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Michael J. Pollard
An excellent documentary about the history of the London music-hall, with archive footage, and great sequences filmed in London in the Sixties.
There have been all too few documentary films made about the London music hall. This is certainly;y one of the best. To begin with, it allows the material to speak for itself. Every song is heard complete. The commentary never intrudes on the performers. Top of the bill are some great veterans, caught on film in the late 1920s and early 30s. The greatest of all the Cockney singers, Gus Elen gives "It'sa great big shame", in costume. and with all his gestures and the unspoken commentary, in which he laments the fate of his pal Bill, who has fallen under the spell of the girl "only four foot six", who now orders him to "clean the winders an' the knives". Elen never smiles, he is a deadpan comic, with a face that Rembrandt would have loved. Lily Morris follows on with the lament of the girl who is "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride". A genius of grotesque dance and comic song, La Morris seems to have no fear of the camera as she narrates the appalling tale of her middle-aged mother who gave her boy-friend "a pinch". The situation was simple, "Being a widow, she knew what to do". Many people consider Elen and Morris to have been the greatest music-hall singer of the later period of the "halls", and these precious films prove that their opinions were near the mark. The film also includes footage of Ella Sields singing her signature song "Burlington Bertie from Bow". There are sequences filmed at the Players Theatre (Gatti's Under the Arches), at Wilton's Music Hall, and Macdonald's in Hoxton. Mark Eden makes a glamorous presenter, and then takes part in a delightful silent film sequence, mimed to Tom Leamore's recording of "Percy from Pimlico". The other quite fascinating aspect of this gem of a film is the footage of Carnaby Street and the Strand in the late 1960s. The script is written by Ray Mackender, who was the Chairman of the British Music Hall Society in the 1960s, and who, although someone working in the pop-music industry, was devoted to the Victorian and Edwardian music hall. It was partly through his endeavour that Wilton's Music Hall was preserved - it is now once again a working theatre. If nothing else, this film is a tribute to the enthusiasm of Ray (and his partner Gerry Glover), who loved the halls, and the history surrounding them. And Mark Eden Has charisma to spare. There scenes filmed at The Players give an authentic picture of this long-running, nostalgic, but vigorous re-creation of late-Victorian theatre. For modern viewers, the audience, with many people smoking, will appear wild, perhaps unbridled and raunchy. That too is authentic music hall. Magic.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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