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‘My First Half-Century’ – Marie Lloyd in 1920

20th Century Digressions, Entertainment & Culture No Comments »

Marie LloydTwo years before she died, the music hall star Marie Lloyd wrote an amusing and wry piece for the theatrical newspaper The Era. Many notables, such as the great Sybil Thorndike would later follow her example, but Marie's contribution was typical of her personal style and approach to her public:

Topping the Bill for thirty-three years

by Marie Lloyd

'This is my first fifty years; what the next will be like I shudder to think! Yes, I was fifty last month, and proud of it – prouder still to think that for 33 years I have topped the bill. Without any desire to brag – or, as the modern word is, swank – I think I can justly say that no artist can claim to have more sustained popularity. And for this I am very grateful to the public, who have loyally supported me through all these years of strenuous starring.

   'I am the only artist whose exact age the public are always asking, and I see the question answered almost weekly in the "Era." I regard that as a proof of popularity. I never made any secret of my age, and why should I? It's wonderful how artists grow old by repute. People imagine that they have a birthday every month. The other day an old man with a long white beard and tottering footstep came to me and said. "How well you wear! Why, my mother used to bring me as a little boy to see you in the pantomime at Drury Lane!" "Well," I replied. "then I must have worn better than you!"

 Reincarnation

   'On another occasion at a suburban hall, an elderly man with a grey beard down to his knees said, "Do you remember me?" I said "No." "Oh," he replied, "I used to be a call boy at the Bedford when you made your first appearance there!" It was evidently a case of reincarnation, but I'd rather like to know who I was before I was Marie Lloyd.

   'Well, I have had a crowded hour of life, work and worry, sorrow and joy. People don't always get the credit for the good they do, and some get more than they deserve, but the wounded Tommies know what I did for them, and the gratitude which I know they feel is more to me than diadems and decorations.

The Flies' Anthem

   'Personally I feel as youthful as ever, and can enjoy life with the best of them. My house at Golders Green is the scene of many merry gatherings. We call ourselves "The Flies," and friends have epitomised it in a parady of "Where do Flies go in the Winter Times?" It runs thus : –

They all go round to Mary Lloyd's

In the summer time,

And tickle a tune upon her ticolee.

There's something nice, always on the ice,

And you never have to ask her twice

For a drink of her kickolee.

Her front door is never known to lock,

It's always standing open so you never have to knock,

Nobody knows what time it is, for the

hands are off the clock,

And we don't go home till morning

At good old Marie Lloyd's.

 

The British in Berlin

   'Perhaps the proudest time of my life was when I went to Germany and topped the bill over all the Continental stars at the Winter Gardens, Berlin. That, of course, was before the war. I had an opportunity for studying the attitude of the Germans towards the English, and found that the ordinary people held us in the highest regard, but the military were never tired of sneering at us. I used to go about Fredreich-street with my fist clenched at some of the remarks that were made. One day I heard a burly officer, with a scar on his cheek, say something insulting about the British, and I promptly gave him a blow in the face, saying: "There's one for the other side." And then went back!'

From The Era, 10th March 1920

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