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Author Topic: Mabel Love. Actress and Dancer 1874-1953  (Read 3393 times)

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Mabel Love. Actress and Dancer 1874-1953
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2015, 00:07:24 »
Mabel Love
Born 16th October 1874 - Folkestone (England)
Died 15th May 1953 - Weybridge (England)
Grand-daughter of entertainer William Edward Love
Child star, went missing at age 14 and later attempted suicide.

Mabel Love was born in Folkestone, Kent, on October 16 1874. She was the second of three daughters to Lewis Grant Watson, a wine agent, and his actress wife Kate (Love). Mabel's father was the brother of Robert Grant Watson, who served in the diplomatic service and had held the posts of First Secretary to the British Embassy in Washington, and Charge d'affaires in Japan. Her mother was the daughter of Edward Love, who had himself been a popular entertainer in his day.

Mabel was a child star who made her first stage appearance at Christmas 1886 (aged twelve), playing 'the Rose' in the first stage adaptation of Lewis Caroll's "Alice in Wonderland". The following March she opened at the Opera Comique as 'Roxalana' in "Masks and Faces". In October 1888 she was contracted by George Edwardes at the Gaiety to dance the part of 'Totchen, the little Vivandiere' in the burlesque "Faust up-to-date". Still only fourteen, she was already a thing of great beauty and all the young dandies flocked to see her.

The pressure of being in the public eye at so young an age proved, however, to be a little too much for her. In March 1889, after collecting her payment from the bursars office at the Gaiety, she left the house at 33 Arundel Strreet, Strand, where she lived with her parents and disappeared. The press headlined the story, and, at the time of her disappearance, described her as being "of fresh complexion, with light grey eyes and fair hair, curling and hanging loose over the shoulders. She was wearing, when she left home, a black and white striped fish-wife skirt, Oxford patent shoes, black plush hat and feathers, and a terra-cotta coloured cloak trimmed with white fur round the collar and cuffs and with large metal buttons." (Echo - 19/03/1889).
Mabel was located a few days later in Dublin after she applied for work to the manager of Dublin Gaiety Theatre, her small supply of funds having already been expended in travelling and hotel expenses. She had identified herself as a member of the London Gaiety Burlesque Company, whereupon the manager sent a telegram alerting Mr. George Edwardes, manager of that company. Edwardes immediately despatched a messenger to Dublin to take charge of his errant star and ensure her safety until arrangements could be made to return her to her parents.

Unfortunately that was not the end of the matter, and an altogether more serious incident occurred a few months later. On Tuesday 16th July, a police constable was walking along the Victoria Embankment on the northern bank of the Thames when he observed a smartly dressed young woman climbing over the parapet and, before he could reach the spot, leap into the water. Luckily, a fireman of the Thames Fire Brigade was nearby and, drawn by the policeman's whistle, rowed across to the girl and effected a rescue. The girl was Mabel Love. She was removed to the St. Giles Infirmary and later brought before the Bow Street Police Court where she was charged with attempting to commit suicide (it being a criminal offence in those days). She was released into the custody of her mother on the condition that she be taken from London to rest and recuperate. Thankfully this unhappy period soon proved to have only been a temporary blip in her life, which was never repeated.

After appearing as 'Polly' in "The Harbour Lights" at the Grand Theatre Islington, she joined the cast of "La Cigale" at the Lyric in October 1890. Appearing as 'Francoise' and later as 'La Frivolini', it was here that she first began to attract serious attention due to her graceful dancing. As a result, she was engaged for a season at the Covent Garden as a solo dancer in various operatic ballets. Now firmly established as a theatrical performer her future seemed assured, and she appeared in many important roles over the next few years including "Vote for Giggs", "The Wedding Eve", "Dorothy" (1892). and "Don Quixote" (1893). In 1894 she joined the cast of "Little Christopher Columbus"at the Lyric, succeeding Eva Moore and Alice Lethbridge, doubling in both roles.

Now just twenty years old she had matured into a strikingly attractive young women as well as a talented performer and was well on the way to becoming one of the most celebrated beauties of her era. She had a sinuously slim figure with a tiny waist, ideal for dancing, and her beauty was counterpointed by beautiful blue eyes and lustrous golden hair. She attracted many admirers, including Winston Churchill - not yet the great political leader he would one day become but already a national hero following his daring escape from the Boers in South Africa. Churchill wrote to her on at least two occasions requesting signed photographs. Her letters in reply are still held by the Churchill Archives at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. In the latter (posted September 1894), she apologises for her delay in replying since she had been busy with rehearsals at the Lyric (which would have been for her two roles in "Little Christopher Columbus"). her address at the time was 164 Buckingham Palace Road!

In 1895 she appeared at the Folies Bergeres in Paris before crossing to the USA where she made a big hit in "His Excellency". Returning to England, she was by now able to command star roles and appeared opposite many of the top leading men of the day, including Lewis Waller and Beerbohm Tree. Among the roles in which she would appear over the next dozen years were 'the Comtesse de Condale' in "A Marriage of Convenience", 'Constance' in "The Musketeers", 'Cinderella' in "Miss Cinderella", 'Bluebell' in "Bluebell in Fairyland", 'Lady Frederick Berolles' in "Lady Frederick" and 'Effie Waldron' in "A Women's Way" to name but a few. Her most celebrated role was without doubt that of 'Lady Frederick' in Somerset Maugham's comedy which played at the Court Theatre from October 1907 and ran for 422 performances (remarkable for the time). In 1911 she also toured in music halls playing 'Mrs St. George' in her own sketch "Quick Work".

Offstage she continued to attract admirers, both professional and romantic. She was said to have been a particular favourite of Edward, Prince of Wales, and for a time she was pursued by the famous Strongman, Sandow, who is reputed to have showered her with gifts in his attempts to woo her. She ultimately spurned his advances however, seemingly a wise decision since his subsequent marriage broke up due to his philandering ways (and even rumours of too close an intimacy with another man).

In the summer of 1926, Mabel opened a dancing school in Knightsbridge. She returned to the stage only once, in May 1938 when she played 'Mary Goss' in"Profit and Loss" at the Embassy. She did, however, continue to be a regular visitor to the theatre right up to the time of her death some years later. The last few years of her life were spent at a hotel in Weybridge with her close friend Vesta Tilly (who later found fame as a male impersonator). She died there on 15th May, 1953.

During her stage career Mabel had been a tireless performer, rarely taking a break from the stage. She was a rare beauty and a charming woman who won many admirers. Although an accomplished actor and vocalist, it was as a dancer that she excelled. Through her dancing school she helped to popularise the art of dance and pass on her skills to following generations. Although her stage career was not as enduring as that of some of her contemporaries, it was no less shining. She graced every stage she walked on and enthralled thousands, assuring her place as one of the leading lights of her era.

Mabel's daughter Mary (Loraine) followed her mother onto the stage, and later put her acting talents to altogether different and far more dangerous use, as a secret agent! Operating behind enemy lines for the SOE (Special Operations Executive), she was captured and tortured by the Gestapo. She survived the war but for the remainder of her life would suffer mental health problems. She died a pauper, seemingly unaware of how well her mother had provided for her, having inherited stocks that turned out to be worth a fortune.

Reproduced courtesy of Don Gillan (Copyright),


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