Music hall and pantomime postcards were sent for reasons from the elevated to the mundane, to increase a collection of photos of a favourite artiste or to tell a friend there was tripe for dinner. In 1907 Ethel apologises for not sending the Florrie Forde postcard that Amy really wanted and sends Florrie in a greatcoat instead. We don’t know if Amy ever found the desired card but we have it here – Florrie Forde in Dutch costume.
Happy Fanny Fields
Happy Fanny Fields was an American who performed in Dutch costume with clog dancing being an important part of her act. The sender of the card adopts a humorous tone explaining that ‘sa‘ cannot write as she is busy making bloomers. The writer is pleased to have finished the washing and got Frank’s stockings darned with a chips and fish supper to look forward to, followed by ice-cream and (hard to read, so possibly not) tripe. The next day there will be liver and onions and savoury pudding for dinner.
Ella Grahame sends a card from Warsaw featuring herself and Rosey Anslow in their roller-skating act. She asks if the recipient likes her in pants – ‘ what price this for swank’ – and says that the people there can’t get past the size of her bottom.
Anslow & Grahame
Hetty King, the male impersonator and pantomime star features on two cards sent by the same person, who identifies himself using only initials. In 1907 he writes to Mrs Baldwin to say that he is still surviving but mother ‘has got them again.’ The same recipient learns that the sender got two valentines ‘one a rotten the other a nice tie.’ He also had a fine lecture off ma.
Marguerite Broadfoote tells us modestly that ‘there is a much better picture of myself on the postcards – a profile head. This one is not considered a good likeness.’ Vanity, vanity.
Florrie Forde lived for a time in the music hall community on Shoreham Beach in West Sussex. She opened a dance hall called Flo’sBeachClub which had a dubious reputation among some local residents for scandalous behaviour. She lived in a house called Gull’s Nest and one of her enduring songs is Idoliketobebesidetheseaside. Predictive text turns her name into Florid Forde which seems a little unfair. Here is a link to Florrie singing.
Spencer Gore painted Florrie Forde at the Old Bedford Music Hall on Camden High Street in London in 1912. She appears to be winking.
A singer at the Old Bedford Spencer Gore 1912
Other music hall stars who liked to be beside the seaside were the already mentioned Marie and Cecilia Loftus, living at bungalows Pavlova and Cecilia and Vesta Tilley at TheBungalow. Marie Lloyd was reported to be the first woman to own a car on Shoreham Beach.
More pictures can be found in the publication Hollywood–by–Sea by Edward and Alice Colquhoun.
Florrie Forde was an Australian with an attractive personality and a great stage presence. She was very astute in her choice of material and specialised in songs with rousing choruses which audiences joined in with gusto.
I remember some of the songs from family parties when everyone still sang the choruses and laughed and swayed back and forth in time to the music. My grandmother reminisced how she had found two of her sisters singing and dancing to one of the tunes from a barrel organ outside a pub. She’d dragged them away and they weren’t very happy about it. DownattheOldBullandBush, Oh, oh, Antonio and Holdyourhandout, younaughtyboy were favourites.
At twenty-one, Florrie Forde was an immediate hit when she came to London. She appeared in three music halls on her first night – the South London Palace, the Pavilion and the Oxford. She went down so well she was offered a three year contract on one of the music hall circuits. During the First World War she sang some of the most popular songs of the day – Packup yourtroubles, It’salongway toTipperary and Goodbye–ee. Music hall stars often played principal boys in pantomime and Florrie Forde was no exception. She continued to perform until 1940 when she suffered a cerebral haemorrhage while entertaining the troops in World War 2.
The poet, Louis MacNeice, wrote of her in his poem DeathofanActress