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
“If you are interested in what original audiences of early 20th century English operetta and musical comedy heard, there is a great source for such recordings – the record label Paleophonics. Dominic Combe prepares CDs for them from his huge collection of shellacs and a few cylinders.
I came across these somewhat hard-to-find CDs on the website of the mail-order company NORBECK, PETERS AND FORD, (norpete.com) which is specialized in historical performances from the beginning of recorded sound all the way through to the 1960s.
There are now over fifty Paleophonics CDs, and more are being prepared or scheduled for future release. Each CD comes with a lavishly illustrated program booklet with reviews, information about the shows and fantastic publicity photographs, and artwork from the original London productions, in the form of reproductions of the magazine PLAY PICTORIAL.”
- Thomas Krebs, OPERETTA RESEARCH CENTER - PALEOPHONICS - A JOURNEY TO THE DAWN OF RECORDED SOUND IN MUSICAL COMEDY, 1 July, 2020