Archive for the ‘1908’ Category

WC Fields at the Sunderland Empire

Friday, July 9th, 2010

This week I’ve got another of the multi-coloured posters from the Sunderland Empire featuring a big star, W.C. Fields who appeared in the week of October 12 1908:

WC Fields at the Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

Of course Fields was a well known star of the Vaudeville stage before he went on to find success in films. A lot of his stage routine can be seen in his film ‘The Old Fashioned Way’.

There were some other treats on the bill that night though – I’d love to see what Conway & Leland “the Cheerful Monopedes” did. I’ve seen them billed elsewhere as “one-legged acrobats” – that’s a fairly specialist gimmick! Also notice that Glee isn’t the new phenomenon that some people might have you believe.

William Claude may have headlined in Sunderland, but  he’s certainly not the big hit at the Newcastle Empire the following year, as this article from the Newcastle Journal and Courant of August 21 1909 shows:

WC Fields at the Newcastle Empire - Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant August 21 1909 Article - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

While the “programme has a bright star in Mr W. C. Fields, a very clever and original eccentric juggler” they’re much more interested in the antics of “Consul, the anthropoid ape”. Fields was well known for his short temper; imagine his reaction to being upstaged by a monkey!

The Frank L Gregory Troupe at the Sunderland Empire

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The Frank L Gregory Troupe appeared at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 21 September 1906 “in a marvellous exhibition of hoop rolling and juggling” where there are “hoops made to act like human beings”:

Frank L Gregory Troupe Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

This article from the Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant, published on 23 January 1909 mentions the troupe a few months later when they appeared at the Pavilion Theatre, Newcastle:

Frank L Gregory Troupe Article in Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant Jan 23 1909 - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

Unfortunately the journalist is reduced to the stock description of “novel and clever” with no details of the routine. However we do know that they were still working in 1914 as this article in the New York Times on 29 December 1914 mention them as the “Marvellous Gregory Troupe, hoop rollers and jugglers” performing at Keith Alhambra Theatre.

There is some more information looking back on the heyday of hoop performers in this article from the Juggler’s Bulletin on September 1947 – scroll down to the “Out of my Scrapbook” column by Jack Greene. He describes how Frank Gregory “tossed a hoop in the air and made it light on a string held by his partner several feet away from him, then roll back to the tosser”.