Writing in THE GREAT STAGE STARS (Facts on File 1986), Sheridan Morley said, "The awesome eccentricity of Hermione Gingold has been captured for future generations in the film GIGI, but it is on stage that she gives full expression to that peculiar and hilarious strangeness that is pure Gingold." Of her appearance as a Theatre Gossip in a revue, T.C. Wolsey wrote: "To watch Miss Gingold's tongue roll around a familiar name and then quietly drop it off with the mud sticking on is to watch art raising a foible to the stature of a Humor." Of her appearance in SLINGS AND ARROWS, Harold Hobson noted: "Miss Gingold blossoms into gargoyles as if she were Notre Dame itself." Of her appearance in FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Kenneth Tynan in his book CURTAINS (Atheneum 1961) called her a "burbling dragoness fully capable of withering her husband with a single fire-darting glare. Needless to say, much of what Miss Gingold does is strangely hilarious. No actress commands a more purposeful leer; and in nobody's mouth do vowels more acidly curdle".
The biographical and career information about Hermione on this webpage is partly based on Dan O'Leary's liner notes from the JOHN MURRAY ANDERSON'S ALMANAC CD, Hermione's autobiography, HOW TO GROW OLD DISGRACEFULLY (1988), my own research in various books mainly about revues (which is how I got interested in Hermione in the first place), and copies of revue programmes kindly provided by Ray Stanley of Australia and Richard Mangan, Administrator of the Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection. This webpage is mainly about the revues in which Hermione appeared, rather than her personal life, film career or even her other theatrical roles, which are just mentioned in passing.
The bull-throated, barb-hurling British actress charmed an international audience with her talent, wit and offbeat brand of humor for over seventy years. Her trademark husky voice was the result of nodules on her vocal chords. In a 1979 BBC radio show entitled THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HERMIONE GINGOLD, she told interviewer Alan Haydock that she originally had a coloratura soprano voice, but that it gradually got lower and lower because of the nodules, which her mother forbade her to have removed.
Whether it was film, television, stage or the extremely rare recording, Hermione never disappointed. Hermione Ferdinanda Gingold was born in London on December 9, 1897. Her mother, Kate Francis, was English and her father, Jack Gingold, was a well to do Austrian, who later became a British citizen and a member of the London stock exchange. Hermione and her sister were educated at home by an army of private tutors and nannies. She also studied for the stage under Rosina Filippi. On December 8, 1908, she made her London stage debut as the Herald in PINKIE AND THE FAIRIES by W. Graham Robertson (with an elderly Ellen Terry, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Frederick Volpe, Marie Lohr and Viola Tree) at His Majesty's Theatre. Her London stage career included:
Because she had entertained all through the war, Hermione was granted permission from Parliament, as was the process in those days, to go to the United States. Her first American acting engagement was with the enterprising Brattle Theatre Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The revue IT'S ABOUT TIME (1951) incorporated some of her material from London. John Murray Anderson saw her in that show and offered her a role in his forthcoming Broadway venture.
After ALMANAC (1953), Hermione continued to offer unforgettable performances on the stage in OH DAD, POOR DAD, MAMMA'S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I'M FEELIN' SO SAD (Phoenix Theatre February 26, 1962) and FIRST IMPRESSIONS (Alvin Theatre, March 19, 1959) , a musical version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with book and direction by Abe Burrows, in which she played Mrs. Bennett. Farley Granger, Polly Bergen and Donald Madden were in the cast. She performed six numbers, three of them solos, on the original cast album (Columbia OL 5400).
She also appeared in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM. The BBC did a radio series about her entitled THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HERMIONE GINGOLD in which she talked in a frank and amusing way about her life and career. She had completed the final draft of her autobiography HOW TO GROW OLD DISGRACEFULLY when she died on May 24, 1987; it was published posthumously in 1988.
Some London revues in which Hermione Gingold appeared (details courtesy of her autobiography and individual programmes I have tracked down from the sources cited below) include:
SPREAD IT ABROAD (1936) Opened April 1, 1936 at the Saville Theatre and ran for 209 performances; book and lyrics by Herbert Farjeon; music by William Walker. Cast included Walter Crisham, Michael Wilding, Ivy St. Helier, Dorothy Dickson and Hermione. I am indebted to Richard Mangan, Administrator of the Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection, who kindly Xeroxed a copy of this programme for me. Hermione appeared in the following items:
THE GATE REVUE (1938) Opened December 19, 1938 at the Gate Theatre; written by Diana Morgan, Robert MacDermot, Gerrard Bryant, Ronnie Hill and Arthur Marshall with music by Geoffrey Wright. It transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre March 9, 1939 and ran for 449 performances, after some cuts imposed by the Lord Chamberlain, who at that time censored all West End shows. This is the first of the revues Hermione did with Walter Crisham. This contained a sketch called HAIRDRESSERS CONFESSIONS which was about women who confide their inmost secrets to their hairdressers, who assume a priestlike role. Hermione sang a song called BEAUTY BEAUTY, a send-up of women's fitness campaigns. She writes that SPIN is from this revue as well, and the programme confirms this, although the ALMANAC CD credits it as originating in STICKS AND STONES. Hermione co-wrote it with Nicholas Phipps although the ALMANAC CD attributes it to Phillips-Wright (and the liner notes of the LA GINGOLD LP credit it to Nicholas Phipps and Geoffrey Wright). Writing in REVUE (1962), Robert Baral recalls a skit about "a peddler of dirty postcards who starves because the magazines now flooding the newsstands are sexier than his outmoded wares."
I am indebted to Richard Mangan, Administrator of the Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection, who kindly Xeroxed a copy of the programme for the first edition for me. The lyrics/skits were written by Diana Morgan, Robert MacDermot, Nicholas Phipps, Gerard Bryant, Arthur Marshall, Reginald Beckwith, Peter Dion Titheradge, David Yates Mason and Hermione. Music by Geoffrey Wright with additional numbers by Ronnie Hill.
|1||Open the Show||Words by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||The Company|
|2||Musical Snobs||Words by Peter Dion Titheradge; music by Geoffrey Wright||Joan Swinstead, Jack McNaughton, David Evans|
|3||The Guardsman||Words by Diana Morgan & Peter Dion Titheradge; music by Geoffrey Wright||The Singer||Kay Young|
|The Ouida Guardsman||Michael Wilding|
|Lady Dolly||Joan Swinstead|
|4||Sick to Death of Love||Words by Gerard Bryant; music by Geoffrey Wright|
|5||The Power of the Press||Words by Gerard Bryant; music by Geoffrey Wright||The Company|
|6||Happy Ending||Words by Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Ronnie Hill||Miss Brown||Joan Swinstead|
|Miss Jones||Kay Young|
|Mr. Smith||Walter Crisham|
|7||Beauty, Beauty||Words by Hermione Gingold and Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold|
|8||Interview with the President||Words by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham|
|9||Washing up to Shoobert||Lyric by Gerard Bryant; music by Geoffrey Wright; dialogue by Hermione Gingold||Lily||Kay Young|
|10||Royal Occasion||Reginald Beckwith||Joan Swinstead, Walter Crisham|
|11||A Smack at the Blacks||Arthur Marshall & Charles Hughes; music by Geoffrey Wright||Sentries||Michael Wilding, David Evans|
|General Wellington Boote||Jack McNaughton|
|Lieut. Roy Rightabout||Walter Crisham|
|Seedi Ben Nevis||Michael Morice|
|12||We've Got You Taped||Words by Peter Dion Titheradge; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold, Carole Lynne, Walter Crisham, Michael Wilding|
|13||The Bitzner||Reginald Beckwith||Joan Swinstead|
|14||Wet Week-end||Words by Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Ronnie Hill||Host||Jack McNaughton|
|The Guests||Michael Wilding, Carole Lynne|
|15||Spin||Words by Nicholas Phipps & Hermione Gingold; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold|
|16||There Has Been a Slump||Words by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham|
|17||The Village Inn||Words by Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Giles||Michael Wilding|
|Belinda (old style)||Muriel Byck|
|Belinda (new style)||Eva Robertson|
|The Inn Keeper||Michael Morice|
|18||All Smart Women Must||Words by Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, Michael Wilding|
|19||The Stage Family Robinson||Words by Gerard Bryant; music by Geoffrey Wright||Joan Swinstead, Jack McNaughton, Kay Young, Carole Lynne, David Evans|
|20||The Snowman||Reginald Beckwith||David Evans, Michael Wilding, Jack McNaughton|
|21||The Busy Streets of London||Words by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Kay Young|
|22||Epilogue in Vienna||Music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham, Carole Lynne|
|23||Lost Property||Words by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||The Attendant||David Evans|
|The Caller||Jack McNaughton|
|24||Holiday||Hermione Gingold||The Dressmaker||Joan Swinstead|
|The Manicurist||Hermione Gingold|
|The Salesman||Michael Wilding|
|The Waitress||Carole Lynne|
|The Fortune Teller||Jack McNaughton|
|25||Dance Macabre||Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham|
|26||Only a Medium Medium||Words by Eric Maschwitz & Charles Hickman; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold, Michael Wilding|
|27||A Tune to Take Away||Words by David Yates Mason; music by Geoffrey Wright||Kay Young and the Company|
I am indebted to Richard Mangan, Administrator of the Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson Theatre Collection, who kindly Xeroxed a copy of the programme for the second edition (1939) as well. The lyrics/skits were written by Diana Morgan, Robert MacDermot, Nicholas Phipps, Gerard Bryant, , Reginald Beckwith, John Adrian Ross, David Yates Mason and Hermione. Music by Geoffrey Wright with additional numbers by Charles Zwar and Ronnie Hill. Two of the writers joined the cast: Reginald Beckwith and Nicholas Phipps, who was cousin to Joyce Grenfell. The second half opened with TATLER TIME as the cast sat on stools reading from current periodicals. TRANSATLANTIC LULLABY was a showstopping hit.
I am indebted to Ray Stanley for the lyrics to MEDIUM, MEDIUM cowritten by Hermione and her then husband Eric Maschwitz (Ray tells me Hanan Swaffer was a much feared newspaper writer who dabbled in spiritualism).:
|I was sitting at the window of my house - in Leinster Gardens
I was feeling just as lonely as a cloud;
When a knock came at the door
Like I'd never heard before,
So mysterious, I really felt quite cowed.
"Who is that?", I loudly cried.
Came reply: "Your spirit guide."
"But how nice of you to call
Hang your aura in the hall."
'Twas a lonely Indian brave
Though I'm only a medium medium,
I'm only a medium medium
|I shall always remember the day
I went down to the country to spend.
It was on the East Coast
And my host was a ghost
Who was haunting the place for a friend.
I'm only a medium medium,
But his memory lives with me yet.
He remarked with a glance,
"Shall we sit out this trance?"
Then proceeded to pinch my planchette.
I'm only a medium medium
|1||Open the Gate||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||The Company|
|2||Seductio ad Absurdum||Eric Maschwitz||The Compere||Cyril Butcher|
|The Father||Derek Farr|
|The Mother||Joan Swinstead|
|The Butler||Nicholas Phipps|
|The Daughter||Kay Young|
|The Son||Walter Crisham|
|3||Sick to Death of Love||Gerard Bryant; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold|
|4||Happy Ending||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Ronnie Hill||Miss Brown||Joan Swinstead|
|Miss Jones||Kay Young|
|Mr. Smith||Walter Crisham|
|5||Mr. Phipps' Goldfish||Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Nicholas Phipps|
|6||Beauty, Beauty||Words by Hermione Gingold & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold|
|7||Washing up to Schubert||Lyric by Gerard Bryant; music by Geoffrey Wright||Freda||Doris Gilmore|
|8||Danse Macabre||Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham|
|9||The Night is Warm||Nicholas Phipps; music by Charles Zwar||Joan Swinstead, Nicholas Phipps|
|10||Conversation Piece||Hermione Gingold; lyric by Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Mrs. Pullpleasure||Hermione Gingold|
|Mrs. Fishbother||Reginald Beckwith|
|11||Kensington Girls||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Joan Swinstead, Gabrielle Brune, Kay Young|
|12||Transatlantic Lullaby||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham|
|13||The Knockout||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright; dialogue by Reginald Beckwith||Hermione Gingold, Reginald Beckwith, Walter Crisham and the Company|
|14||Tatler Time||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, Nicholas Phipps, Gabrielle Brune, Derek Farr, Doris Gilmore|
|15||Miss Swinstead's Morceau||Nicholas Phipps; music by Charles Zwar||Joan Swinstead|
|16||You Stopped the Show||John Adrian Ross; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham, Gabrielle Brune, Carole Lynne|
|17||The Sewing Bee||Hermione Gingold & Charles Zwar; music by Charles Zwar||Hermione Gingold, Joan Swinstead, Kay Young|
|18||Faun in Manhattan||Music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham, Gabrielle Brune|
|19||Only a Medium Medium||Eric Maschwitz & Hermione Gingold; Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold|
|20||The Girl in the Advertisement||Arthur Marshall; music by Geoffrey Wright||Gabrielle Brune|
|21||All Smart Women Must||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, Nicholas Phipps|
|22||Freedom of the Air||Reginald Beckwith||Joan Swinstead, Reginald Beckwith, Nicholas Phipps, Cyril Butcher|
|23||My Heart is Marching||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Carole Lynne|
|24||Holiday||Hermione Gingold||The Dressmaker||Joan Swinstead|
|The Manicurist||Hermione Gingold|
|The Salesman||Derek Farr|
|The Waitress||Gabrielle Brune|
|The Fortune Teller||Cyril Butcher|
|25||There's Been A Slump||Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham|
|26||Madame La Palma||Hermione Gingold & Robert MacDermot||Hermione Gingold|
|27||The Bare Idea||Reginald Beckwith||The Visitor||Reginald Beckwith|
|The Manager||Nicholas Phipps|
|The Call Boy||Derek Farr|
|28||Rejoice||Nicholas Phipps & David Yates Mason; music by Geoffrey Wright||The Company|
SWINGING THE GATE (1940) was the followup revue at the Ambassadors
Theatre which opened on May 22, 1940 and ran 449 performances, forced to
close early because of German bombing raids that disrupted traffic in London.
It starred Madge Elliott, Hermione and Peter Ustinov. Hermione
says in her autobiography it was for this revue that her soon-to-be-ex-husband
Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey wrote QUEEN OF SONG for her. Oh the
ALMANAC CD itself, Hermione mentions this song is her favorite on the recording,
but in her autobiography, she confesses her favorite was I SPY which she
cowrote with Jack Strachey about the headmistress of a school for spies.
Ustinov wrote and performed a monologue called CONSTERNATION PIECE,
and another called PROFESSOR HYPOKRITOFF.
|1||Swinging the Gate||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Roberta Huby & the Company|
|2||Let's Do an Intimate Revue||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Charles Zwar||Hedley Briggs, Guy Verney, Ronald Millar|
|3||The Warrior Returns||Gerard Bryant; music by Charles Zwar||Mother||Madge Elliott|
|Children||Roberta Huby, Ann Wheatley|
|Children||Phillada Sewell, Alec Ross|
|4||Queen of Song||Eric Maschwitz & Jack Strachey||Hermione Gingold|
|5||Home with the Dawn||Gerard Bryant & Charles Zwar; music by Charles Zwar||Roberta Huby & Guy Verney|
|6||Unwillingly to School||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot||Mrs. Winstanley||Madge Elliott|
|7||The Country Faces It||Gerald Bryant; music by Charles Zwar||Her Ladyship||Phillada Sewell|
|8||The Conquering Hero||Hermione Gingold||Mrs. Hawkins||Madge Elliott|
|Cpl. Syd Hawkins||Guy Verney|
|9||Consternation Piece||Peter Ustinov||Peter Ustinov|
|10||Salome Wouldn't Dance||Orford St. John; music by Charles Zwar||Singer||Alan Sykes|
|Her Friend||Hedley Briggs|
|11||La Grande Amoureuse||Patrick White; music by Charles Zwar; dialogue by Hermine Gingold||Hermione Gingold & Guy Verney|
|12||We Knew Father||Gerard Bryan; music by Charles Zwar||Roberta Huby, Hedley Briggs, Ann Wheatley|
|13||La Loge||Gerard Bryant; music by Charles Zwar||Woman||Madge Elliott|
|14||I Spy||Hermione Gingold; music & lyric of "Moustaches" by Jack Strachey||Hermione Gingold & the Company|
|15||Breakfast in the Open Air||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Charles Zwar||The Company|
|16||South Coast Woman||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold, Madge Elliott, Phillada Sewell|
|17||Sur le Pont D'Avignon||Musical arrangement Charles Zwar||Roberta Huby, Hedley Briggs, Ann Wheatley|
|18||The Bacchante||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright; dialogue by Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold & Guy Verney|
|19||First Night||Charles Hickman; music by Charles Zwar||Madge Elliott, Roberta Huby, Ann Wheatley, Alan Sykes, Ronald Millar, Guy Verney, Phillada Sewell|
|20||Professor Hypokritoff||Peter Ustinov||Peter Ustinov|
|21||Riding in the Row||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Harry Jacobson||Roberta Huby|
|22||Orient Express||Orford St. John||Miss Ninnavy||Hermione Gingold|
|Mrs. Merger||Hedley Briggs|
|23||The Moon and You||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot; music by Geoffrey Wright||Madge Elliott & Guy Verney|
|24||La Gioconda||Lyric & music by Charles Zwar; dialogue by Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold|
|26||Finale||Diana Morgan & Robert MacDermot||The Company|
RISE ABOVE IT (1941) followed at the Q Theatre with music and lyrics by Leslie Julian Jones. When it opened Hermione was not in the cast, which included Henry Kendall, Hermione Baddeley, Joan Greenwood, Wilfred Hyde-White and Frith Banbury. It moved to the Comedy Theatre on June 5, 1941 when Hermione joined the cast which then included Walter Crisham, Henry Kendall, Prudence Hyman, Hermione Baddeley and Wilfred Hyde-White. It ran for 236 performances. A second edition opened in December 1941 with almost the same cast and ran for a further 144 performances. This is the second revue Hermione did with Walter Crisham. I am indebted to Ray Stanley of Australia for all these details. Hermione's favorite sketch in this was UNDER THEIR HATS written by Denis Waldock. In it, Hermione G and Hermione B played two self-centered old dowagers trying on a variety of hideous hats in a millinery shop as they kept up a banter of silly gossip about themselves and the war. In addition, Hermione performed a monologue she wrote called MUSIC TALK about an actual piece of music called GRASSHOPPER DANCE. This was a pompous pseudointellectual "talk on mewsick" (music). I've acquired the March, 1942 issue of THEATRE WORLD and learned of other items in the second edition:
SKY HIGH (1942) This opened June 4, 1942 at the Phoenix Theatre and ran for 149 performances. It starred Hermione Baddeley, Hermione Gingold, Water Crisham, Naunton Wayne and Elisabeth Welch. This is the third revue Hermione did with Walter Crisham. In her autobiography, Hermione says she wrote BICYCLING for THE GATE REVUE but it first appears in SPREAD IT ABROAD (1936) and was about a cycling enthusiast who instructs the audience how to make their own bicycles. The song WHICH WITCH? on the ALMANAC CD came from this revue. I am indebted to Ray Stanley of Australia for lending me the programme:
|1||Meet a Body||Alan Melville||The Company|
|2||If I Could Write a Hit Song||Adrian Foley, David Heneker||Hilary Allen, Douglas Orr and the Girls|
|3||Do it Again||Zoe Gail, George Carden|
|4||Mid-Day Star||Denis Waldock||Hermione Baddeley, Naunton Wayne, Phyllis Pearce, Betty Hare, Lulu Dukes|
|5||Bicycling||Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold|
|6||Arena||Music composed by Edythe Baker||The Matador||Walter Crisham|
|The Dancer||Prudence Hyman|
|The Dresser||George Carden|
|7||Bleeding Heart||J.P. Long & Will E. Haines||Hermione Baddeley|
|8||Paddle-Boat Dream||Prologue by Nina Warner Hooke||The Company|
|Day on the River by George Posford & Harold Purcell|
|Regatta by Ronnie HIll & Peter Dion Titherage|
|9||Period Pieces||Ronnie Hill & Peter Dion Titherage||Zoe Gail, Hilary Allen|
|10||Strawberries and Cream||Walter Crisham, George Gower|
|11||Speak As You Read||Douglas Furber||Hermione Gingold, Naunton Wayne, George Gower|
|13||Broadway Slave||Nina Warner Hooke & Edward Horan||Elisabeth Welch, George Carden|
|14||The Norwood Nightingale||George Posford & Harold Purcell||Walter Crisham|
|15||Mermaids||Alan Melville||Hermione Baddeley, Hermione Gingold and the Girls|
|16||Russian Blackout||Naunton Wayne, Betty Hare|
|17||New Blue in Your Eyes||David Heneker & Gerald Bryant||Zoe Gail, George Carden and the Girls|
|18||'Neath Tropic Skies||Dennis Waldock||Hermione Baddeley, Walter Crisham, Betty Hare|
|19||Which Witch?||Alan Melville & Charles Zwar||Hermione Gingold|
|20||Which Way the Wind Blew||Adrian Foley & Phil Park||Walter Crisham, Prudence Hyman, Zoe Gail, Phyllis Pearce|
|21||Park Meeting||Nina Warner Hooke||Hermione Baddeley, Hermione Gingold|
|22||Europa||Nicholas Phipps & Geoffrey Wright||Elisabeth Welch|
|23||Coupons||Naunton Wayne, Phyllis Pearce, George Gower|
|24||Irish Scena, 1942||Alan Melville & Jack Strachey||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, Betty Hare, George Carden|
|25||Finale||Alan Melville & Jack Strachey||The Company|
I am grateful to Kenneth H. Holmes who Xeroxed pages from the August 1942 THEATRE WORLD for me. MEET A BODY involved the two Hermiones, Walter Crisham, Naunton Wayne, Elizabeth Welch and Zoe Gail being questioned by a policeman (George Gower) about a corpse which is none other than that of the Opening Chorus.
PARK MEETING involved the two Hermiones seen as two women who meet casually on a park bench and unfold with infinite pathos the story of their lives. Hermione Gingold would resurrect this sketch in America to good reviews.
MERMAIDS saw the two Hermiones as a couple of bizarre mermaids on the look-out for naval prey "in a sketch that is a riot from beginning to end".
THE NORWOOD NIGHTINGALE saw Walter Crisham as a choirboy, somewhat peeved because his voice has just broken.
There followed the "Sweet" revues, in three versions, that ran through the end of World War II. The second and particularly the third were substantially written by Alan Melville and all three were directed by Charles Hickman.
SWEET AND LOW (1943) opened at the Ambassadors Theatre on June 10, 1943 and ran for 264 performances. It contained THE BORGIA ORGY (which Hermione maintains was written by John Jowett, although the ALMANAC CD credits it to "Lowitt". Though the kindness of Glenn Atchison, who sent me the programme to SWEETER AND LOWER, I can confirm that John Jowett wrote the lyric to music by Robert Gordon). This is the fourth revue Hermione did with Walter Crisham.
In VALHALLA, Hermione was dressed like Brunhilde and sang "Ambassadors toasted my fatal allure; and Hindenburg chased me all over the Ruhr", concluding that "Valhalla is not the same." In MISS GINGOLD'S FRIEND, Hermione sang about Hermione Baddeley: "I do miss Hermione badly, The show isn't really the same: I sit in my room just before we begin; and imagine her back again, swiping my gin." In MISS GINGOLD'S OTHER FRIEND, Hermione sang to her faithful hot water bottle, "Let Me Run to You". In HELL'S A-PUMPIN (a takeoff on the revue Hellzapoppin) Hermione, dressed as an A.R.P-minded Carmen Miranda, sang: "Is your stirrup pump still working, Colonel Hop-hop-hop-hop-Hopkins? It's a long, long, long time since we had a blitz." My friend John Groushko informs me that A.R.P. stands for Air Raid Precautions and officials called ARP Wardens used to patrol during WWII and ensure that the blackout was enforced so that no lights would be visible from the air at night.
The revue included a "swing" version of OTHELLO with the lyric: "Now they're as happy as a trio can be And they're booked up till the Spring: And they're pulling down the houses Doing the Moorish Swing." The ARSENIC AND OLD SHOWS sketch, which Hermione wrote, was a takeoff on ARSENIC AND OLD LACE currently playing in London.
POISON IVY was meant to take place at the famous Ivy restaurant where Henry Kendall and Hermione made brilliantly bitchy remarks about all the West End stars who used to frequent the place.
Numbers which appeared in more than one of the SWEET revues include BORGIA
ORGY, IVAN IVANOVITCH, POISON IVY and CLIPPIE. CLIPPIE was about a
London war-time bus conductress; Brenda Bruce sang: "So I'm quite glad
that I'm a Clippie, Though my feet aren't, I'll admit, Though you do feel
you're a part Of . . . well . . . London's heart And there's ever such a
lot of it." I am indebted to Ray Stanley of Australia for lending me
|1||The Cuckoo Went Cuckoo||Hubert Gregg||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham and the Company|
|2||Give Me Back My Rhythm||Leslie Julian Jones||Edna Wood and Bonar Colleano|
|3||Holidays at Home||Dennis Waldock & Clifford Davis||Dad||Graham Penley|
|4||Miss Gingold's Friend||Lyric by Alan Melville; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold|
|5||Our Hero||Eric Maschwitz & Denis Waldock||Walter Crisham|
|6||Hotel Piece||John Jowett & Robert Gordon||Edna Wood|
|7||What Shall I Wear?||Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold|
|8||Shooting Star||Leslie Julian Jones||Edna Wood, Graham Penley, Ilena Sylva, Bonar Colleano, Brenda Bruce, Richard Curnock, Denise de Brie, Mary Irwin, Pauline Fraser|
|9||Borgia Orgy||Lyric by John Jowett; music by Robert Gordon||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, Ilena Sylva, Bonar Colleano|
|10||Clippie||Lyric by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Brenda Bruce|
|11||Floor Over the Top Floor||Lyric by Eric Maschwitz; music by Jack Strachey||Edna Wood, Bonar Colleano|
|12||Miss Gingold's Other Friend||"Let me run to you" by Alastair Thomson||Hermione Gingold|
|13||Sea Piece||Lyric by Nicholas Phipps; music by Geoffrey Wright||Walter Crisham|
|14||Mr. Colleano's Message||Sid Collin and Charles Hickman||(no one credited! but presumably Bonar Colleano)|
|15||Othello||Leslie Julian Jones||Desdemona||Hermione Gingold|
|1||Ivan Ivanovitch||Lyric by Irving leRoy; music by Robert Dale||Bonar Colleano, Denise de Brie, Pauline Fraser, Richard Curnock, Graham Penley|
|2||Poison Ivy||Denis Waldock||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham|
|3||I'm Bewildered||Lyric and Music by Richard Hurran||Edna Wood|
|4||Grand Central||Billy Rose & Peter Albrett||Hermione Gingold and Bonar Colleano|
|5||Arsenic and Old Shows||Hermione Gingold||Mary||Brenda Bruce|
|The Vagabond King||Richard Curnock|
|The Merry Widow||Ilena Sylva|
|Mme. Natalia||Walter Crisham|
|6||Oh, Miss Dixey!||Lyric by Diana Morrison & John Ellison; music by Basil Hempseed||Mary Irwin, Yvonne Jacques, Pauline Fraser|
|7||Valhalla||Lyric by Nina Warner Hooke; music by Jack Strachey||Hermione Gingold|
|8||Vigil||Lyric by Nicholas Phipps; music by Leslie Julian Jones||Brenda Bruce|
|9||No! No!||Billy Milton||Walter Crisham, Yvonne Jaques|
|10||Biking in Bloomers||Lyric by Harold Purcell; music by George Posford||Edna Wood, Brenda Bruce|
|11||Hell's a-Pumpin'||Leslie Julian Jones||Hermione Gingold|
|12||Parliament Square||Nicholas Phipps||Walter Crisham|
|13||Finale||Leslie Julian Jones||The Company|
SWEETER AND LOWER (1944) opened at the Ambassadors Theatre on February 17, 1944 and ran for 870 performances. I am indebted to Glenn Atchison of Etobicoke, Ontario for sending me a copy of the SWEETER AND LOWER programme. It is fascinating as a historical document of the World War II years. Instead of being the size of a regular British theatrical programme, it is only 5 inches by 3 3/4 inches, no doubt reflecting the paper shortages of that time of austerity. A notice in the back of the program says If an Air Raid Warning is received during the performance the audience will be informed from the Stage. Those desiring to leave the Theatre may do so, but the performance will continue. The nearest Shelter will be given by the Attendants. Details of the show emerged from a May, 1944 THEATRE WORLD:
|Have you met Society's pet
The Queen of the livery stable,
The horse that men bow to
That Princes kowtow to,
The filly that's know as Mabel?
SWEETER AND LOWER consisted of 27 items:
|1||Times Have Changed||Hermione Gingold and Bernard Winter
Lyric by Nicholas Phipps, Music by Geoffrey Wright
|Hermione Gingold, Henry Kendell and Company|
|2||Poor Cinderella||Charles Gaynor||Edna Wood, George Carden, Richard Curnock|
|3||Perchance to Dream||Alan Melville||Henry Kendall, Ilena Sylva|
|4||Miss Gingold's Advice to the Players||Lyric by Alan Melville, Music by Charles Zwar||Hermione Gingold|
|5||The Reckoning||Lyric by Alan Melville, Music by Geoffrey Wright||Henry Kendall, Christopher Hewett|
|6||Hotel Piece||Lyric by John Jowett, Music by Robert Gordon||Edna Wood|
|7||Health Talk||Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold|
|8||Am I In Love?||Lyric by Ian Grant, Music by Arthur Young) Ballet Music by Clarry Ashton||Edna Wood, George Carden and Girls|
|9||Borgia Orgy||Lyric by John Jowett, Music by Robert Gordon||Hermione Gingold, Henry Kendall, Ilena Sylva, Richard Curnock|
|10||Clippie||Lyric by Nicholas Phipps, Music by Geoffrey Wright||Gretchen Franklin, Christopher Hewett|
|11||'Cello Solo||Lyric by Leslie Julian Jones, Music by Charles Zwar||Hermione Gingold|
|12||Low-Down on Whittington||Alan Melville||Henry Kendell, George Carden|
|13||Thanks, Yanks||Lyric by Alan Melville, Music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold and Company|
|14||Ivan Ivanovitch||Lyric by Irving leRoy, Music by Robert Dale||George Carden, Richard Curnock, Christopher Hewett, Pauline Fraser, Olive Wright|
|15||Poison Ivy||Dennis Waldock||Hermione Gingold, Henry Kendall|
|16||Chasing Rainbows||Lyric by Nicholas Phipps, Music by Charles Zwar||George Carden|
|16||Mr. Lunt's Back||Lyric by Alan Melville, Music by Geoffrey Wright||George Carden|
|17||Mabel||Charles Gaynor||Hermione Gingold, Ilena Sylva, Henry Kendall, Richard Curnock|
|18||I'm Bewildered||Richard Hurran||Edna Wood|
|19||Wall-Flowers||Lyric by Nicholas Phipps, Music by Geoffrey Wright||Mary Irwin, Pauline Fraser, Olive Wright|
|20||Vienna Lingers On||Lyric by Alan Melville, Music by Charles Zwar, Dialogue by Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold, Christopher Hewett, Richard Curnock|
|21||Beauties of Bath||Lyric by Nicholas Phipps, Music by Geoffrey Wright||Edna Wood, Gretchen Franklin|
|22||Services Rendered||Alan Melville||Hermione Gingold (as Charmaine), Henry Kendall, Gretchen Franklin|
|23||Rendezvous||Lyric by Alan Melville, Music by Clarry Ashton||Richard Curnock|
|24||Mr. Harding||Lyric by Anthony Page and David Heneker, Music by Arthur Young||Edna Wood, Gretchen Franklin, George Carden, Christopher Hewett and Girls|
|25||Port of Call||Nicholas Phipps||Henry Kendall|
|26||Hell's a Pumpin'||Leslie Julian Jones||Hermione Gingold|
|27||Finale||Leslie Julian Jones||The Company|
A March 25, 1944 review of SWEETER AND LOWER in the Christian Science Monitor says: "Miss Gingold has a magnificent evening, a night out, a field day. Nothing is safe from her satire: Home Guards, Mr. Robert Helpmann--the ballet dancer who is now playing Hamlet at the New Theatre--elderly lady lecturers, Mr. Ivor Novello's romantic Viennese operettas, even those other experts in venom the Borgias, come within the orbit of her lively and corroding flame. She has never been seen in more lashing form, or more dashing temper. The best item in the show is still that eminent conversation-piece, POISON IVY, in which Miss Gingold and Mr. Henry Kendall sit at a table in London's most talked of theatrical restaurant and discuss the other diners. Their tongues are sharper than a serpent's tooth or a child's ingratitude. "Look", exclaims Mr. Kendall, "there's Florence Desmond doing her imitation of John Gielgud." Then he looks again and adds in surprised tones, "No, it is John Gielgud."
SWEETEST AND LOWEST (1946) was the third and final edition. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre May 9, 1946 and ran for 791 performances. Hermione in her autobiography claimed it played to 800,000 people over 1,676 performances, but she must be aggregating the three SWEET revues, which actually total 1,925 performances. According to the 1971 book REVUE by Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, the SWEET revues ran from 1943 to 1947 and became an institution, making the names of Alan Melville and Charles Zwar. For this third edition, Hermione wrote a monologue called MOTHER INDIA, a mock imperialistic talk delivered by herself in black velvet and pearls with all the authority of one who has spent two weeks in Delhi. In her autobiography, Hermione recalls a skit called YOUNG WOODLEY'S SON written by Melville for a man but Hermione took it over, dressed as an evil little boy in an Eton suit. According to Ray Stanley, this is called HEREDITY in the programme. Ray further informs me that YOUNG WOODLEY was a famous play of the '20s by John Van Druten about a schoolboy expelled for having an affair with the wife of one of the masters. She also recalled a skit called PICASSO (listed in the programme below as SELF-PORTRAIT), an Alan Melville sendup of modern art in which Hermione played an unhappy multicolored female lumbered with two extra limbs and with an outsize fishbone impaled on her head.
SWEETEST AND LOWEST consisted of 28 items:
|1||Prologue||Alan Melville||Hermione Gingold|
|2||Fencing for an Opening||Melville and Zwar||Hermione Gingold, Henry Kendall and Company|
|3||Swing Bridge||Melville and Zwar||Roma Milne, Gordon Humphris, Richard Curnock|
|4||Long Lie||Alan Melville||Henry Kendall, Olive Wright|
|5||Self-Portrait||Melville and Zwar||Hermione Gingold|
|6||Bubbles||Melville and Zwar||Henry Kendall|
|7||Noel, Noel||Melville and Zwar||Hermione Gingold, Christopher Hewett and Girls|
|8||Brown Studies||Music by Charles Zwar||Barbara Barrie, Gordon Humphris and the Girls|
|9||Film Foursome||Melville and Zwar||Hermione Gingold, Olive Wright, Richard Curnock, Christopher Hewett|
|10||Days of Daly's||Melville and Zwar||Henry Kendall and Girls|
|11||Last To Get Out||Melville and Zwar||Gretchen Franklin|
|12||A Marriage Has Been Well Arranged||Melville and Zwar||Olive Wright, Barbara Barrie, Julie Stafford, Pam Travers and Monica Mallory|
|13||Mother India||Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold|
|14||Pantomime--Return Visit||Melville and Zwar||Henry Kendall, Gordon Humphris|
|15||It's that Finale Again||Melville and Zwar||Hermione Gingold, Roma Milne, Gretchen Franklin, Olive Wright, Henry Kendall, Gordon Humphris, Richard Curnock, Christopher Hewett, John Denis and Girls|
|16||Fit for Eros||Melville and Zwar||Roma Milne, Gordon Humphris, Gretchen Franklin, Olive Wright, Julie Stafford, Richard Curnock, Christopher Hewett, Pam Travers, Monica Mallory|
|17||Absolute Hell||Alan Melville||Hermione Gingold, Henry Kendall|
|18||"1851"||Lyrics by Herbert Farjeon, Music by Charles Zwar||Roma Milne, Gretchen Franklin, Doreen Farmer|
|19||Heredity||Alan Melville||Hermione Gingold|
|20||Dance Arrangement||Music by Charles Zwar||Gordon Humphris|
|21||Sea Shanty||Melville and Zwar||Hermione Gingold, Julie Stafford, Pam Travers, Monica Mallory|
|22||Etchings||Melville and Zwar||Olive Wright|
|23||Services Rendered Anew||Alan Melville||Hermione Gingold, Henry Kendall, Gretchen Franklin|
|24||Appeal||Alan Melville and Clary Ashton||Richard Curnock|
|25||Amo, Amas||Melville and Zwar||Roma Milne, Gordon Humphris, Gretchen Franklin, Olive Wright, Richard Curnock and Girls|
|26||Initiative||Alan Melville||Henry Kendall, Gretchen Franklin|
|27||Sheet Music||Melville and Zwar||Hermione Gingold|
|28||What Next?||Melville and Zwar||The Company|
In his autobiography, Henry Kendall wrote about the closing performance where the audience "knew every number and every gag by heart, and almost played the revue for us. On that last night, we introduced all sorts of little bits of business which the Lord Chamberlain certainly would never have permitted. For instance, in my UP IN THE MORNING EARLY bedroom sketch, Ilena Sylva, who played my wife, was discovered lying in bed in a flimsy nightdress and a pair of Wellington boots, and as the Duchess in the box at the pantomime, I produced a bottle of gin, a hot water bottle, and a toilet article not often seen in public. People popped on and off in sketches they had never previously appeared in, and in the finale of the first part, Wally Crisham suddenly appeared as one of the French girls and danced a can-can. In this scene I was a majestic Britannia on a throne supported by the Allies, and it culminated in a concerted rush by the entire company which took me at my word when I sang 'Cling around my breasts, my Empire wide', and toppled me off my throne upside down, exposing two hairy masculine legs!"
In his autobiography, Melville wrote: The greatest lyric-writers of the past half-century are Coward and [Herbert] Farjeon. In his revue SIGH NO MORE, Coward wrote a brilliant lyric called 'Nina'; it was about a lady from Argentina who was mad about dancing the samba and fell in love with a sailor with a wooden leg. As well as being very funny, it was filled to capacity with double and triple rhymes; it had such a verbal rhythm to it that it hardly needed music; I envied it. (This number was sung in SIGH NO MORE by Cyril Ritchard.) We were just about to do the third of the Ambassadors revues; there had been a great deal of chat about the Master's wartime activities; he was alleged, while touring all over the place for E.N.S.A. (Entertainments National Service Association which was set up to provide drama, cinema and musical entertainment to the troops at home and abroad during WWII.), to be doing highly important work for the Government, or just plain, common-or-garden spying; the subject seemed yelling out to be dealt with in lyric form and I was determined to attempt the same sort of rhyming and rhythm that Noel had done in his own revue. The number was written for Henry Kendall; in the end, I need hardly say, it was performed-brilliantly, again, I have to admit, by Hermione Gingold. It was called simply ...
|NOEL NOEL (by Alan Melville)||NINA (by Noel Coward)|
|When Europe was attacked and overpowered,
Though ostensibly performing just for E.N.S.A.
Was asked by Mr. Churchill to commence a
Diplomatic tour to save the British Raj.
Through his efforts, Fascist plots in West Australia
Proved quite a failure
And while entertaining troops in Kuala Lumpur
He shoved several secret papers up his jumper
And escaped to Indo-China on a barge.
Humming tunes from Bitter Sweet, he
Parachuted to Tahiti
Where he ratified a treaty
For manganese and chives;
Then, disguised as Mr. Eden,
He was smuggled into Sweden
And adroitly played the lead in
SABOTAGE and PRIVATE LIVES.
After lecturing the natives of Uganda
In a dressing-gown quite exquisitely flowered,
Knew all the answers,
Although her relatives and friends were perfect dancers
She swore she'd never dance a step until she died.
She said, 'I've seen too many movies
And all they prove is
They all insist that South America's exotic
Whereas it couldn't be more boring if it tried.
She added firmly that she hated
She refused to begin the Beguine
She said that frankly she was blinded
From this it's fairly clear that Nina
There surely never could have been a
The finale from SWEETEST AND LOWEST written by Melville and sung by Hermione was:
How best to end the show?
Nobody seems to know.
Should we be rather glamorous or amorous or what?
Conclude the thing satirically or lyrically, or not?
Before the curtain falls--
Before those curtain calls--
In dealing with the future we're uncertain;
The only thing that's certain
Is the curtain.
In later years, Melville wrote about Hermione: I speak in very real gratitude when I say that an author lucky enough to write for Hermione knows that however good a line he might give her, some unexpected bonus will be added to make it sound better . . . a leer, a mangling of pronunciation, a signalled implication of double-entendre. She could, when occasion demanded it, persuade an audience that she was glamorous, even beautiful; and she had the true artist's gift after making a packed house weak with laughing, of being able to still it in seconds when a touch of pathos was called for.
SLINGS AND ARROWS (1948) This opened November 1948 at the Comedy Theatre. It was devised by Charles Hickman and Hermione. Some of items included:
I am indebted to Ray Stanley of Australia for lending me the programme
from which the following list of sketches and songs was copied:
|1||Opening: Morning, Noon and Night||Leslie Julian Jones||Dressmaker||John Hewer|
|Morning||Monica Mallory, Wallas Eaton, Robert Bishop, Diana Maddox, Byfield Riches, Kathleen Stuart|
|Noon||Gretchen Franklin, Laurel Grey, Christopher Hewett, Charlotte Bidmead, Pamela Kail|
|Night||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham|
|2||Scandal on the Sabbath||Peter Myers; Music by Norman Dannett||Diana Maddox, Gwen Cherrell, Monica Mallory, Laurel Grey, Kathleen Stuart|
|3||British Way||Kathleen Dear||Commere||Kathleen Stuart|
|Young Woman||Monica Mallory|
|4||Talk on Music||Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold|
|5||On the Through Choo-Choo to Crewe||Leslie Julian Jones||Walter Crisham|
|6||Sit Down a Minute Medea||Arthur Macrae||Women of Corinth||Christopher Hewett, Laurel Grey, Kathleen Stuart|
|7||Have you Seen the Crystal Place?||Leslie Julian Jones||Walter Crisham, Gretchen Franklin|
|8||Mediaeval Spivs||Leslie Julian Jones||Christopher Hewett, Wallas Eaton, John Hewer|
|9||Wolf Cubs||Peter Myers; music by permission of Lawrence Wright||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham|
|10||Scottish Lament||Leslie Julian Jones||Diana Maddox, Gretchen Franklin, Laurel Grey, Christopher Hewett, John Hewer, Byfield Riches|
|11||Gardeners All||Caryl Brahms, Music by Leslie Julian Jones||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, Wallas Eaton, Pamela Kail, Robert Bishop|
|12||Shoes and Stockings||Philip Dale; Music by Harry Jacobson||Gretchen Franklin|
|13||Masseuse||Lionel Harris and Peter Myers; Music by Norman Dannett||Hermione Gingold|
|14||Send Me Back to Naples||Leslie Julian Jones||Walter Crisham, Gwen Cherrell|
|15||Bless the Show||Leslie Julian Jones||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham and Company|
|1||Sunday Afternoon||Peter Myers; Music by Norman Dannett||Young Ladies||Charlotte Bidmead, Pamela Kail, Monica Mallory, Diana Maddox|
|Young Men||Christopher Hewett, John Hewer, Byfield Riches, Robert Bishop|
|Children||Gretchen Franklin, Gwen Cherrell, Laurel Grey, Kathleen Stuart|
|2||The Gods Look Down||Peter Myers||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, Gretchen Franklin, Wallas Eaton, Christopher Hewett, Laurel Grey, Monica Mallory, Kathleen Stuart, Byfield Riches, Gwen Cherrell|
|3||Thanks Mr. Rank||Sandy Wilson||Diana Maddox|
|4||Rita Raven||Cliff Gordon; music by Cliff Gordon and Stanley Black||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham, John Hewer|
|5||Pet Aversion||Gretchen Franklin; music by Jack Strachey||Gretchen Franklin|
|6||Come for a Bathe at Brighton||Sandy Wilson; music by Geoffrey Wright||Hermione Gingold and the Boys|
|7||What of the Night?||Sandy Wilson||Wallas Eaton|
|8||Twilight in the Tuilleries||George Wood||The Man||Walter Crisham|
|The Woman||Charlotte Bidmead|
|The Girl||Pamela Kail|
|Other Characters||Gwen Cherrell, Laurel Grey, Monica Mallory, Kathleen Stuart, John Hewer|
|9||Visitors Welcome||Peter Myers; music by Norman Dannett||Christopher Hewett|
|10||Medusa||Sandy Wilson||Hermione Gingold|
|11||"And to Hell--"||Leslie Julian Jones||Walter Crisham and the Girls|
|12||Forever England||Barbara Vereker||Part 1||Christopher Hewett, John Hewer, Byfield Riches|
|Part 2||Hermione Gingold, Wallas Eaton|
|13||Butterfly in the Rain||Leslie Julian Jones||Walter Crisham|
|14||Blanchisseuse Heureuse||Arthur Macrae; music by Harry Jacobson||Hermione Gingold|
|15||Flower Show||Leslie Julian Jones||Hermione Gingold, Walter Crisham and the Company|
In fact, thanks to Ray Stanley, I have two versions of the SLINGS AND ARROWS
programme, which give an interesting insight into how the running order of
revues was fluid, in an effort to get the maximum effect to the overall
|1||Opening: Morning, Noon and Night|
|2||Scandal on the Sabbath|
|4||General Knowledge||Peter Myers, music by Harry Jacobson||Hermione Gingold|
|5||I Bought a Mountain||Leslie Julian Jones and Virginia Winter||Walter Crisham|
|6||Sit Down a Minute Medea|
|7||Taken as Red||Sandy Wilson||Gwen Cherrell|
|8||Puir Wee Lass||Andrew Crawford; music by Clarry Ashton||Diana Maddox, Gretchen Franklin, Laurel Grey, Christopher Hewett, John Hewer, Byfield Riches|
|9||Symphony of Love||Peter Myers||Walter Crisham, Monica Mallory, Robert Bishop|
|10||Lovely Day||Philip Loftus; music by Leslie Julian Jones||Hermione Gingold, Christopher Hewett, Wallas Eaton|
|11||Botticelli Angel||Simon Phipps; music by Geoffrey Beaumont||Laurel Grey|
|12||Late Pass||Peter Myers; music by Norman Dannett||Sailor||John Hewer|
|16||Send Me Back to Naples|
|17||Bless the Show|
|2||The Gods Look Down|
|3||Thanks Mr. Rank|
|5||All My Own Work||Barbara Vereker; music Harry Jacobson||Gretchen Franklin|
|6||Butterfly in the Rain|
|7||Come for a Bathe At Brighton|
|8||Creeps||Michael Bryan; music by Harry Jacobson||Wallas Eaton|
|9||Twilight at the Tuilleries|
|11||Menu||Peter Myers; music by Harry Jacobson||Christopher Hewitt|
|12||"And to Hell--"|
|14||Mrs. Weaver's Beaver Muff||John Jowitt; music by Harry Jacobson||Gretchen Franklin, Laurel Grey, Byfield Riches|
IT'S ABOUT TIME (1951) - This revue was Hermione's American debut. It opened March, 1951 at the Brattle Theatre, in Cambridge, MA. In addition to Hermione, the cast included Ronnie Graham, Don Liberto, Patricia Bybell, Kay Coulter, Marla Stevens, Peter Hamilton, Bill Shirley, Vera Lee, Lee Murray, Murray Matheson, Jennie Lou Law, Bob Gallagher and Patricia Jenning. It was directed by Hermione's old revue co-star Walter Crisham. The items included THE RAFT, MUSIC TALK (written by Hermione), TAPESTRY PIECE, BORGIA ORGY, SOUVENIRS, I AND THE KING (Music by Marie Gordon; lyrics by Hermione and David Rogers).
MUSIC TALK was written by Hermione for RISE ABOVE IT (1941) about a real piece of music called GRASSHOPPER DANCE; it was a pompous pseudointellectual "talk on mewsick".
TAPESTRY PIECE was written by Reginald Beckwith for RISE ABOVE IT (1941). A contemporary reviewer wrote of her "mediaeval lady working into her tapestry 'all the news that's fit to weave', a play on the motto of the NEW YORK TIMES which is "all the news that's fit to print".
The BORGIA ORGY is from SWEET AND LOW (1943) and is available on the ALMANAC CD.
I AND THE KING was a parody of THE KING AND I, in which Hermione played Anna and Ronnie Graham played the King.
A contemporary review of this show reveals many additional items, singling out Hermione being hilarious as "the chatty old lady drinking port on the railroad train and the bored masseuse [and] the female but hardly feminine old salt".
The railroad train skit sounds like EUROPEAN EXPRESS, which is on the ALMANAC CD and was originally called ORIENT EXPRESS in the SWINGING THE GATE revue (1940).
The bored masseuse sketch is probably MASSEUSE written by Peter Myers for SLINGS AND ARROWS (1948).
CAFÉ DE PARIS (1953), a cabaret written by Clarry Ashton and Miles Rudge, opened June, 1953.
When Hermione came to America, she wanted to make her stage debut in a revue, but she had to audition for the Theatre Guild and her regular pianist, Clarry Ashton, was in London. Her boyfriend at the time, who was a classical musician, offered to accompany her, but he was not familiar with the material and the audition was a disaster. She claims it was for this reason she recorded the LP LA GINGOLD in 1955 (from which all the Hermione numbers on the ALMANAC CD originate), so that it would serve as her audition piece. In addition, while she was in London appearing at Café de Paris, she recorded a single with Gilbert Harding; on one side was IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO and on the flip side was a musical version of Little Red Riding Hood called OH, GRANDMA.
JOHN MURRAY ANDERSON'S ALMANAC (1953) For details, click here. This was Hermione's Broadway debut at the Imperial Theatre, December 10, 1953. Some information from that webpage that pertains solely to Hermione follows:
Writing in AMERICAN MUSICAL REVUE (1985 Oxford University Press), Gerald Boardman notes Hermione Gingold's "superlative material for her American debut" and that she "capitalized on every bit of it, abetted handsomely by a fine American film comedian, Billy DeWolfe. She won her audience the moment she came on, telling them how awed she was by New York harbor's fine statue of Judith Anderson. Later she played a frustrated old cellist ('a twang here--a twang there'), grateful for any instrument between her legs." She and DeWolfe "combined their gifts in a sketch that was immediately hailed as a classic. 'Dinner for One' found Miss Gingold as a ninety-year old grande dame seated at the end of a long, elegantly set dining table. Her decrepit butler, played by DeWolfe, had set places for four of her long dead admirers. He moved from chair to chair and in each stead proposed a toast to the lady, then cleared the dishes, reset the table, and started the toasts again. By the third or fourth course, he was quite woozy and clattering the dishes. At the end of the multicoursed dinner, he escorted his mistress to her room, though which one was less steady of foot was moot. It may not sound like much, but it was unquestionably one of the most brilliantly performed bits in all of American revue."
ALMANAC ran for 229 performances, and Hermione received the Donaldson Award for the best musical comedy debut.
STICKS AND STONES (1956) This opened at the John Drew Theatre in East Hampton, Long Island on June 30, 1956. In addition to Hermione, the cast included Jack Fletcher, Charles Manna, Louise Hoff, Marti Stevens and Jim Hutchinson. The VARIETY review, in addition, listed Keir Dullea, Marty Weixelbaum, Shirley Dulzill, Brad Rogers and Wayne Pascuzzi.
|Sticks and Stones||Music by David Baker, lyrics by David Craig||Marti Stevens, Louise Hoff, Erin Martin, Charles Manna, Jim Hutchison, Lenny Claret|
|Opening Remarks and Song||The People Were Nice by Buster Davis; lyrics by Mark Lawrence||Hermione Gingold and Jack Fletcher|
|Bridge Game||Louise Hoff, Erin Martin, Jack Fletcher, Lenny Claret|
|I Want More||Music and lyrics by Allan Jeffreys||Marti Stevens|
|The Last Resorts||Herbert Farjeon and Walter Leigh||Mrs. Twiceover...Hermione Gingold
Colonel Splicer....Jack Fletcher
|My Trip||Lucille Kallen||Louise Hoff|
|Well Met||George Bauer||Jim Hutchinson and Lenny Claret|
|Music Talk||Hermione Gingold||Hermione Gingold|
|Play Street||Music by George Bauer||Erin Martin, Jim Hutchison, Lenny Claret|
|Hankie-Pankie||Charles Manna||Charles Manna|
|Borgia Orgy||Music and lyrics by John Jowitt||Hermione Gingold, Louise Hoff, Jack Fletcher, Lenny Claret|
|I'm Gonna Be Rich||G. Wood||Jack Fletcher|
|Colonel Jackson||Herbert Farjeon||Hermione Gingold|
|Who's Afraid of Freud||Marti Stevens, Charles Manna|
|My Faces of 1958||Murray Grand and Hermione Gingold||Entire Company|
|Bharat-a Natium||Moonlight on the Ganges - music by Sherman Miles, lyrics by Chester Wallace||Jack Fletcher, Charles Manna, Erin Martin, Jim Hutchison, Lenny Claret|
|Man Upon My Mind||Music by George Bauer; lyrics by Charles Gaynor||Marti Stevens|
|Hats - A Dance||Music by George Bauer||Erin Martin|
|Hats - a Sketch||Dennis Waldock||Hermione Gingold, Marti Stevens, Jack Fletcher|
|Come by Sunday||Music and lyrics by Murray Grand||Louise Hoff|
|Sign of the Times||Music by David Baker; lyrics by Ira Wallach||Hermione Gingold and Jack Fletcher|
|Black Widow||Music and lyrics by Peter Cadby||Marti Stevens|
|The Cello||Leslie Julian Jones||Hermione Gingold|
|Figaro||Charles Manna||Charles Manna|
|Ill Met||George Bauer||Erin Martin, Jim Hutchison, Lenny Claret|
|Dr. Livingston||Jack Fletcher and Charles Manna|
|Park Meeting||Nina Warner Hook||Governess...Hermione Gingold
|Jewel Song||Danced by Erin Martin, Jim Hutchison, Lenny Claret; music and lyrics by Murray Grand||Sung by Jack Fletcher|
|Which Witch?||Music by Charles Zwar; lyrics by Alan Melville||Hermione Gingold|
|Finale Tune||Leslie Julian Jones||Entire Company|
THE PEOPLE WERE NICE is available on the ALMANAC CD.
THE LAST RESORTS may be a retitling of WINTER IN TORQUAY, written by Herbert Farjeon for THE LITTLE REVUE (1939). A contemporary review of STICKS AND STONES in the NEW YORK POST mentions a skit in which Hermione plays "a dyspeptic dowager boasting of her operations". This item is available on the ALMANAC CD as WINTER IN PALM SPRINGS. VARIETY described this as Hermione "convulses with her gum-chomping description of countless hospitalizations and operations. The artist is evident in this piece, for minus the comedy lines and blackout, the skit could almost stand as a serious character study."
Louise Kallen who wrote MY TRIP was the only female writer on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS.
MUSIC TALK was written by Hermione for RISE ABOVE IT (1941) about an actual piece of music entitled GRASSHOPPER DANCE; it was a pompous pseudointellectual "talk on mewsick". VARIETY called this "a self-written take-off of a gawky but enraptured concert hall lecture"
The BORGIA ORGY is from SWEET AND LOW (1943) and is available on the ALMANAC CD.
I believe the item entitled HATS - A SKETCH is from RISE ABOVE IT (1941) where it was called UNDER THEIR HATS. This was Hermione's favorite sketch in RISE ABOVE IT. She and Hermione Baddeley played two self-centered old dowagers trying on a variety of hideous hats in a millinery shop as they kept up a banter of silly gossip about themselves. The NY POST review of STICKS AND STONES mentions a sketch about a woman who always buys a hat when depressed.
THE CELLO is from SWEETER AND LOWER (1944) where it was called THE CELLIST . It had been written for a man, but Hermione performed it, playing a bowlegged bluestocking lady cellist. It was called CELLO SOLO in SWEETER AND LOWER and THE CONCERT STAGE in JOHN MURRAY ANDERSON'S ALMANAC.
WHICH WITCH is also available on the ALMANAC CD.
The NY POST review of STICKS AND STONES mentions Hermione playing a prim governess revealing her lost romance to a call girl on a park bench, which must be the PARK MEETING sketch. VARIETY describes this as "La Gingold plays the governess in this simple, almost underwritten, bit with amazing depth of understanding as she alters her original resentment of her benchmate under the realization there is a common bond between them."
SIGN OF THE TIMES is, according to this POST review, a skit in a quiet mood--"one waiting for Louis, who is waiting for Godot, who is waiting for her". VARIETY called this an offbeat number aimed at those with Broadway savvy.
VARIETY describes BHARAT-A-NATIUM as a church supper version of an East Indian dance which casts Manna as an embarrassed, sheetwrapped singer whose MOONLIGHT ON THE GANGES is accompanied by the Milan-Martin-Hutchison interpretation of a temple dance that owes much to the buck and wing. VARIETY called this a cute idea and well done.
The POST review mentions Hermione's "final song with a hot water bag--a lapse of good taste even by so salty a comedienne" but I haven't been able to identify from this description which item this might be. It sounds like MISS GINGOLD'S OTHER FRIEND from SWEET AND LOW (1943).
VARIETY mentions QUEEN OF SONG and NO ONE EVER ASKED ME, which do not appear on the program I was able to track down, but which are also available on the ALMANAC CD.
After this revue, Hermione went to Hollywood where she appeared in many films.
FROM A TO Z (1960). This American revue was known as THE TIME HAS COME prior to its opening at the Plymouth Theatre on April 20, 1960. It closed May 7, 1960. The cast included Elliott Reid, Louise Hoff, Kelly Brown, Stuart Damon, Isabelle Farrell, Michael Fesco, Virginia Vestoff, Alvin Epstein, Nora Kovach, Paula Stewart, Bob Dishy, Beryl Towbin, Larry Hovis and Doug Spingler. In the second act, Hermione recreated some of her most famous characters, including BOBO and QUEEN OF SONG.
|A||Best Gold||Music & words by Jerry Herman||Hermione Gingold, Nora Kovach, Kelly Brown, Michael Fesco, Doug Spingler, Beryl Towbin, Virginia Vestoff, Stuart Damon, Paul Stewart|
|B||Bardolatry||Louise Hoff, Elliott Reid|
|C||Pill Parade||Music & words by Jay Thompson||Narrator||Alvin Epstein|
|Average Man||Kelly Brown|
|Vitamins||Michael Fesco, Doug Spingler|
|One More Pill||Isabelle Farrell|
|D||Togetherness||Music & words by Dickson Hughes & Everett Sloane||Grandmother||Hermione Gingold|
|E||Psychological Warfare||Woody Allen||Sergeant||Alvin Epstein|
|Privates||Larry Hovis, Doug Spingler|
|Medics||Stuart Damon, Michael Fesco|
|F||Balloons||Music & words by Jack Holmes||Nora Kovach, Kelly Brown, Michael Fesco, Doug Spingler, Beryl Towbin, Virginia Vestoff|
|G||Music Talk||Hermione Gingold|
|H||Hire a Guy||Music by Mary Rodgers; words by Marshall Barer||The Star||Louise Hoff|
|The Director||Elliott Reid|
|The Writer||Stuart Damon|
|I||Interlude||Music by Jack Holmes||Ladies||Beryl Towbin, Virginia Vestoff, Isabelle Farrell|
|Gentlemen||Kelly Brown, Michael Fesco, Doug Spingler|
|A Stranger||Nora Kovach|
|A Man||Stuart Damon|
|J||Hit Parade||Woody Allen||Girl||Hermione Gingold|
|K||Conventional Behavior||Elliott Reid|
|L||I Said to Love||Music by Paul Klein; words by Fred Ebb||Louise Hoff|
|M||Winter in Palm Springs||Herbert Farjeon||Colonel Spicer||Alvin Epstein|
|Mrs. Twiceover||Hermione Gingold|
|N||Charlie||Words & music by Fred Ebb & Norman Martin||Paul Stewart|
|O||The Sound of Schmaltz||Words by Don Parks; music by William Dyer||Head Nanny||Louise Hoff|
|Nannies||Nora Kovach, Beryl Towbin, Virginia Vestoff, Isabelle Farrell|
|Alicia Cadwallader-Smith||Hermione Gingold|
|Baron von Klaptrap||Elliott Reid|
|Children||Kelly Brown, Alvin Epstein, Michael Fesco, Doug Spingler, Stuart Damon, Bob Dishy, Paul Stewart|
|P||Grand Jury Jump||Music by Paul Klein; words by Fred Ebb||Nora Kovach, Paul Stewart, Beryl Towbin, Virginia Vestoff, Isabelle Farrell, Kelly Brown, Stuart Damon, Michael Fesco, Doug Spingler, Larry Hovis|
|Q||South American Way||Music by Norman Martin; words by Norman Martin & Fred Ebb||Alvin Epstein, Bob Dishy|
|R||Snapshots||Herbert Farjeon||She||Hermione Gingold|
|S||Time Step||Music by Paul Klein; words by Fred Ebb||Kelly Brown|
|U||Queen of Song||Hermione Gingold|
|V||Surprise Party||Woody Allen||Fred||Bob Dishy|
|W||Countermelody||Music by Mary Rodgers & Jay Thompson; words by Marshall Barer||Paula Stewart, Stuart Damon|
|X||Park Meeting||Nina Warner Hook||Governess||Hermione Gingold|
|Y||Red Shoes||Music by Jack Holmes||Introduced by||Bob Dishy|
|Danced by||Kelly Brown, Isabelle Farrell, Michael Fesco, Larry Hovis, Doug Spingler, Beryl Towbin, Virginia Vestoff|
|Z||Four for the Road||Music by Paul Klein; lyrics by Lee Goldsmith & Fred Ebb||Hermione Gingold|
|&||What's Next||Music by Charles Zwar; words by Alan Melville||The Company|
The opening night review by Robert Coleman of the DAILY MIRROR cited Woody Allen's SURPRISE PARTY. "A couple of diversion seekers discover that the babes at the revel have all decided to make up like Groucho Marx. That is, all except the one who's a real blonde--Harpo."
The opening night review by Walter Kerr of the HERALD TRIBUNE opined: "Miss Gingold has come on in marceled white wigs, messy black wigs, and towering silver wigs studded with daisies. She has squinted at the audience with one sour eye, she has protruded her tongue far enough to get it caught between her teeth, she has leered like a bulldog and listed as though she were on shore leave. She has done everything she can to intimate comedy without actually being able to deliver it."
Writing in OPEN A NEW WINDOW (2001), Ethan Mordden noted the show included "Alvin Epstein miming a man changing into a bathing suit on a beach under a raincoat, Elliott Reid spoofing television coverage of a political convention, Kelly Brown trying out another of those nostalgic soft-shoe numbers" but found the show basically old fashioned, a revue built around a headliner (Hermione) with indifferent material. This was Hermione's last stage revue, as the revue form seemed to die out with the advent of TV which used up so much material. In the 1960s she and Boris Karloff were interested in performing in a revue to be called THE THING AND I (A MONSTER REVUE), but it never got past the discussion stage.
Writing in EVERY WEEK, A BROADWAY REVUE (THE TAMIMENT PLAYHOUSE, 1921-1960), Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco talks about the Woody Allen sketch PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE which was performed four times in 1958 and revived twice in 1959 at Tamiment. "The piece is set on a battleground; Allen's stage directions emphasize the importance of achieving 'the authenticity of real war.' A group of men enter dressed exactly like American G.I.'s but without conventional weaponry. The sergeant discusses their plan of attack: 'Hit them in the ego, hit them in the id, hit them in their inferiority complexes, and if that doesn't work, hit them below the belt and we'll go back to the old way!' Shortly thereafter, the 'enemy' enters" and insults and putdowns are exchanged. The Sergeant is wounded and "screams wildly for aid and two medics rush out from the wings with a stretcher. He 'hops' onto it, immediately assumes the 'classic analysis position' and launches into his life story, ... followed by a fast blackout."
Some 30-second sound bites from FIRST IMPRESSIONS (Mar 19, 1959 - May 30, 1959):
Some 30-second sound bites from the ALMANAC CD. Click here for lyrics:
INTRODUCTIONS (Charles Zwar-Myles Rudge-Clary Ashton)
WHICH WITCH (Alan Melville-Charles Zwar)
FLOWERS (David Baker-Sheldon Harnick)
THE BORGIAS ARE HAVING AN ORGY (Robert Gordon-John Jowett)
TIT FOR TAT (Neville Phillips-Robb Stewart)
BUT THE PEOPLE WERE NICE (Mark Lawrence-Buster Davis)
COCAINE (Neville Phillips-Robb Stewart)
QUEEN OF SONG (Eric Maschwitz-Jack Strachey)
NOBODY EVER ASKED ME (Buster Davis)
ROBERT THE ROBOT (Myles Rudge-Charles Zwar)
SPIN (Nicholas Phipps-Geoffrey Wright)
THANKS YANKS (Geoffrey Wright/Alan Melville)
Finally, a 3-minute interview from Hermione in the '70s when she was doing SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM.
Research by Judy Harris
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