, Walter fitz Gilbert of Hambledon.  This is where the man lived, Bothwell Castle.


The town of Hamilton, which is near Glasgow, was founded by the Hamilton family and named after them.  The name derives from the Old English word hamel "crooked" + dun "hill."

I came across an interesting story about Hamilton's father, William.  William, who owned a real estate business, had a long-simmering business dispute with Hugh Craig, the mayor of Piedmont.  The dispute came to a head at William's offices at the Realty Syndicate.  The result was the two men coming to blows.  The story made it into the next edition of the Oakland Tribune under the title "Aged Men in Bloody Fight."  The paper reported, "[G]lasses were snapped, cravats were torn and blood bespattered before the final blow had been put over."  William was at the time 65 years old (although the paper listed him as 60 years old) and Craig was 70 years old.  It was noted in the story, "Craig would not admit that there was a battle, and neither would Hamilton, but the latter finally admitted that there had been something doing and that he had come out on top."    

You can read more about Lloyd Hamilton in my book Lloyd Hamilton: Poor Boy of Silent Cinema.

Lloyd Hamilton: Adventures in Print


Whenever a new or expanded newspaper archive becomes available online, I cannot resist doing a search on my comedy hero Lloyd Hamilton.  I have a few newspaper items on Hamilton to share today. 

Hamilton first attained prominence with the Elleford dramatic company.  A critic with the Lompoc Journal expressed unadulterated praise after attending a presentation by the company in January of 1910.  He wrote, "Tonight the Elleford Dramatic company close the most successful week’s engagement that has ever been played in this city in point of attendance and the generous patronage accorded them but attests to the popularity of this meritorious troupe.  It is not stretching the statement to say that the players have afforded genuine pleasure throughout the entire engagement and we believe the company has been well pleased with its Lompoc audiences, which proves that Lompoc knows a good thing when it sees it."  The critic singled out Hamilton for commendation.  He noted, "Lloyd Hamilton was served up in many styles and we hardly know in which particular binding we liked him best.  He ran the gamut from the grave to the ludicrous and his makeups ranged from the unsophisticated kid to the scheming and repugnant countenance of a pettifogging lawyer.  He is truly a versatile funmaker and a man of many faces and voices."  Lloyd's good friend (and later film director) Lloyd Bacon received a mention for being "conscientious" in his performance as a straight lead.  A more veteran actor in the company, George Hernandez, also got a share of the laughs.  The critic wrote, "George Hernandez is a finished performer and a comedian lead character impersonator of rare ability, much of the success of each performance being due to his infectious fun and personality."  It was only within months after this performance that Hernandez left the Elleford company to become a film actor.  As a film actor, the accomplished thespian took on a wide variety of character roles, playing everything from a tramp to a judge.

Here is an interesting story from the Nevada State Journal.  The date of the story is August 16, 1909.
Last night Lloyd Hamilton, an actor now in the Elleford's company, reported the loss of a suit of clothes and a pair of full-dress trousers from his dressing room at the Wheelman. 

Hamilton joined the Elleford last Monday and left in his dressing-room a light brown or tan suit of clothes of the late style, practically new, and a pair of full-dress trousers with wide braid on the seams at the side.

Last night Hamilton found that the clothes had been taken, and he reported the loss to the police.
Hamilton was known to be fastidious about his wardrobe.  I am sure that he was not pleased to have his outfit stolen.  Hamilton went on to lose his pants repeatedly in his films.  In comedy films, the best solution to a lack of trousers was to hurry home under the cover of a barrel.

 

Hamilton devoted much of his spare time to hunting and fishing.  This became a subject for many news items on the comedian.  In 1918, the Los Angeles Herald reported that Hamilton had been stalking around in the woods when he was attacked by a rattlesnake.  Here is another news story that appeared in the Los Angeles Herald the following year.
Los Angeles Herald, July 19, 1919

LLOYD HAMILTON GETS SHARE OF MACKEREL

Lloyd Hamilton, one of the leading laugh-makers in Henry Lehrman Comedies, reports fine fishing at Playa Del Rey this week, with mackerel plentiful.  He caught 57 from the pier on Wednesday morning, and only stopped because he got tired of pulling them in.
It's not the salacious type of content that would draw the interest of TMZ or Gawker today.


Hamilton didn't only socialize with mackerel and rattlesnake, which is demonstrated by our next item.  On January 9, 1917, the Los Angeles Herald reported on a wild Hollywood party in an article titled "Nothing Left But Cheer and Debris."  According to the article, comedian Hank Mann entertained friends with "lavish hospitality" for a New Year's Eve celebration at his home.  The article began, "Hank Mann, the Fox film comedy star, has cleared away the wreckage from the good ship New Year, which was launched at mid-night."  Among his guests were several members of the comedy community, including Charley Chase, Harry Edwards, Alice Howell, Fred Fishback, and our very own Lloyd Hamilton.

Hamilton also liked to commune with the ladies.  Steve Zalusky recently posted this article to Facebook.

Los Angeles Herald, August 9, 1920

SEEKS $25,000; LOVE SLANDER ALLEGED

Actress Complains She Was Accused of ‘Breaking Up Home’

Alleging she was wrongfully accused of stealing another woman's husband and that her character was assailed, Miss Ethel Teare, widely known as a screen portrayer of comedy parts, will seek $25,000 damages for alleged slander from Mrs. Ethel Hamilton through a suit which was on file today in the superior court.  Mrs. Hamilton's husband, Lloyd Hamilton, was made a nominal defendant in the action, which was filed through Attorney Sol A. Rehart.  The complaint recited that the alleged slanderous remarks attributed to Mrs. Hamilton were made in Santa Monica July 25 of this year.  At that time, Mrs. Hamilton was alleged to have referred to Miss Teare as follows: "Doctor, I came to tell you about this woman sitting alongside of you in a green hat; she went into my home and took my husband from me."  Miss Teare also alleged in her complaint that Mrs. Hamilton said, "You broke up my home," and "You are the kind of woman that will not go out with single men, but go out with married men and break up their homes."  Miss Teare asserted the alleged remarks were uttered in malice and were without foundation.
I recently spoke to Ethel Teare's granddaughter.  She said that, according to "family legend," Hamilton dated her grandmother for awhile and the two of them made plans to marry.

Lloyd Hamilton and Ethel Teare in A Tight Squeeze (1918)

My recent archive search on Hamilton has turned up extensive information on Hamilton's family history, which I will cover in my next article.


Lost Comedy Teams


Recently, I was reading vaudeville notices in an 1898 edition of the New York Dramatic Mirror.  The notices on comedy acts referred almost exclusively to double acts.  Comedy at that time was mostly sketches and patter routines, which made solo comedians something of a rarity.  The double acts fell into many different categories.  Take, for instances, the following acts playing in New York that week: Gracey and Burnett, eccentric comedians; Fields and Woolley, German comedians; Swan and Bambard, acrobatic comedians; Snyder and Buckley, musical comedians; Merkle and Algere, midget comedians.  These are, without exception, forgotten acts.  I thought that it would be worthwhile to run through the history of these funny pairs and see if I could shed a light on their accomplishments.

Let us start with Dan Gracey and Ada B. Burnett.


Burnett was primarily a singer.  She sang Irish songs and Negro songs.  She had her greatest success with Negro songs, including "Goodbye, My Honey, I'm Gone" and "New Coon in Town."  As a white woman who sang Negro songs, she fell into the category of singers commonly known as "coon-shouters."

Cartoonist John Adcock wrote on his blog "Doggone That Train":
[Ada B. Burnett] popularized "New Coon in Town" in 1886.  In October 1888 she performed at New York's Adelphi Theatre as Ada B. Burnett's Female Minstrel Majestics, a troupe of twenty "Handsome Ladies' aided by a grand company of twenty.

In 1887 she appeared at the Adelphi theatre in Buffalo, New York and made a "clever hit."
"She  contralto voice, and a reckless abandon and good humor, a swagger that is decidedly catchy, and with all these attractions it was no wonder that she was the favorite of the audience.  Her "Never Take No for an Answer" brought a handsome bouquet, and as an encore she gave a "New Coon in Town," which brought down the house." – Buffalo Courier, Sept. 13, 1887
In 1895 Burnett teamed as a coon-shouter with her husband Dan Gracey, "Eccentric Irish Comedian."  The couple were billed as "The Hottest Coon Singers in America, Bar None!"  She was still ending the show with "New Coon in Town."
Gracey and Burnett came to specialize in sketch comedy.  One of their popular sketches was called "A Royal Janitor."

The couple stuck by one another through good times and bad times.  The following notice appeared in The New York Clipper on May 18, 1895: "Mr. and Mrs. Dan Gracey (Ada B. Burnett) mourn the loss of their infant daughter, Marguerite Fern , who died very suddenly of congestive chills.  They wish to extend their thanks through The Clipper to those who were kind in their great sorrow."

In 1909, Burnett left entertainment field while her husband pursued a solo act in burlesque.   Gracey originated several routines, including "The Disputed Check" (although a Variety critic claimed that the routine shared distinct similarities with earlier routines). 

In 1928, Gracey stopped working to care for his wife, who had contracted cancer.  On January 12, 1930, Burnett died at her home in Fairhaven, New Jersey.  It appears from a review of the trade papers that Gracey never returned to work after his wife's death.


Augustus Yorke and Nicolas Adams were pioneer Hebrew comedians.  A specialty of the team was to perform fast-paced patter routines and up-to-date parodies of popular songs.  A favorite venue for them was New York City's Orpheum Theater, which was an entertainment showcase in the Yiddish Theater District.  At the height of their success, the team starred in a series of lavish musical comedies: "Bankers and Brokers" (1905-1906), "Playing the Ponies" (1908-1909) (originally a vehicle for Kolb and Dill), "Yorke and Adams in Africa" (1910) and "College Life" (1911).  Their chief writer was Aaron Hoffman, who worked closely with the team much like John Grant worked with Abbott and Costello.


Variety's Alfred Greason (pen name "Rush') offered a mixed review for the team's efforts in "Playing the Ponies."  He wrote:
Yorke and Adams make a very good team of Hebrews, scoring laughs easily and quietly.  There are several bits of familiar comedy business introduced, but it is handled differently and gets by nicely. . . The pair sang several new parodies which made distinct hits with the house, but neither of the comedians has any kind of a voice and it is doubtful whether they could get away with the parody thing in vaudeville.  While the dressing of the pair is funny, the facial makeup is far from good.  They are bewhiskered beyond necessity and neither is pleasant nor wholesome to look at.
But, generally, the reviews for their shows were favorable.  The Index, a weekly Pittsburgh newspaper, had nothing but praise for "Playing the Ponies."  The paper called Yorke and Adams "America's best-known and best-liked Hebrew comedians."  The Harrison Telegraph, another Pennsylvania newspaper, said that "Bankers and Brokers" was so "furiously funny" that it "[made] all the competitors look like a bunch of counterfeit nickels."  The Minneapolis Journal promised readers that "Bankers and Brokers" "will combine good, healthy fun, lively, pretty girls, handsome costumes and graceful dancing into an effective entertainment with elaborate scenery and dazzling effects."  "College Life" was well-received by The Cambridge Chronicle.  The paper reported:
"College Life" is one of those big vaudeville productions that the public seem to demand nowadays.  It is full of ginger from start to finish, with an endless amount of fun, rollicking college songs, and a beautiful stage setting.  Yorke and Adams are two of the greatest Hebrew comedians on the stage today.
Yorke and Adams played regularly at New York's Hammerstein's Theatre from 1910 to 1912.  The critics at Variety never seemed to have much good to say about the team during this period.  A common complaint was that the comedians were putting out "worn patter."  A critic wrote, "Excepting a parody or two, the Hebrew comedians did the same act as when leaving vaudeville for a production."  Another running complaint was that their act was uneven and the team needed to cut out gags that didn't work.  Typical was the following remark: "Yorke and Adams got over with their talk and parodies but a portion of their patter could be remodeled."  The men appeared to be struggling to keep audiences interested.  The following review appeared in Variety on November 19, 1910:
Yorke and Adams didn't finish well.  They started away like a pair of race horses, but slowed down toward the middle and closed breathing hard.  The pair were probably breaking in some new stuff, for several times they stammered about as though not quite certain of themselves.  This was the cause of the weak finish.
It seemed at the time that the act of Yorke and Adams had run its course and the entertainers needed to go their separate ways.  So, the partnership was ended. 


After finding little success with solo acts, the comedians got back together for a reunion tour in 1923.  At first, they travelled the vaudeville circuit with a playlet called "Two Sweethearts."  Variety said that this new act "scored laughter."  Then, they took their act overseas.  In June, 1923, they debuted the musical comedy "Partners Again" at The Opera House in South Africa.  In December, 1925, they opened in the play "Give and Take" in London.  The singing and joking duo received a cordial reaction from English audiences.  In 1927, their continued popularity in England led the men to starring in a short film for England's Phonofilm.

The act broke up again in 1927.  Both men went on to play character roles in Broadway dramas.  In 1927, Yorke played a fence who unloads loot for gangster Chester Morris in "Crime."  In 1934, Adams played opposite Walter Huston in "Dodsworth."


 Yorke and Adams had entertained separately and together in vaudeville and musical comedy since the 1880s.  They had in their time created a formidable body of work.  They were remembered with fondness at their passing.  Adams died on October 23, 1935.  Yorke died on December 27, 1940.

William Gilbert and Walter Goldsmith were well established under the name Gilbert and Goldie by 1893, at which time New York's Music & Drama journal praised the team for being "exceedingly funny."  In another review, a critic singled out for praise their "famous racehorse song."  The pair performed to acclaim at the Los Angeles Orpheum Theatre in 1898.  The Capital said of their performance, "Gilbert and Goldie's names are too well known here to need any comment save their simple announcement.  They come with a stock of new jokes, songs, dances, etc., destined to set the house in a roar."

The duo had their greatest success playing honky tonks in San Francisco.  One local paper, South of Market Journal, called them "San Francisco's favorite sons."  Years later, a Variety critic remembered Gilbert and Goldie being "among the big ones" at the leading Frisco honky tonk, The Belle.  The comedians excelled performing the more risqué humor that the honky tonk audiences demanded.

Gilbert died in 1903.  Goldie went into the soap business for awhile and tried unsuccessfully to return to vaudeville with a solo act in 1912.

Tom Morrissey and Ann Rich, who were featured at Keith's Union Square Theatre in 1898, continued to work together for at least the next fifteen years.  Then, they quietly disappeared.  In 1926, a Variety columnist wrote of the team, "Some years ago, Morrissey and Rich were among the leading teams of vaudeville, topping bills in many theatres.  They separated and the theatre know of them no more.  I have just received the news that Tom Morrissey owns a shoe-repair business in Los Angeles while Ann Rich is running a beauty salon with 15 operatives and has been extremely fortunate in real estate."


A husband-and-wife team, Joseph Hart and Carrie DeMar, were seen at the time in a new sketch called "Dr. Chauncey's Visit."  The couple met in 1891 and married two years later.  Hart later wrote and produced several shows as vehicles for himself and his wife.  His shows included "The Gay Old Boy" (1894–1895), "Foxy Grandpa" (an adaptation of the Carl E. Schultze comic strip, 1901–1905) and "Girls Will Be Girls" (1903–1904).  He also starred in the touring company of  C. T. Dazey's "A Tarrytown Widow" (1897–1898).  The couple reprised their "Foxy Grandpa" roles in two short films, The Boys Think They Have One on Foxy Grandpa and Foxy Grandpa and Polly in a Little Hilarity.

Joseph Hart

On October 3, 1921, Hart was at his Manhattan home with his wife when he died suddenly from a stroke.  DeMar became reclusive after her husband's death.  Later in life, she joined the Catholic order.

Elizabeth Allen "Daisy" Remington and William B. Hines were a married couple that had been performing together since 1879.  Remington wrote a number of successful playlets, sketches and short stories under the pen name "Earle Remington-Hines."  The duo retired their act in 1912.  Hines died on December 14, 1917.  Remington died on September 23, 1923. 

William Swan and Frank E. Bambard combined comedy and acrobatics.  Their act was best represented by the following review: "Swan and Bambard gave their knockabout acrobatics, with the good comedy of the stout man [Bambard] and the excellent acrobatics of the other [Swan].  His head spring for the close brought a big round of applause, and the team generally fared well."  (Variety, February 16, 1907).  The men dissolved their act in 1915.  Bambard died at his home in October, 1917.

Hector and Lauraine, eccentric knockout comedians, were billed as "The World's Whirligigs" and "Wonderful Whirligigs."  The duo became familiar on the vaudeville circuits for a nutty act called "Boxing Upside Down," in which the athletic funnymen literally boxed upside down.

Between 1896 and 1899, Hector and Lauraine were regulars at the Empire Theatre in Cardiff, Wales.  The Pontypridd Chronicle and Workman's News reported: "Hector and Lauraine, the comic acrobats, created the utmost laughter."  The South Wales Daily News noted, "Hector and Lauraine were excruciatingly funny."
 
Charlie Johnson and Dora Dean

Charlie Johnson and Dora Dean were listed in the New York Dramatic Mirror as "a colored comedy duo," but the team was better known for their dance routines.  In 1891, Johnson and Dean met while working together in Sam T. Jack's Creole Company, a popular touring company that combined elements of the minstrel show and the burlesque show.  In the burlesque tradition, Jack used many pretty female singers and dancers in key roles.  Most of the performers in the company had extensive experience in minstrel shows and they retained much of the material that they had established as minstrel entertainers, but the Creole company made it one of its most important innovations to eliminate blackface.  This was called playing neat.  Dean started out in the show with small roles, including a bit in which she posed as a statue, but Dean's talent as a singer and dancer combined with her beauty and shapely figure made her popular with audiences.  Johnson was originally cast as a singer and banjo player, but his exceptional musical abilities eventually led him to becoming the company's leading man.

It was another innovation of the Creole Company to pair up men and women in dance numbers.  This enabled Johnson and Dean, the company's two rising stars, to combine their talents.  After two years, the dance partners got married and left the Creole Company.  They put together an eccentric dance act (known at the time as "legomania") for the Chicago World's Fair.  Later, they established themselves on the vaudeville circuit as the King and Queen of Colored Aristocracy.  Marshall and Jean Stearns wrote in "Jazz Dance": "The pioneering team of Johnson & Dean was perhaps the first to break ground for class [dance] acts.  Johnson & Dean established the roles of the genteel Negro couple on the American stage – the courtly gentleman and the gracious lady."  They became famous for introducing a graceful, elegant style of cakewalk to the Broadway stage in 1897.  The book "Vaudeville old & new: an encyclopedia of variety performances in America," which was written by Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman and Donald McNeilly, includes the following passage on Johnson and Dean's reworking of the cakewalk:
The chalk line walk, a contest of skill among African Americans, was a holdover from slavery days.  It was a high-stepping dance, with turns and reversals, performed while balancing a bucket of water on the head and following a line delineated by chalk.  Johnson did away with the bucket of water but retained the precision and the high style.
Johnson and Dean achieved great success touring European countries, including England, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Russia.  In 1904, they made a return visit to England to accept top billing at London's prestigious Palace Theatre.  A review of their performance at the Palace appeared in The Era.:
They call their dance a kinetoscope rag time dance, which is performed against a black background amid intermittent flashes of light.  The ballet-like movements of the clever couple are thus illustrated in a way that give them something of the effect of a cinematograph picture.  The audience on Monday evidently were interested in the graceful exhibition of both Miss Dean and Mr. Johnson, who did not lack encouragement, which came from all parts of the house.
Bert Williams and George Walker

In tribute to Dean's enduring beauty, George Walker and Bert Williams wrote the song "Dora Dean."  The song included the following lyrics:
Say have you ever seen Miss Dora Dean
She is the finest girl you have ever seen.
I'm a-goin' to try and make this girl my queen
Next Sunday morning I'm goin' to marry Dora Dean.
The couple briefly parted ways in 1912 and again in 1922.  During their break in 1922, Johnson did a pantomime fishing act with "Cry Baby" Godfrey, who was billed jokingly as "The Black Caruso."  The couple had yet another split a few years later.  They reunited one last time for a highly publicized comeback performance at Connie's Inn in 1936.

Two Moms on "Yancy Derringer"


I love the old television shows that I find on YouTube.  This is an interesting clip from a "Yancy Derringer" YouTube channel.  One of these actresses had a daughter who turned out winning two Best Actress Oscars.  The other actress had a daughter who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1980 and won three Lead Actress Emmy awards during the 1990s. 



The dark-haired actress lying in bed is Margaret Field, mother of Sally Field, and the actress with light brown hair is Frances Bergen, mother of Candice Bergen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Walk of Shame for "Game of Thrones" Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss

 
The showrunners of Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, were bowed, bent and broken by feminists who vehemently protested the series' steady stream of comely bare-chested ladies and sadistic rape scenes.  The issue reached a fevered height during the series' fifth season.  Kate Aurthur of BuzzFeed wrote:
Despite its strong female leads, Game of Thrones has gotten considerable criticism for what is undeniably a lot of nudity, which has been called extraneous, and for its use of sex as a plot device.  To quote only a small selection of the ongoing outcry, Mary McNamara wrote in the Los Angeles Times that "maybe it’s time to tone down the tits"; TV writer and academic Myles McNutt invented the word "sexposition" to describe the show’s tic of underlining expository speeches with nudity or sex; and, during Season 2, xoJane’s executive editor, Emily McCombs, wrote a post with the headline "I Think King Joffrey Is Activating My PTSD" after a particularly hideous (and not-in-the-book) scene during which Joffrey forced one prostitute to beat another while he watched.
Kate Maltby of The Spectator wrote:
Naturally, I’ve had high-minded things to say about the show’s problematic gender politics.  Every Monday night, I gather with my sister-feminists on Twitter and muse aloud about the show’s treatment of female characters.  And yes, it’s appalling. Last night, Queen Cersei Lannister, who’s spent the last five seasons channelling Snow White’s stepmother on speed, had a moment of comeuppance.  In public penance for her crimes, she was stripped naked, sentenced to walk through the streets of her capital while every man, woman or child could spit upon her body (which, predictably, didn’t look as if it had raised three teenage children).  A woman who’d fulfilled our worst stereotypes of women who get too close to power – manipulating men to do her murders for her – cut down to size, and reminded that any man on the street could take pleasure in telling her to suck his cock.
This is what I got for your sister-feminists.

video

Eliana Dockterman of Time wrote:
Daenerys emerging from a fire with her baby dragons, or Brienne taking down the Hound — these were glorious moments that reminded fans these abused women had personalities, motivations and the potential to best their enemies.  But this season, the women on Game of Thrones have felt impotent.  Sansa and Shireen have had no control over their respective fates, and even the so-called powerful women have been neutralized. . . Cersei was so blinded by jealousy and greed that she couldn’t see her own doom barreling towards her.  Same goes for Margaery, who after deftly handling Cersei walked directly into her trap.  Daenerys and her supposedly invincible army were constantly outwitted by some guys in masks.  Brienne has been sitting in a castle.  Arya spent nearly all her time washing dead men’s feet. 

. . .

Many critics have thrown up their hands during this season of Game of Thrones, as female characters have been brutalized over and over again.  Sansa’s rape, in particular, was so far beyond the pale that Senator Claire McCaskill declared she’s done with the show, and feminist genre website The Mary Sue announced it would cease all promotion of Game of ThronesGame of Thrones has a long history of sexual violence, and yet this season has felt more abusive of women than previous ones.
So, as their penance, Benioff and Weiss made a point to adapt a feminist perspective for the new season of Game of Thrones.  It was an effort that did not turn out well.  Tyler O'Neil of PJ Media wrote:
Game of Thrones season 6 premiered this week, and many outlets are praising the first episode as a victory for "women's empowerment."  Ironically, the most empowering moments were also the least compelling, as a group of women carelessly murdered three very powerful men.  "The Red Woman" had great moments as well, but underdeveloped violent heroines are more of a weakness than an asset.
Prominent in the Season 6 premiere was the warrior Sand sisters, Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria.  The characters were designed by Benioff and Weiss to be feminist-friendly.  But a character designed to make a political statement or appease political activists never has depth or substance.  O'Neil said of the sisters, "[E]ach of these ladies gets about one sentence of backstory.  Everything about them is summed up in their attitude: they are kick-ass teenage assassins who exist to show how badass and sexy young ladies can be."  The kick-ass, badass sisters were shallow and boring.  O'Neil added, "Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria each have their special weapons: knives, a whip, and spears.  These weapons are less a natural fit for their characters and more a flashy action nod, like the different weapons of each ninja turtle.  This style renders such female characters almost farcical, compared to the fleshed-out complex characters of Daenerys, Catelyn, Brienne, and Cersei.  Gone is any sense of restraint and seriousness -- these women are the teenage dream of girls who are into action or boys who want to combine their lust with violence onscreen."  Dockterman noted more succinctly, "The Sand Snakes, who were touted as a feminist force and potential fan favorites, fizzled."  Murderous acts and general ass-kicking is a poor replacement for compelling character development.  Besides, it is wrong-headed and immoral to tell women that they can only achieve empowerment by fiendishly killing men.



Every woman in the series is now strong and good.  Despite her many evil deeds, Cersei (Lena Headey) is suddenly being presented as an empowered woman that we are expected to cheer.  Her canoodling with her brother is no longer depicted as a dark and shameful act.  The showrunners seem determined to smash the longstanding taboo of incest when they have Cersei manfully grab her brother and plant a big wet kiss on his lips.  This is, by every indication, designed to be a cheer-rousing moment.  Incest, hooray!  A number of viewers have taken to the message boards to say that Cersei and her brother should be left alone to carry on their torrid affair.  I am so disappointed in Benioff and Weiss.  Incest pushers, really?  What the fuck happened to you, man?  Your ass used to be beautiful.

 
 

Let us look for a moment at the recent episode "Book of the Stranger" (May 15, 2016).  This episode makes it very clear that the series' women have become brave and strong while the men have become spineless crybabies.  Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) is a fiercely courageous longship commander with aspirations to be a queen.  She looks with disgust at her broken brother, Theon (Alfie Allen).  Theon is spineless and dickless, which is a fact that is mentioned endlessly by Yara and other characters.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A once-brave knight, Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), has been broken under his imprisonment by the Faith Militant.  Now, he sobs uncontrollably as his sister, Lady Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), hugs him to her chest to comfort him.

 
 
 
Even a prepubescent female is formidable in this brave new world.  I am referring to little Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey).  The message, evidently, is that a female no longer derives her greatest power from a hospitable womb.  It is now a female's spunk that is her greatest asset.


Game of Thrones has turned into a mucky pile of political propaganda.  More and more, the series stands as a simpleminded, heavyhanded parable recited in soothing tones to cranky leftist extremists in need of a bedtime story.

The Sworn Brothers of the Night's Watch are the border patrol for the Seven Kingdoms.  For eight millennial, the group has stood guard at a 700-foot wall to keep the wildings out of their kingdoms.  Many of the brothers become violently upset when their new Lord Commander, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), allows the mass migration of wildings. The parallels to modern events is too painfully obvious.

In the latest episode, an empowered woman, a lesbian sea dog, a liberated black slave and a dwarf outcast pledge their unity and commitment to defeat white patriarchy and religious authority.  I offer this scene as proof that the empowered woman, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), has become the most boring character in television history.

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White Patriarchy


Religious Authority 


I was ready to say a lot more about this terribly disappointing season of Game of Thrones, but I found that Erik Kain has pretty much covered my other complaints.  Click here for Kain's remarks.

Yes, Erik, you got it exactly right.  I remember Daenerys being a more complex in the books.  She had good qualities and bad qualities.  She was a flawed character that I did not necessarily want to win the throne in the end.  Now that she has become a fully empowered female character, she has become reduced to a bland "Mary Sue."  It is a foregone conclusion that she will ultimately occupy the throne.  That couldn't be more uninteresting or more boring.  And, as soon as Sansa became empowered, her half-brother Jon Snow was rendered fairly useless in the siblings' effort to recover their family castle Winterfell. 

Excuse me for going off topic for a moment.  Am I the only one who thought that Hodor's death was the height of silliness?

Q: What has two-thousand legs and says "Ho-de-do, ho-de-do, ho-de-do"?

A: One-thousand White Walkers running for an elevator.

I once looked forward to every episode of Game of Thrones and I felt that every season ended too soon.  But now I have lost interest in the series.

The current season's scenes of female empowerment are poorly conceived in their attempt to balance out the abuse inflicted on female characters in the previous season.  I must say that I did not approve of the rapes or the bare breasts, but it bothers me to witness Benioff and Weiss having to suffer their own walk of shame.  It makes it far worse that the hapless duo has had to drag me, a faithful viewer, along for the slog.