PE0363. LIDO LADY (Lorenz Hart, Guy Bolton, Bert Kalmar & Harry Rudy; music by Richard Rodgers), w.Harold French, Ciceley Courtneidge, Jack Hulbert, Phyllis Dare, Sydney Baynes, Percy Mackay (singing), Percival Mackay's Band, Fred Rich and his Hotel Astor Orch. (England) Palaeophonics 171, w.Elaborate 'The Play' 13pp. Brochure. Opening at London’s Gaiety Theatre on 1 December, 1926, the show was intended to cash-in on the popularity of American-style musicals. It ran for 261 performances. Excellently transferred from the legendary early electrical 78rpm English Columbia & HMV rarities. Among Dominic Combe's most delightful charmers, produced via his enhanced equipment! Again, for this production he had access to fabulous archival material and superb original 78s with which to work!
"This week, I’m having a look over LIDO LADY (1926), which was different from the previous Rodgers and Hart musicals for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was a project that had its origins in London. Jack Hulbert was planning to produce a play as a vehicle for his wife, Cicely Courtneidge, and himself. He wanted songs with an American flavour because the music of NO, NO, NANETTE and LADY, BE GOOD was trending like a viral hashtag in London and so he hired Rodgers and Hart to write some material for the show. This was all the more remarkable because the pair had yet to have a hit in London, a city that had not seen productions of DEAREST ENEMY or THE GIRL FRIEND. Secondly, the script had already been written, so Rodgers and Hart were seeking out and writing for obvious song spots rather than creating original material with a collaborator as they went along or even tailoring previous songs to fit new situations as they had done before.
As per tradition when it came to musical comedies in the 1920s, LIDO LADY didn’t amount to much plot-wise. Set in Venice, on the Lido, Fay Blake is the tennis-playing daughter of a wealthy sports goods manufacturer. Amidst all sorts of romantic shenanigans, there is some business about a tennis ball design going missing – and that’s about it.
Added to the songs Rodgers and Hart composed for the piece were ‘It All Depends on You’ from Buddy de Sylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson’s 'Big Boy' and ‘Tomorrow the Skies May Be Gray (But Not Today)’ by Con Conrad. One of the highlights of the score was ‘Try Again Tomorrow’, which was a duet for Courtneidge and Hulbert, who played siblings in the show. It’s a catchy and witty little number that elicits an easy chuckle – Just a couple of minutes of unadulterated fun.
Rodgers and Hart also interpolated ‘Here in My Arms’ from DEAREST ENEMY into LIDO LADY. In fact, several songs bounced between various Rodgers and Hart projects of this period, partly because they were juggling so many projects as they hustled through the roaring twenties. Those easy shifts made me wonder why there hasn’t been a Rodgers and Hart equivalent of ‘My One and Only’, ‘Crazy For You’ or ‘Nice Work if You Can Get It’. There seems to be so much material to re-envision. It’s difficult to argue for any kind of respect for the much-maligned 1920s musicals, even the ones that do hold together relatively well – but it seems that so much of what Rodgers and Hart did during this decade has been written off wholesale. Of course, there are some 1920s shows that can’t be revived for anything but pure historical interest and that’s just the way it is. Some things are meant for history books or historical reconstructions – but I can’t help wonder if there’s a missed opportunity here.
Another interesting aspect of the LIDO LADY journey was the criticism that was aimed by the British critics at Hart’s lyrics, particularly at the more inventive wordplay in pursuit of rhyme, which they viewed as nonsensical, or at lyrics that required a performer to distort the word to fit the musical line, something that also happened in the pursuit of a rhyme on the page. I found this intriguing as Hart’s reputation as a lyricist appears to be based less on his technical craft but on his often cynical tone, humour and the pathos created through the apparent encoding of his life experiences into his lyrics. Perhaps that’s a good topic for a deep dive here on Musical Cyberspace sometime down the line.”
- David Fick, 11 Feb., 2022
“Cicely Courtneidge (1893 - 1980) was the daughter of the producer Robert Courtneidge and made her first professional stage appearance in his play THE ARCADIANS at the Shaftesbury Theatre in July 1909. In 1916 she married her stage partner, Jack Hulbert and their careers encompassed the stage, radio, television and film. She also recorded popular songs such as Noel Gay's THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT A SOLDIER. In 1972 she was created a Dame for her services to entertainment.
Jack Hulbert (1892-1978), studied at Cambridge and the Central School of Speech and Drama. Following an appearance at the Queen's Theatre, he was hired by Robert Courtneidge, for his first professional stage performance in THE PEARL GIRL at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1913. In 1931 he appeared in his first film SUNSHINE SUSIE, and throughout the thirties, successfully went on to act, write and direct films. After the war he and his wife, Cicely Courtneidge, transferred their popular entertainment to the theatre and radio, performing revues and musical plays, that encompassed their own brand of light comedy, song and dance.
- University of Bristol Theatre Collection
“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