PE0255. MERCENARY MARY (Con Conrad & William B. Friedlander, w.words by William B. Friedlander, Isabel Leighton & Irving Caesar), w. Leonard Homsey Cond. London Hippodrome Orch.; June & Sonny Hale, Peggy O'Neill, Archie W. Bascomb & Lew Hearn; Dance Music by Percival Mackay's Band & Columbia Vocal Gem Chorus. (England) Palaeophonics 128, recorded 1925-26, w.Elaborate ‘The Play’ 20pp. Brochure replete w.photos from the London production & biographies. [Based on Herbert Hall Winslow and Emil Nyatray's farce WHAT'S YOUR WIFE DOING?, MERCENARY MARY played at New York’s Longacre Theatre in 1925 for 136 performances. When it moved to London’s Hippodrome, it enjoyed a longer run of 262 performances, before touring the Provinces. This is a delightful romp of conjugal chaos and far-fetched financial schemes.]
"...MERCENARY MARY blithely reasserted the [superannuated holdover] legacy-with-a-catch plot, though it did have a lively, quite up-to-date score."
- Ethan Mordden, MAKE BELIEVE, p.188
“The bespectacled and short comic actor Sonnie Hale – well-known in the mid-twenties for not only his comedic abilities but that he was married, somewhat incongruously, to the extraordinarily beautiful and popular West-End actress Evelyn Laye. Brother of Binnie Hale, he was married to Mary Kelsey, Jessie Matthews and Evelyn Laye. He died on 9 June, 1959 in London.
Binnie Hale's younger brother made his West End début in the chorus of FUN OF THE FAYRE (1921). After his divorce from operetta star Evelyn Laye, he married musical comedy star Jessie Matthews, with whom he co-starred in six London productions. Together, the popular duo introduced Noel Coward's ‘A Room With a View’ in THIS YEAR OF GRACE (1928) and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ in EVER GREEN (1930). Hale directed several productions in the 1940s, and appeared in and directed a number of British musical films. He continued working in regional theater until his death at age 58.
“Peggy O'Neil from Buffalo has gone and done it again - set London singing her praises and acclaiming her the most popular actress now on the English stage. This time it is in the music halls that the little Buffalo Irish-American girl, fresh from her record breaking run of nearly a thousand consecutive performances in PADDY THE NEXT BEST THING, has won the heart of the British theatre-going public.
Buffalo should be proud of everything that Peggy O'Neil has done in England. She has done more to make the lake city talked about than anything since the World's Fair. Everyone in England knows Peggy O'Neil and loves her, and everyone who knows Peggy O'Neil has heard of Buffalo, N. Y.
As a teenager, Peggy O'Neil made it big in Chicago, rising from a few minor roles in various theatre productions to her one big break: an unlikely appointment as the lead in a production of PEG O' MY HEART. She knocked 'em dead in Chicago, and her career sky-rocketed to Broadway in New York and then to the highly discriminating stagehouses of London and Paris. She broke theatre records with hundreds of consecutive star performances of PADDY THE NEXT BEST THING at the Savoy in London, the performance for which she is best known, and continued to wow London and Paris crowds for years to follow. (She came back to Buffalo as a celebrity for several return performances, including a sell-out of MERCENARY MARY at Shea's Court Street Theatre in 1927.) In the early 1920s, Peggy was a household name in Britain and a celebrity of wide renown. Sweet Peggy O'Neil - a Hydraulics gal!”
- James P. Sinnott, Hydraulics Press, 15 Jan., 2009
“A gentleman farmer with a love of Edwardian and early Twentieth Century music has created a home industry of preserving early Musical and Revue scores as recorded on 78 and cylinder, the latter of which he is certainly a specialist. It is an impressive list of shows that Dominic Combe has digitalised and issued on Compact Disc. Not only is it the recordings but the lovingly created books that attach.
Early theatre recordings abound in Great Britain, more so than in the United States where it took them some time to start recording original cast material. And so, many early scores are available to be heard. But what Dominic discovered when he started assembling these scores was that often latter day British 78 and cylinder record collectors turned their noses up on recordings of dance music or covers and ‘best of’ or ‘gems’ making them hard to find. And, it is those recordings which can often contain songs not otherwise recorded. He has built strong connections with other collectors willing to lend material to make each issue as complete as possible.
Modern equipment and an aptitude for perfection have helped Dominic ‘clean up’ old 78 and cylinder records to deliver a sound quality that can be stunning. The booklets are produced with as much care by using original theatre programmes or magazines such as PLAY PICTORIAL and MUSIC FOR ALL so that the listener can get a good idea of how the show looked as well as to see the unique art work used to advertise the show back then.
Dominic has issued over fifty of these gems and still has titles either being completed or awaiting to be started on. The label is called PALAEOPHONICS.”
- y phayward, OVERTURES: The Bunnet-Muir Musical Theatre Archive Trust, 10 July, 2017