Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold


Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings





The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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3. When Knights Were Bold - Reviews, etc. (2)
(August, 1907 - 1909)


The New York Times (21 August, 1907)


Francis Wilson Highly Amusing as Sir Guy de Vere
“When Knights Were Bold.”


Piece Which Has Had Long London Run is Enthusiastically Received
by First-Night Audience Here.

Sir Guy de Vere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Francis Wilson
Isaac Isaacson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   George Irving
Hon. Charles Widdecombe . . . . . . .  Augustin Duncan
The Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D. D. . .  Clarence Handysides
Sir Brian Ballymote . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Campbell Gollan
Wittle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Victor Benoit
Barker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joseph Allen
Lady Rowena Eggington . . . . . . . . . .  Pauline Frederick
Lady Millicent Eggington . . . . . . . . . . Edna Bruns
Lady Marjorie Eggington . . . . . . . . . .  Ruth Barry
Miss Isaacson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Margaret Gordon
Kate Pottleberry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Adelaide Wilson
The Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave . . . . . . . . Florence Edney
Alice Barker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Elsa Garret
A Herald . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . James C. Robson

     Two people in the Garrick audience snickered last night when the amiable Mr. Widdecombe in “When Knights were Bold” sprung his idiotic riddle about Noah.
     “What,” he asked, “did Noah say when he heard the rain pattering on the roof?”
     “What,” repeated Mr. Francis Wilson, interlocutor for the English humorist, “what did Noah say?”
     “He said ’ark.”
     The two people who snickered evidently know their Bow Bells. For the rest that particular pun of Mr. Marlowe’s was about as brilliant as a tallow candle in a London fog.
     Fortunately, however, the success of Mr. Marlowe’s farce is not dependent upon its English quips, and before the evening was far advanced the audience had made a lively response.
     By a peculiar coincidence, “When Knights Were Bold,” containing practically the same basic idea was produced in London at about the same time that American audiences were seeing “The Road to Yesterday.” In both plays the complications of the plot result from the fact that a group of moderns suddenly find themselves transported to mediaeval times. Mr. Marlowe, however, has worked the idea out along purely farcical lines, and he is a little more successful than the American playwrights in respect to the fact that his principal figure maintains his original identity throughout the new experiences. As a result, the confusion is twofold. And in farce confusion is an excellent thing.
     At the outset we are introduced to Sir Guy De Vere, a very amiable English gentleman, who has recently come into his title, together with the estates, including a more or less dilapidated old castle known as Beechwood Towers, which he hopes to make into a fairly livable modern residence. In this he is opposed by his sweetheart, Lady Rowena Eggington, whose imagination has been fired by tales of the doughty deeds of Sir Guy’s ancestors, who looks upon the restorations as sacrilege, and who has hoped to see in Sir Guy a modern Bayard. The latter persistently shocks her sense of the proprieties, and is in a fair way toward losing her altogether to a rival, when Sir Brian Ballymote appears on the scene with tales of his own ancestors whose brave deeds he boastingly promises to emulate.
     The chief fun of the piece develops when Sir Guy, after having taken large and copious drinks of whisky to cure a cold, falls asleep and dreams that he is back in the good old times, during which he dons a suit of armor and fights Sir Brian for the fair lady whom they both admire. All the characters now appear in romantic guise, Rowena being one of a group of novices pursued by Sir Brian, and who have fled from their convent to seek protection at the hands of the hero of Beechwood Towers.
     During the preceding scene the Rev. Mr. Pottleberry, a visitor at the Towers, has boasted of the fact that he is a descendant of one Peter the Monk, whereupon Sir Guy has suggested that it would be just as well to keep quiet upon that subject, as monks were not ordinarily expected to have families. In the new shift of characters the reverend gentleman, now Peter the Monk, is casually reminded that he had better not make a row, as information concerning him will be readily procured by addressing “Family, London.”
     Mr. Widdicomb, previously alluded to in connection with the Noah joke, is also on the scene, this time as Sir Guy’s jester, with a series of Joe Miller jokes ranging from the classic “When is a door not a door?” to the famous “Where was Moses when the light went out?” Each of these brilliant sallies is met with roars of laughter by Sir Guy’s retainers, whereupon he remarks: “If that goes I ought to be a great success here.” There is more in that than meets the eye.
     The height of the fun comes when Sir Guy makes up his mind that he must speak blank verse to be in fashion and when he discards his armor and goes at Sir Brian hammer and tongs. In the final act it only remains for him to show his rival up in reality, which he does by proving him to be a card sharp. Then Rowena falls into his arms.
     In London the rôle of Sir Guy was played by James Welch, a particularly unctious little comedian, who cannot be said truthfully to have attacked it any more legitimately than Mr. Wilson. Horse play one expects and always gets in rôles of this kind, but Mr. Wilson is commendably restrained in this respect, and generally most amusing. If his performance has one fault, it is that of too much insistence upon points. It was often obvious that because the laugh had come at certain places in the London production the actor was waiting for the line to tell. More briskness all round will improve the general performance.
     Pauline Frederick, making her début as a leading woman, brings much of personal grace and beauty to the rôle of Rowena, and is as natural as possible under the circumstances. Of the others, Mr. Campbell Gollan acts a slight part in a finished authoritative style.
     The chorus at the end of the first act could hardly have been worse. Here, indeed, was a case where “silence, like a poultice, came to heal the wounds of sound.”



The Sun (New York) (21 August, 1907 - p.5)



Star Goes to Sleep to Dream of Life in the
Twelfth Century—Then He Wakes Up
and Cures the Leading Lady of a Fit of
Sentiment—Role Suited to His Talents.

     Francis Wilson appeared at the Garrick Theatre last night as the chief personage in a farce by Charles Marlow entitled “When Knights Were Bold.” The record may begin with the statement that the play, slight and fanciful as it proved to be, pleased the audience, and with good reason, for it was a commendable bit of foolery. The ancient and honorable objection that it contained nothing new is easily raised against it, but as a rule the theatregoing public is amused by the things which amused its forefathers, and that is a fact upon which managers build fond hopes.
     The author of “When Knights Were Bold” probably read Mark Twain’s account of the experiences of a Yankee at the court of Arthur and mayhap he saw performances of “The Road to Yesterday.” Mr. Kipling has harped upon the same string in a minor mode in his “Puck of Pook’s Hill,” and Mr. Bellamy made another variation in his “Looking Backward.” It is an old theme and yet a captivating one, for what man has not wished that he had lived at least a little while in some other age than his own?
     It was Cassius who swore that he said “an elder, not a better.” Mr. Marlow’s farce is a cheering illustration of the truth that the good old times of romance, of Sir Nigel and his White Company, of Richard and Ivanhoe, were not as comfortable or as sensible as the times of Edward the Peacemaker and Wilson the funmaker. Of course you can’t get back into yesterday except in fond memories or in a nightmare.
     Given a haughty lady who yearns for days when knights were bold and who is loved by a jolly, careless, fun loving young Englishman of to-day, whom she will not have because he is not heroic, and you come to a situation calling for the administration of a mild restorative to the young woman’s reason.
     It is mighty easy when you have the trick of the playsmith’s trade. All you have to do is to put the young Englishman to sleep and let him dream that he is back in the twelfth century clad in a dinner jacket and with just one cigarette left in his case. You have to provide a fat lot of ancestors, of course, so as to get all the other people in the play back into the same century and show folk how they would have lived and moved and had their being in “the good old times.”
     The next thing to do is to wake the young Englishman up and let him conceive the brilliant scheme of continuing to conduct himself as he had to in the dream, even to wielding a two handed sword and talking blank verse. If that does not bring the leading lady to her senses and make her fit a tag to the play, nothing will. However, this plan was found successful by Mr. Marlow and the farce came to a delightful conclusion at a reasonably early hour.
     It need hardly be added that the rôle of
Sir Guy de Vere fits Mr. Wilson perfectly. It enables him to do all the funny things he used to do in comic operas and to add a lot that would not have gone well in music land without the aid of slippery day stairs and a chorus. It is equally unnecessary to add at this late day that Mr. Wilson is a capital actor, whose ability to amuse in a rattling farce is even better than that which he displayed when hampered by the painful calls to song. He delighted his audience last night and he ought to continue to give pleasure in this same rôle for many nights to come.
     The members of the company associated with Mr. Wilson are sufficiently clever to treat their parts without any disturbance of the general purpose of the play, but it would be base flattery to say that any one of them offered anything of special distinction, except perhaps Pauline Frederick, who was good to look at and who had the requisite amount of frigidity in her style. There was a dismal chorus which strove to sing some hunting music at the end of the first act and the beginning of the second, but maybe it will discover the pitch by to-night.


The Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) (21 August, 1907)


     The opening of the new dramatic year in the New York theaters is the subject of the following in The Sunday World:

. . .

     “When Francis Wilson begins his third season as one of Charles Frohman’s stars at the Garrick theater on Tuesday evening in ‘When Knights Were Bold’ it will be found that much of the ground has already been cut from under this new farce by ‘The Road to Yesterday,’ produced a year ago.
     “The similarity of ideas in the two plays is the more unfortunate because there is no reason to believe that Charles Marlowe, the author of the first, borrowed from Miss Beaulah M. Dix and Mrs. Annie Greenleaf Sutherland who evolved the second and older one. Apart from the central theme however the treatment of the two plays is entirely different. ‘The Road to Yesterday’ was a delicate romantic comedy, while ‘When Knights Were Bold’ will be found to be an extravagant, rollicking farce.
     “The play was acted in London last season with James Walsh in the leading character and a review of it has already appeared in The World. There is reason to believe that the farce will be improved by transplanting for Mr. Walsh carried it to excesses which Mr. Wilson, even with his tendencies toward horseplay, will be likely to avoid.
     “The characters are all modern in the first act, but they are suddenly whisked 700 years backyard and are presented in the most incongruous situations. The fun therefore is evolved from contrasts which are both natural and plausible.
     “Sir Guy de Vere, the hero, is a modest young man, who boasts a proud and ancient lineage. His family goes back to Peter the Hermit, and its chronicles resound with the clash of swords and glisten with the splendor of armor. He occupies the baronial quarters at Beechwood Towers, a castle that has been in the family for centuries, but its storied halls and galleries have no allurements for him. He prefers modern improvements and chases the fleeting hours with enjoyment that is of the unmistakable twentieth century brand.
     “His cousin, Lady Rowena Eggington, to whom he is supposed to be engaged, is rampantly romantic. She revels in the gloomy corners of the Tower and finds untold joy in reading of the knightly exploits of the De Veres. She tried vainly to interest Sir Guy in these matters. But Lady Rowena finds a willing listener to her romantic ravings in one Sir Brian Ballymore, who is a genteel adventurer, living by his wits.
     “Isaac Isaacson, who is rich, is anxious to capture Sir Guy for his daughter. He enters into a bargain with Sir Brian and a convenient clergyman to promote this purpose thus engendering the jealousy of Sir Brian by the amiable and otherwise indifferent Sir Guy. Things are in this state at the Towers when Sir Guy takes cold and endeavors to effect a cure of it by means of hot punches.
     “The punches put him to sleep and waft him back 700 years. He is set down in the midst of the nuns, knights, jesters and folk of mediaeval times in his tuxedo suit and in this incongruous guise is appealed to by Lady Rowena, who is now a mother superior of nuns, to save her from a clamorous and threatening Irish knight of the neighborhood who is at the gate of the castle ready to carry her off by force. After a touching appeal from Rowena, Sir Guy is prevailed upon to buckle on the proginal DeVere’s armor and sally forth as Rowena’s defender and champion. There is humor in this situation which ends in a complete victory for Sir Guy. A little later all hands return to the present, where Sir Guy’s love affairs are straightened out.
     “The company will include Miss Pauline Frederick as its leading actress and George Irving, Campbell Gollam, Clarence Handyside, Miss Edna Bruns, Miss Ruth Barry and Miss Margaret Gordon in some of the lesser characters.”



Lloyd’s Weekly News (25 August, 1907 - p.9)

     In view of the eccentricities of the weather many are hastening homewards earlier than usual. There is, in fact, a general sense of returning to duty just now particularly noticeable theatrically. Mr. Edmund Payne has come back quite quickly to be the leading spirit in “The Girls of Gottenberg.” That unsurpassably serious comedian, Mr. James Welch—his terror is the funniest thing ever seen—is back also at Wyndham’s to do justice to “When Knights were Bold,” and on Monday Mr. Gerald du Maurier reappears in “Brewster’s Millions,” which then has a new habitation at the Duke of York’s theatre in place of the Hicks. To mark this change appropriately a new one-act play, entitled “A Little Japanese Girl,” adapted from the Japanese by Miss Loie Fuller, the dancer, will be put on.



The New York Dramatic Mirror (31 August, 1907 - p.3)



Francis Wilson Has a Capital Opportunity—


Criterion—When Knights Were Bold.

Farce, in three acts, by Charles Marlow. Produced Aug. 20. (Charles Frohman, manager.)

Sir Guy de Vere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    Francis Wilson
Isaac Isaacson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     George Irving
Hon. Charles Widdecombe . . . . . . .    Augustin Duncan
Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D. . . . . . .     Clarence Handysides
Sir Brian Ballymote . . . . . . . . . . . . .    Campbell Gollan
Wittle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     Victor Benoit
Barker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Joseph Allen
Lady Rowena Eggington . . . . . . . . . .  Pauline Frederick
Lady Millicent Eggington . . . . . . . . . .   Edna Bruns
Lady Marjorie Eggington . . . . . . . . . .  Ruth Barry
Miss Isaacson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Margaret Gordon
Kate Pottleberry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Adelaide Wilson
Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave . . . . . . . . . . .   Florence Edney
Alice Barker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Elsa Garret
A Herald . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . James C. Robinson

     When Knights Were Bold inevitably suggests the induction to The Taming of the Shrew and The Road to Yesterday. This is said with no suggestion of plagiarism, for the Marlow play can stand squarely on the legs of its own originality. Whatever it may call to mind at points, the general impression which it leaves is of itself alone. It has been long since so jolly a farce has been seen upon the American stage. By the same token, not since the days of Erminie—if then—has Francis Wilson appeared to such advantage.
     There is a gentle satire behind When Knights Were Bold a satire upon that Chauvinism which masks under a mad ancestor worship and the cry for “the good old days.” Sir Guy de Vere has come into his estates and his title, which runs back to the time of Richard Cœur de Lion. But Sir Guy is a very easygoing individual and very modern. He doesn’t care a hang about his illustrious predecessors, and is far more interested in present reality. He is a creature of sunny disposition and absurdly democratic tendencies.
     This does not please his cousin, the Lady Rowena, tall, stately, and her mind thrilled with the deeds of seven hundred years ago. She is quite ashamed of Sir Guy, whom she knows is madly in love with her, and she lectures him and tries to inspire him with the dignity of his birth and station. Dignity would have been hard for Sir Guy under any circumstances; with a nasty wheezy cold in his head it becomes almost impossible. And Lady Rowena is much disgusted. She prefers the dashing Sir Brian Ballymote, whom every one can see is only a braggart.
     Such is the state of affairs when Sir Guy’s cold gets so much the better of him that he determines to imbibe freely of whisky and to take a foot bath. His head feels somewhat twice its size, he is heartily sick of the talk about the good old times, and he determines to sleep it all off. He does go to sleep, and in his sleep has a remarkable dream.
     He goes back 710 years and finds himself dubbed a hero, which is very nice. Only while he goes back in prose and Tuxedo, his friends and relatives go back in blank verse and mediæval costume. There is the Lady Rowena a novitiate in a convent. With the Mother Superior she flees to Sir Guy begging protection from his enemy, Sir Brian. Anon comes Sir Brian and challenges Sir Guy to combat for the Lady Rowena. Over his Tuxedo the doughty Sir Guy buckles his armor and goes forth to meet his enemy. He is not quite used to the weapons, and the armor impedes him. Off he strips it all, and with his fists fights Sir Brian. A few well directed blows to the solar plexus and the chin puts the armored adversary out of business. Then—he wakes up!
     The dream is still vivid with him the following morning. It suggests a happy thought. Why not keep up the idea, masquerade as a knight of old and give the crowd a touch of “the good old times?” He is taken for a madman, but his grotesqueries serve to establish the fact that he is brave and that Sir Brian is a cowardly impostor. In the end he wins the fair Lady Rowena.
     When Knights Were Bold, almost from start to finish is a scream. It must be confessed that the wit is dreadfully English, but its humor leaves nothing to be desired. There were ten curtain calls after the second act. and the audience was laughing so uproariously that you could scarcely hear the applause. There can be little doubt of the tremendous popularity of this piece.
     As was said before, Francis Wilson has never been seen to better advantage. Without “guying” the part, he fairly romped through it, playing it on broad, farcical lines, yet with a sincerity at times which carried conviction. His support was unusually good. Pauline Frederick as the haughty Lady Rowena looked beautiful and acted with considerable skill. As Miss Isaacson, Margaret Gordon gave a brilliant performance, which stood out because of its variety and artistic excellence. Clarence Handysides as Rev. Peter Pottleberry exhibited a finished, sympathetic portraiture. Campbell Gollan, always a splendid actor, had a hard part as Sir Brian and portrayed it in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. George Irving as Isaac Isaacson, Augustin Duncan as Widdecombe, Joseph Allen as Barker, Edna Bruns as Lady Millicent, Ruth Barry as Lady Marjorie and Elsa Garret as Alice Barker had small roles, but acted them well. The play was beautifully staged.



The Cheltenham Looker-On (14 September, 1907 - p.13)

The Opera House.


     A good play and a company of clever artistes surely should serve to draw crowded audiences to the Opera House this week, and we can most assuredly advise those who care for farcical drama and enjoy a hearty laugh to view the performance of “When Knights were Bold,” either this afternoon or evening.
     This successful farce, which enjoyed a lengthy run in London, was specially written for the popular comedian, Mr. James Welch, by “Charles Marlowe”—in private life Mrs. Robert Buchanan, who may be remembered by older playgoers under the stage name of “Miss Harriet Jay”—and it can be said with truth that its interpreters have been provided with ample opportunity for the display of their histrionic gifts, particularly Mr. Vincent Erne as the prosaic “Sir Guy de Vere,” and Miss Ernita Lascelles as the romantic “Lady Rowena Eggington.” It is upon these artistes that the success of the play mainly depends, and well they acquit themselves of their task. Yet it must be said that the company generally respond with credit to themselves to the requirements of their respective parts.
     The plot deals with the many worries to which the very modern and matter-of-fact Baronet is subjected by his fiancée, “Lady Rowena,” who, crazed with fantastic ideas of the chivalry and prowess of her own and “Sir Guy’s” ancestors at the time when knights were bold, expects her lover to deport himself after the style of his mediæval progenitors.
     There is a certain “Sir Brian Ballymote,” an adventurer, in the story, who, desirous of winning “Lady Rowena” for himself, becomes the Baronet’s rival, and presently, when the latter falls into a deep sleep—induced, it is suggested, by a potent draught in the shape of a liberal dose of hot Scotch—he dreams of the exploits of a twelfth century ancestor, of which he himself is the hero and “Sir Brian” the villain, and practically the rest of the play is a mixture of historic burlesque and old-time extravaganza.
     It is, however, clever, and, as already indicated, the whole company work untiringly, and, judging by the hilarity which greets their efforts, to the entire satisfaction of the audience. This is not to be surprised at, for certainly nothing better in the way of farce has been produced at the Opera House for a long time. In the end, of course, the villain is vanquished, and “Lady Rowena” bestows her hand on the valiant “Sir Guy.”
     In addition to the artistes already mentioned, Misses Thyrza Norman, Ethel Royale, and Phyllis Back, and several other ladies, together with Messrs. V. Sainbury, C. Clayton, Cory Thomas, C. Napier, R. Hunter, and H. Ransom, take leading parts.


[From The Theatre Magazine (October, 1907, Vol. VII, No. 80, p. 275).]


The Theatre Magazine (October, 1907, Vol. VII, No. 80, p. xvii.)

     GARRICK. “WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.” Farce in three acts by Charles Marlow. Produced August 20 with this cast:

Sir Guy de Vere, Francis Wilson; Isaac Isaacson, George Irving; Hon. Charles Widdecombe, Augustin Duncan; Rev. Peter Pottleberry, D.D., Clarence Handysides; Sir Brian Ballymote, Campbell Gollan; Wittle, Victor Benoit; Barker, Joseph Allen; Lady Rowena Eggington, Pauline Frederick; Lady Millicent Egginton, Edna Bruns; Lady Marjorie Eggington, Ruth Barry; Miss Isaacson, Margaret Gordon; Kate Pottleberry, Adelaide Wilson; Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave, Florence Edney; Alice Barker, Elsa Garret.

     No matter what his vehicle may be, Francis Wilson is always irresistibly funny. This comedian’s gift for provoking honest laughter would make the fortune of any manager and playwright. From this viewpoint his value is incalculable, for people don’t have to worry about the merits or demerits of the play. They go to see Wilson—that’s all. “When Knights Were Bold” does not afford the actor as good opportunities for clever fooling as other pieces he has appeared in, but it answers the purpose. Reminiscent in its idea and treatment of one of last season’s successes, “The Road to Yesterday,” it is full of the tricks and comic situations that Mr. Wilson knows how to play to perfection. Sir Guy de Vere, an up-to- date little English bounder whose tastes run to card-playing and horse-racing rather than to admiring the chivalrous exploits of his doughty ancestors, is pestered by his friends, who are constantly dinning into his ears his family’s proud past. Sir Guy does not care a rap about his ancestors, and his lack of family pride disgusts Lady Rowena, a romantically inclined young woman who is betrothed to him. Incidentally, Lady Rowena is run after for her money by Sir Brian Ballymote, a titled adventurer. Sir Guy gets his feet wet and is put to bed, when he dreams he is actually living in the Middle Ages. The prototypes of the people he knew in modern life all appear and no end of droll complications arise out of this fanciful idea. Lady Rowena, a bloodthirsty maiden, urges him to fight a mortal duel with Sir Brian, and this combat in armor is one of the funniest scenes in the piece, which is played with spirit throughout and furnishes capital entertainment.



The Daily Telegraph (17 October, 1907 - p.6)

     We look to the modern player quickly to “put a girdle round the earth.” Mr. Frank Thornton sails to-morrow week for Australia, and expects between Christmas and the summer of 1909 to have travelled a cheery distance of about 16,000 miles in the land of the kangaroo. As he has performed this trifling feat on five previous occasions, it is not surprising that he and his company—a round dozen all told—look forward to the trip with feelings of delight. Australia is very loyal to old friends and old favourites, and the comedian who gave us so much pleasure both at the Savoy and the Gaiety captured its heart many years ago, as he well deserved to do. Mr. Thornton takes out “When Knights Were Bold,” fully equipped—it needs a good deal of equipment—and will, of course, play in that uproarious farce the character in which Mr. James Welch has gained such success. A special “send off” dinner is to be given the voyager by the Savage Club on Saturday evening.



Daily Mail (30 October, 1907)

Court and Society.

     The Queen, the Queen of Norway, the Princess of Wales, and Princess Victoria paid a visit to Wyndham’s Theatre last night to witness “When Knights Were Bold,” in which Mr. James Welch presents such a laughable figure. The royal party, who occupied two boxes, arrived soon after nine o’clock. Prince Francis of Teck sat with his sister and the Queen in the box next to the stage. All the royal ladies were in black and white except the Queen of Norway, who wore a lovely dress of pink and black gauze with a sparkling wreath in her hair. Queen Alexandra had a jetted dog-collar and great solitaire diamond ear-rings.


[Miss Vivienne West in When Knights Were Bold from The Bystander (27 November, 1907).]


The Stage (21 November, 1907 - p.18)


     Having most successfully kept its place in the bill at Wyndham’s since its London production there on January 29, Harriett Jay’s mirth-provoking and emphatically ludicrous “Ivanhoe” travesty, When Knights Were Bold, triumphantly reached its 300th performance on Thursday, November 14, when once more a crowded and well satisfied audience laughed unrestrainedly at the comical work of Mr. James Welch, capitally supported by Miss Audrey Ford, Mr. Charles Weir, Mr. Henry J. Ford, Miss Helen Palgrave, and the rest. Mr. Welch, having obviously a free hand, makes a funnier figure than ever of that “heir of the ages,” Sir Guy De Vere. The bewilderment of that essentially modern and commonplace aristocrat, when, in Dreamland, transported back 710 years, he finds himself confronted with unfamiliar manners, dress, speech, and so on, is shown in fine contrast to the chivalrous spirit inherited by Sir Guy from his ancestors, whose valour is extolled by Lady Rowena in mock-heroic passages, declaimed in admirable fashion by Miss Audrey Ford. Excellent work is still done by Mr. H. J. Ford, a most amusing Widdicombe; Mr. Arthur Grenville, a plausible Isaacson; Mr. Weir, an effectively blustering Sir Brian; Miss Daisy Cordell, a winsome Sarah; Messrs. Guy Lane, G. F. Tully, & Gordon Tomkins; Miss Palgrave, a stately Mrs. Waldegrave; and the other members of Mr. Welch’s company’ The first piece at Wyndham’s is still W. W. Jacobs and Herbert C. Sargent’s effective little piece The Boatswain’s Mate, produced on April 15. In this Miss Tasco Page has replaced Miss Ethel Hollingshead as Mrs. Waters, the attractive young widowed landlady of “The Beehive,” Mr. W. E. Richardson and Mr. Tully re-appearing with the former success as the ex-boatswain and ex-soldier.


[A postcard (posted on November 22nd, 1907) featuring a scene from When Knights Were Bold.
For a larger version click the picture. For the message on the back, click here.]


The Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand) (7 December, 1907 - p.15)

     Mr. Frank Thornton with a company of twelve artists engaged in England has arrived in Australia. This favourite comedian will tour Australia under the direction of Mr. Edwin Geach for 44 weeks, visiting every State except Queensland. His principal attraction will be the new farcical comedy, “When Knights were Bold,” just now the reigning farcical success in Londan and New York. The London Daily Telegraph gives Mr. Thornton a very cordial send-off paragraph in “Drama of the Day,” remarking that the modern player is expected quickly to “put a girdle round the earth,” and that during next year the traveller hopes to cover a distance of about 16,000 miles in the land of the kangaroo—a feat he has performed on five previous occasions. “Australia is very loyal to old friends and old favourites, and the comedian who gave us so much pleasure both at the Savoy and the Gaiety, captured its heart many years ago, as he well deserved to do. Mr. Thornton takes out “When Knights Were Bold,” fully equipped—it needs a good deal of equipment—and will, of course, play in that uproarious farce the character in which Mr. James Welch has gained such success. A special ‘send off’ dinner is to be given the voyager by the Savage Club on Saturday evening.” Mr. Thornton opens at the Sydney Criterion on 21st December.



The Sydney Morning Herald (23 December, 1907 - p.3)


     After an absence from Sydney of about four years Mr. Frank Thornton opened a season at the Criterion Theatre on Saturday evening with his new London Comedy Company, in Charles Marlowe’s farcical comedy “When Knights Were Bold.” There was an excellent house, and if first impressions may be relied upon the piece should have a prosperous run. The dialogue is bright and diverting, and though the first act drags somewhat, ample food for laughter is subsequently provided. In fact many of the incidents provoked roars of merriment, and it is probable that Mr. Thornton has submitted nothing funnier here since the time when “Charley’s Aunt” was staged. “When Knights were Bold” is just about as extravagant; but its very absurdity effects the object aimed at, which is to lift the audience out of the worries of strenuous business, and enable them to revel for a time in an atmosphere where fun and frivolity reign supreme. Mr. Thornton and the leading members of his company were received with the usual cordiality, and the ____ gift to the ladies of handsome flowers after the last act was no doubt intended as a substantial indication of appreciation.
     The idea hit upon by the author of “When Knights Were Bold” is a novel one. Sir Guy de Vere is a modern baronet who takes life as he finds it, and has no “beastly pride” in the doughty deeds of ancestors who acquired property by the simple process of forcibly taking it from someone else. He indulges in high society slang, and as long as his friends and relatives are having a “jolly good time” he eschews the ancestral tree, and plays the popular host to perfection. Lady Rowena Eggington, on whom his affections are fixed, is, however, a thorough Lady Vere de Vere, and being of a romantic disposition she has dipped deeply into twelfth century history. In and out of season she reproaches Sir Guy for his indifference to the memory and example of his mighty forbears, and with impassioned eloquence reminds him of the “days of old,'” when armour-clad Sir Guys made their enemies “bite the dust.” The modern scion of a haughty house says it’s all “tommy rot,” and reminds his cousin that biting the dust affords no nutriment to the biter; and what with the physical worry engendered by a cold in the head and the mental chaos into which his romantic cousin drives him, he imbibes too much whisky, and falls asleep in the knight’s room at Beechwood Towers.
     With the fumes of “strong Scotch” in his head and hot water and mustard at his feet he dreams fantastic visions, in which the years roll back to 1196, and the baronet of 1906 finds himself standing in modern evening dress on the ancient battlements of Beechwood Towers, surrounded by the courtiers and servitors of the period. Among them he recognises all the friends, relatives, and servants who have been with him on the previous day, but their quaint medieval costumes suggest to him that they are really the ancient representatives of modern families. This idea is strengthened in witnessing the consternation created when he strikes a wax vest, and lights a cigarette. It is easy to conceive what laughter provoking situations may be evolved from the clashing of present day manners, costumes, and speech with those of the middle ages. The author of “When Knights Were Bold” has made full use of the material. At the close of the second act the 12th century Rowan, who is an inmate of an Abbey hard by the castle, appeals to Sir Guy for protection against Sir Brian Ballymote, an Irish raider, and, donning his ancestor’s armour, which fits him nowhere, he tackles the enemy and finally defeats him—not with the sword but with fists. In the last act the hero wakes from his dream, but not having recovered from the frenzy of battle he gives his guests a lively half hour. He, however, becomes calm when he has driven Sir Brian his modern rival, from the ancestral halls, and secured the affection of Rowena.
     Mr. Frank Thornton, as Sir Guy de Vere, naturally made the most of a capital part, and his interpretation of the young baronet was as full of spirit and humour as in the “days of old,” when theatre-goers screamed at the vagaries of “Charley’s Aunt.” Miss Belle Donaldson was graceful and dignified as the romantic Lady Rowena, and the Misses Clare Manifield (Lady Millicent), Lily Willis (Lady Marjorie), Miss Beatrice Bramah (Miss Isaacson), and other ladies of the company also did good work. Mr. Charles Stone and Mr. Harry Ashford came out prominently as Hon. Charles Widdicombe, and the Rev. Peter Pottleberry respectively, and Mr .Douglas Hamilton was effective as Isaac Isaacson. Mr. Keppel Stephenson gave a clever sketch of Sir Brian. Mr. Charles Whaite has furnished some delightful scenery for the piece, and “The Battlements,” from which a charming perspective is obtained of the village and winding river below, was duly appreciated as an artistic picture. The Vice-Regal orchestra, under the direction of Mr. L. de Groen, furnished an enjoyable selection during the evening. The first special matinee of “When Knights Were Bold” will be given on Boxing Day. The piece is preceded by a pretty comedietta by Charles Windermere, entitled “Clause 6,” capitally played by Miss Clare Manifield and Mr. Templer Powell.


Daily Express (12 February, 1908 - p.7)

     Those of us who thought Mrs. Russ Whytal was not quite at her best on Saturday will feel sorry to learn that this fine actress was suffering greatly all through the performance of “The Woman of Kronstadt” at the Garrick. “I was badly handicapped,” she says, “by laryngitis, and was eaten up by fever. I was, indeed, very ill, and scarcely knew how to get through.
     “But, apart from this, I fear there is a certain distrust nowadays of the word ‘drama.’ Kronstadt is pure melodrama, and has to be played, as our French friends say, ‘ with intention.’ You must hand it out—there must be no reserve about the business. Personally, I am, of course, a comedienne—but melodrama must be differently handled.”
     Is Mrs. Whytal right? Have we forgotten how to be serious in the theatre? Mr. James Welch thinks so. He is quite happy with the public, for “When Knights were Bold” is up against its fourth “century”; but here is his epigram: “The theatre-goer remains, but the playgoer is gone. I asked a playgoer the other day if he’d seen Harry Irving’s ‘Hamlet.’ ‘“Hamlet,”’ said the man, ‘ I saw “Hamlet” years ago.’ You see, there is no enthusiasm to see the masterpiece again. It’s a bad business for us all.”



The Sketch (12 February, 1908 - p.15)


Black and White (15 February, 1908)


Mr. James Welch continues to ddelight playgoers with Charles Marlowe’s amusing travesty of the “good old times.” “When Knights were Bold” now claims the longest run in London and in the words of the celebrated advertisement of “Charley’s Aunt” may be “still running” a year hence.



The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Indiana) (8 March, 1908 - p.12)



     Mounted in picturesque style and admirably played by Francis Wilson, the popular comedian, and a very strong company, amusement seekers have much to look forward to in the coming engagement of Mr. Wilson in Charles Marlowe’s farce, “When Knights Were Bold,” which he is presenting the present season under the direction of Charles Frohman. The author is said to have been most happy in his conception of this laughing play, for it has proved the greatest mirth provoking success of the present year, and Mr. Wilson presented it for five months earlier in the season on Broadway, New York. The numerous humorous complications brought about by taking the central figure, an absolutely modern young man, a trifle back over 700 years, the days of his ancestors, offer the comedian rare opportunity for fun making, of which he takes the utmost advantage. A company of forty players support Mr. Wilson in this play at the Majestic March 17.


[From an advert for the Majestic Theatre in The Fort Wayne Daily News (11 March, 1908).]


The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (14 March, 1908 - p.19)


The Daily Telegraph (19 March, 1908 - p.13)


     The entertainment at Wyndham’s certainly loses nothing in respect of gaiety by the latest addition to it. “The Changeling,” produced last night in front of “When Knights Were Bold,” is an excellent piece of fooling. The fact that it bears the name of Mr. W. W. Jacobs, who has been assisted by Mr. H. C. Sargent in the congenial task of turning one of his own short stories to stage account, is alone a sufficient guarantee for this. The original tale appeared some two years ago in the “Strand Magazine,” and doubtless its purport is still remembered by most of Mr. Jacobs’s admirers. It tells of the trick devised by the ready-witted Ted Stokes to deceive the indignant spouse of his chum, George Henshaw, into the belief that, despite the evidence of her own eyes, it was not her volatile husband whom she had seen vigorously flirting with another woman on the top of a passing omnibus. To effect this purpose it is arranged by the conspirators that Henshaw shall be disguised as his own “double,” a certain Alfred Bell, supposed to hail from Scotland, and in that character be presented to Mrs. Henshaw. Unfortunately, the plot is discovered by the worthy lady, who proceeds to turn the tables upon the scheming couple in the most amusing fashion. In this instance an unusually quaint idea is developed by means of really witty dialogue, which serves to keep the listener on the broad grin almost from start to finish. We say “almost,” for, as it happens, the fun is towards the end drawn out to, perhaps, rather too fine a point. Luckily, the dénouement is of so diverting a nature as to bring the curtain down on a peal of laughter. Excellent acting contributed to the success of the trifle. Of the ingenious Ted Stokes, Mr. George F. Tully, gave an irresistible study, full of the broadest humour, and touched with a fine sense of observation. Altogether admirable, too, were Mr. H. J. Manning as Henshaw and Miss Helen Palgrave as his resourceful wife. What with the new first piece and “When Knights Were Bold,” the present programme at Wyndham’s provides a rich feast of merriment from first to last.



Programme from the Mason Opera House, Los Angeles, for When Knights Were Bold, starring Francis Wilson, commencing Monday, May 4th, 1908:

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Lloyd’s Weekly News (31 May, 1908 - p.10)

     “Lady Frederick” reaches its 250th performance on Wednesday, June 3, and, as a memento of the occasion, a souvenir, consisting of a signed photograph of Miss Ethel Irving from the original painting by F. Howard Michael, will be presented to each member of the audience at the Criterion. There will also be produced on the same evening a new one- act play, entitled, “A Lucky Spill,” in which Miss Elaine Inescort will appear. On Thursday Mr. James Welch will give the 500th representation of the screaming farce, “When Knights were Bold,” at Wyndham’s. The last representation of “Toddles” will be given at the Playhouse on Friday, and Mr. Cyril Maude hopes to be able to reopen his theatre six days later with the new naval comedy, “The Flag Lieutenant,” the rehearsals of which have been in full swing during the past fortnight.



The Otago Witness (New Zealand) (24 June,1908 - p.76)

     The new play, “When Knights Were Bold,” which Mr Frank Thornton stages at His Majesty’s Theatre on Friday, the 26th inst., is considered one of the greatest successes of modern times. It enjoys a run of over 600 nights (consecutively) in London, and shows no sign of waning. It ranks amongst the humorous absurdities which the theatre-going public love so well, as from the moment of curtain rise to final fall its humour never once falters. It is a dream play, full of fun and merriment, and the Australian season has been very successful. Mr Thornton brings with him an entirely new company of English artists, and during his five nights’ season in Dunedin produces “When Knights Were Bold” for Friday, Saturday, and Monday. On Tuesday, “Facing the Music”; and Wednesday, when he gives his farewell performance in Dunedin, “The Private Secretary,” appearing in his original character of the Rev. Mr Spalding, which made his name world- famous.



The Otago Witness (New Zealand) (1 July,1908 - p.69)



     Good comedy is always welcome, and not least so when it means the reappearance on the local stage of so popular an actor as Mr Frank Thornton, whom recollection associates for playgoers with many a hearty laugh in many a good production in the past. The new comedy introduced to Dunedin by Mr Thornton and his company on June 26 at His Majesty’s Theatre was “When Knights Were Bold,” by Charles Marlow, of which report had spoken in terms such as to make its advent anticipated with interest. Anticipation has no cause to be disappointed. The comedy is distinctly a good one. It possesses in the first instance the invaluable advantage of being based on a happy and novel idea, and apart from that it is well written and is really humorous. The dialogue is something better than the undiluted inanities too often holding undisturbed possession of modern comedy; and the situations, while farcical enough in character at times to satisfy even a bitter opponent of comic subtlety, do not wantonly transform the ridiculous into pure burlesque. The motif of the comedy is obviously one rich in humorous suggestions. Everyone knows that the so-called good old times must have really been very bad old times. In “When Knights Were Bold” the hero is Sir Guy de Vere, a rather simple-minded and very modern young man who possesses a castle, and bears with a somewhat bad grace the burden of being the representative of a great name and of the knowledge that he has to sustain the reputation of numerous great ancestors, of whom his friends, shocked at his lack of dignity, are constantly reminding him. In the first act the audience is introduced to a little house party at Beechwood Towers, the ancestral home of Sir Guy, and to a pretty little comedy the gist of which consists in the fact that Sir Guy and his guest Sir Brian Balymote are both suitors for the hand of the fair Lady Rowena Eggington, and in the fact that Sir Guy is getting all the worst of the luck, inasmuch as the Lady Rowena, essentially a haughty and romantic damsel, is favourably impressed with the valiant talk of Sir Brian, who claims to be descended directly from the kings of Ireland, and satisfies her idea as to the behaviour of one who has ancestors to live up to. As the curtain falls on the first act Sir Guy can be heard relapsing into a very bad dream; and the second act, the most broadly amusing in the comedy, carries the scene back some seven hundred years to the days of the great Richard Cœur de Lion, and transforms Sir Guy, to his own unspeakable amazement, into the most warlike and celebrated of his own great ancestors—albeit still clad in incongruous modern garb. By a happy inspiration all the characters introduced in the first act likewise go back to a previous incarnation, the result being extremely interesting and ludicrous. As his own great forefather Sir Guy does doughty deeds upon the battlements of his ancestral keep, and in particular meets a prehistoric Sir Brian Ballymote in mortal combat to see to whom shall fall the prize of a prehistoric Lady Rowena. Needless to say, Sir Guy, with the advantage of unforgotten modern experience, is victorious after a duel between mail-clad warriors of quite irresistible drollery. In the last act an awakened Sir Guy, feigning to be in a frenzy, makes the “good old times” the burden of such a to-do that all are glad to hear the last of them, and, what is more important, he contrives to make Sir Brian, who is an adventurer, cut a far from heroic figure, with the result that the Lady Rowena exercises the feminine privilege of changing her mind. Mr Thornton has the support of a strong company. As Sir Guy de Vere, Mr Thornton has himself a part giving him admirable scope for the exercise of his abilities as a comedian, and his impersonation was throughout to a degree amusing, the humour not being, however, unduly forced. Particularly effective was Mr Thornton in the last act, where Sir Guy, to the consternation of all around him, carries on in the manner and language of a twelfth century baron, with a ludicrous assumption of out-of-place dignity. The other parts in the cast were well sustained, without exception. Miss Belle Donaldson impersonated the Lady Rowena effectively, and has an excellent stage presence. Mr Douglas Hamilton, as Isaac Isaacson, made quite the most of the part of an unscrupulous financier, and Mr Keppel Stephenson was imposing and natural in the somewhat aggressive role of Sir Brian. Mr Charles Stone imparted some touches of real humour into his presentment of the part of the Hon. Charles Widdicombe, who has a penchant for conundrums, having in an earlier incarnation been a jester, and Mr Temple Powell, as Wittle, and Mr Charles Windermere, as Barker, impersonated respectively the youthful and venerable servitors of Sir Guy in a thoroughly capable fashion. Miss Clare Manifield, as Miss Isaacson, and Miss Harriet Trench, as the Hon. Mrs Waldegrave, made the most of parts giving limited opportunities, and the other lady members of the company met the demands made upon them most adequately. “When Knights were Bold” affords opportunity for some effective scenic display, and the lavishness of the staging is not one of the least of its merits. A scene of particularly brilliant colouring is presented in the second act, with its depictions of old-time costumes. As to the reception of the comedy, it was demonstratively appreciative, the audience finding the appeal made to its sense of the humorous and ludicrous quite irresistible. As a curtain-raiser, a rather taking comedietta entitled “Clause Six” was produced, the parts in which were capably taken by Mr Temple Powell and Miss Claire Manifield. A good orchestra contributes the necessary music.



The Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand) (11 July, 1908 - p.11)

     Mr. Frank Thornton will commence his farewell season in Wellington next Thursday, under the direction of Mr. Edwin Geach in “When Knights Were Bold,” which is, notwithstanding its title, a modern play, with an exceptionally clever plot and an admirably crisp dialogue, and is interpreted by a very capable company of London artists whom Mr. Thornton brought from England to support him. Commenting on the play, a Melbourne contemporary says: “Mr. Thornton as Sir Guy de Vere practically holds the stage from curtain to fall, and the undoubted success of “When Knights Were Bold” must be attributed to his clever impersonation. Voice, facial expression, droll mannerism, and nimble movement all aid effectively in emphasising the points of his clever work. He is so thoroughly good all through that his previous reputation was quite unnecessary as an aid to the genuine success undeniably attained.” The main attraction is preceded by a charming one-act comedietta by Charles Windermere, entitled “Clause Six.”



The Mercury (11 July, 1908 - p.4)

     I observe that Mr. James Welch advertises the run of “When Knights were Bold” at Wyndham’s as “the longest run this century.” This is an impressive announcement, at first sight, but not quite so impressive when one reflects that the century is not yet very far advanced. “When Knights were Bold” is an excellent play of its kind, and it has scored a remarkable success, upon which Mr. Welch is to be congratulated, but I venture to predict that as regards “longest run,” it will not approach that of two plays in the last century— “Our Boys” and “Charley’s Aunt.”



The Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand) (17 July, 1908 - p.2)




     Laughter in odd individual bursts, laughter in chorus, laughter in all sorts and sizes, rang out at the Opera House last night. “When Knights Were Bold,” staged by the Thornton Comedy Company, proved to be a play which had little respect for the people’s ribs; it tickled them all the time. It is a plot which recalls Mark Twain’s “Yankee at the Court of King Arthur,” and other conceits which have whisked moderns, with their modern ideas and paraphernalia, back to ancient times, but the treatment is new. The action opens in the Knights’ Room, Beechwood Towers, soon after Sir Guy de Vere has inherited the ancient castle and estates. He had noble ancestors “in days of old, when knights were bold,” and the war clothing was very stiff and chilly in winter time, but he himself is very modern, fond of modern whisky and soda and modern slang, to the great disgust of his romantic cousin, the Lady Rowena, who dotes upon the brave days of old. She is an ardent yearner for the snows of yesterday, and cannot understand why Guy prefers the whisky of to-day. Incidentally he has a cold in the head, which helps the whisky and the slang to put spots on the halo of romance which Rowena desires to throw upon the castle. Incidentally, a wealthy Jew, Isaacson, desires Guy (who loves Rowena) to marry the Jew’s daughter, and invokes the aid of an Irishman, Sir Bryan Ballymote, to court Rowena, and talk “days of old” to her ceaselessly. Driven to the flask by Rowena’s merciless whip of other days, Guy has a weird dream. He is transported to the year 1196, and sees all his friends and servants dressed in the style of the Richard I. period, and talking the language of that remote day as well as the author, Mr. Charles Marlowe, will permit them. As he stands on the battlements and lights his last cigarette he severely frightens his retainers, and has a few very droll adventures. When he awakens he has a brilliant idea to continue the old days business in order to give Rowena and others a more than sufficient feast of high romance. Armed with a dressing-gown and a sword longer than himself he makes a pother which considerably upsets the household, incidentally sets the seal of cowardice upon Sir Bryan, and wins the girl, comfortably. She confesses that her interest in the dead and buried centuries is no more. There are various little side lines in the play all nicely knotted up with the leading string. The dialogue is bright; the comicalities come along freely and easily; one can laugh unashamedly.
     Mr. Frank Thornton was required to carry a heavy load, even when he was out of the armour, in which, he said, he “rattled like the last sardine in the tin.” The cold in the head was something requiring great strength, but Mr. Thornton turned it to good account. In voice and antic he was vivid, genuinely funny, and he became “better and better as the play grew older.” Miss Belle Donaldson was a clever Lady Rowena. A very agreeable representation of a dean, not too celestial to disdain a game of cards, was given by Mr. Harry Ashford. Mr. Keppel Stephenson was a weak Sir Bryan; he had none of the Irishman (stage or otherwise) in his composition. Mr. Charles Stone, who is expected to be a fool, rather failed where so many can succeed when they are not expected to play the part. Minor roles were fairly well filled by Miss Harriet Trench, Miss Lily Willis, Mr. Templer Powell, Mr. Douglas Hamilton, and other members of the company.
     “That Brute Simmons” was a merry curtain-raiser. Mrs. Simmons is a henpecker sufficiently formidable to make her second husband put up with a shilling a week as pocket-money, but he finds salvation in the unexpected appearance of No. 1, who was supposed to be drowned, and they both escape. Miss Harriet Trench made an admirable shrew, and the husband parts were tolerably well born by Mr. Douglas Hamilton and Mr. Harry Ashford.
     “When Knights were Bold” will be reproduced to-night.



The New Zealand Free Lance (25 July, 1908 - p.14)

     The Frank Thornton Company have been doing exceptionally fine work during the run of their farewell visit. The company opened with Charles Marlowe’s recent London success, “When Knights Were Bold.” It marked the first appearance in Wellington of Mr. Frank Thornton’s new English Comedy Company. “When Knights Were Bold” is a distinctly humorous and ludicrous piece. Much of the action of the play represents the incidents of a dream, in which to the somnolent one the clock is put back a trifle of 710 years, and he finds himself taking an active part in events which are supposed to have occurred during the stirring times of Richard Coeur de Lion.
     The play throughout is brimful of merriment. The dialogue is crisp when it is not brightly epigrammatic; the situations are amusing, and there is never a dull moment. Mr. Thornton is on the stage during the whole piece, and takes the prominent part in every scene, yet it cannot be called a one-man play. The characters of Isaac Isaacson (Mr. D. Hamilton), the Hon. Charles Widdicombe (Mr Charles Stone), the Rev. Peter Pottleberry (Mr. Harry Ashford), Lady Rowena (Miss Belle Donaldson), and Miss Isaacson (Miss C. Manifield) are all well drawn, and were worthily represented by the several artists named. The piece is one of the cleverest comedies that have been placed before the Wellington public of late years.
     The stage setting in the second act is a masterpiece of the scenic artist’s skill. The turrets and battlements of Beechwood Towers are shown in the foreground, and stretching away to the sky-line is one of the prettiest landscapes that could be imagined. The stage grouping is in character with the setting, and presents a very pleasing aspect.



Black and White (25 July, 1908 - p.106)

WITH a view to enabling the French and German visitors to Wyndham’s Theatre to follow more closely the story of that extraordinarily successful farce, When Knights Were Bold, the management have had inserted in the programmes a synopsis of the play in both the German and French languages. This innovation should prove popular with the large number of foreign visitors now in the metropolis.



The Daily Telegraph (20 October, 1908 - p.9)


     Those who desire a delightful evening’s fun should go and see Mr. James Welch and his company act “When Knights Were Bold,” at the Kennington Theatre. If they have already seen this capital little play, as politicians say, in another place, they will doubtless be willing to witness it again in such an accessible and convenient locality, and if they have not then there is all the more treat in store for them. The story, as all playgoers know by this time, is based on the yearning of a young man lately come into a fortune and a baronial hall for a return to the good old time when gallant knights rode about rescuing beauty in distress, and life, at all events as represented by the ballad makers, was much more picturesque than it is at present. The young baron dozes amongst his carved oak and suits of armour, and wakes to find himself under the circumstances he imagined. He, however, is not altered in himself, and brings into a circle of knights in armour and quaintly-garbed ladies the needs and ideas of twentieth-century existence. It need not be said what fun Mr. James Welch, who takes the principal part of Sir Guy de Vere, extracts from this situation. He is ably helped by his company, Mr. George Desmond as the Hon. Charles Widdicombe, Mr. Guy Lane as the Rev. Peter Pottlebury, and Miss Audrey Ford as Lady Rowena Eggington all going merry as a marriage bell. The present piece is to continue at the Kennington for six nights only, a fact of which dwellers in the Southern suburbs should make particular note. It is to be followed by “The Thief,” and later on, namely on Nov. 9, by Miss Ellaline Terriss, Mr. Seymour Hicks, and their company in “The Gay Gordons,” also for six days only. On the 27th of the present month a grand matinée concert, in aid of the Mayor of Southwark’s Underfed School Children’s Fund, is to be held at the theatre, by the kindness of Mr. Robert Arthur.



Black and White (12 December, 1908 - p.800)


The Galveston Daily News (Texas) (3 February, 1909 - p.5)


Francis Wilson—“When Knights Were Bold.”

     Francis Wilson has for years—just how many would perhaps be unkind to enumerate—been recognized as one of the foremost laugh producers on the American stage. By dint of hard work in his vehicle this year, “When Knights Were Bold,” he continues, with the support of a good company, to maintain that position. While there are few situations bringing forth “roars of laughter,” the piece as handled by Mr. Wilson and his able company abounds in round after round of good, hearty laughter.
     As Sir Guy de Vere Mr. Wilson produces much cause for merriment, and his reception last evening at the Grand was a most flattering one. The house was comfortably filled with a demonstrative audience and applause was not stinted. “When Knights Were Bold” is perhaps a bit of nonsense. But what of it? It is a good play with Mr. Wilson as the “Knight for a night.”
     There is some singing in “When Knights Were Bold,” just enough to remind one of Francis Wilson in comic opera days. The voices are well blended and in keeping with the theme of the play the music is good.
     Sir Guy de Vere, a rollicking good fellow, has just come into the old family estate, Beechwood Towers, in England. His romantic young cousin, Lady Rowena, lives in the days of the past, when her ancestors wore armor and pulled off valiant stunts. She loved to tell of the fighting of a knight for a lady fair who was penned in by some dragon and all that sort of thing, and she looked down somewhat upon Sir Guy, her childhood playmate, because he was too modern and cared nothing for knights, or, as she put it, “the good old days.”
     They have a house party and among those present is Isaac Isaacson, a broker, and his fair daughter, Miss Isaacson. Mr. Isaacson brings as his guest to the house party, Sir Bryan Ballymote. The object of the broker is to marry his daughter to Sir Guy, using Sir Bryan to draw Lady Rowena away from her cousin. Perhaps the plan would all have succeeded but for the fact that Sir Guy had a bad, a very bad, cold, and drank a few too many whiskies and hot water and went to sleep and had a dream—a wonderful one.
     In the second act Sir Guy is going through all the pleasures of the “good old days.” He is 710 years back behind the times. In his Twentieth Century clothes he mingles as Sir Guy with the people of his court in the time of Richard I. And he has an awful time of it.
     He fights Sir Guy in mortal combat, much to the joy of his fair cousin, who is, of course, in the dream—if not in the same character—and proves to her and himself that he is “a manly man.” After rather unusual bouts he beats Sir Guy and wins his fair cousin—but it is all in the dream.
     He strikes a match and instantly all fall down in loud lamentations, fearful of him, and calling him a magician. He lights a cigarette, and as the smoke passes from his nostrils they again fall down in loud lamentations. The situations are good throughout the act and are capably handled not only by Mr. Wilson, but by John E. Trevor, as Wittle, his manservant, and Edna Bruns as Lady Rowena.
     In the third act, back to the knight’s room of the first act. Sir Guy awakes. He retains fresh in his memory, however, the vivid dream and plays havoc with the feelings of his guests by clinging to the idea that he is still going through the sequences of his dream.
     While in this state the ladies are assembled in the room in fear and trembling, when Sir Guy enters and Lady Rowena bearing in mind his boasts of knightly valor, calls upon him to protect them. He takes several looks at Sir Guy and beats a hasty retreat.
     It happens suddenly, but Sir Guy comes to himself and realizes his dream. Then he decides to play crazy in order to rid himself of his unwelcome guests, Sir Bryan and Mr. Isaac. While playing cards the evening preceding Hon. Charles Widdercombe has detected Sir Bryan cheating. He exposes him and Mr. Isaac departs with his hireling.
     Sir Guy and the fair Lady Rowena, of course, straighten out at once their little differences and all ends well.
     At the end of the second act nothing but a little talk from Mr. Wilson would do the audience, so, after bowing with members of his company four or five times in response to applause, Mr. Wilson stepped to the footlights. A characteristic curtain talk was made and it pleased the house. He said it greatly pleased him to be called forth, so all were pleased.
     Without exception the cast of characters is excellent. Those supporting Mr. Wilson are: George Irving, Augustin Duncan, Clarence Handyside, John E. Trevor, Victor Benoit, F. Owen Baxter, Edna Bruns, Margherita Sargent, Edith Lennox, Helene Montrose, Bertha Mann, Blanche Sharpe and Adelaide Wilson.
     “The Gingerbread Man” is the attraction at the Grand tonight.



The Washington Herald (18 April, 1909 - p.4)

“When Knights Were Bold.”

     Fitting comedians with stellar vehicles is about as difficult a proposition as confronts the theatrical manager of to-day. Therefore, Charles Frohman feels that more than ordinary success crowned his efforts when he selected for Francis Wilson’s use the farce, which was already in its first year of success in London, “When Knights Were Bold.” The author of this amusing satire is Charles Marlow (Harriet Jay), and the author’s theme is the pride of ancestry indulged in by so many people at the present time. While the scenes of “When Knights Were Bold” are all English, the locale might be anywhere, for the satire would fit one locality as well as another. And delightfully sharp satire it is said to be, too, the little shafts being perfectly aimed and deftly shot. As a stellar vehicle for the popular comedian, it is said on every hand that it is the best play he has had in many years, in fact, not since he gave up the comic opera stage, has he found a part so thoroughly suited to his delightful personality or one which offers him so many opportunities. Mr. Wilson is on the stage practically all of the time, and when he is there the fun never for a single moment ceases.
     Mr. Frohman has surrounded Francis Wilson with an exceptionally large and well-balanced company, and has given the play two very handsome settings. A feature of the performance are two big choral numbers, one at the end of the first and the other at the beginning of the second acts. “When Knights Were Bold” comes to the New National Theatre to- morrow evening for a week’s engagement. There will be but one matinee—Saturday.



The Washington Herald (20 April, 1909 - p.11)


“When Knights Were Bold.”

     “When Knights Were Bold,” Francis Wilson’s latest play, is vastly different from the class of vehicle with which his name is usually associated. It might, without undue stretch of the term, be called a satirical comedy; at least it cannot be dismissed with the statement that it is a mere frame upon which to hang horseplay or eccentric comedy. It has a distinct object in view, which is to show that ancestor worship can be carried so far as to make it extremely ridiculous. Of  course, the peculiar qualities of Mr. Wilson predominate in the comedy, but he is at his very best, and in many episodes shows himself to be a straight comedian of skill, who does not have to depend entirely on horseplay or absurdity of costume.
     The play opens at Beechwood Towers, an ancient baronial residence, with Sir Guy De Vere, lately come into the title and property, entertaining a number of guests, including his cousin, the Lady Rowena, with whom he is in love; Mr. Isaac Isaacson, a Jewish broker, who is striving to marry his daughter to Sir Guy, and has enlisted the services of Sir Bryan Ballymote, Irish adventurer, to win Lady Rowena, and leave the field clear for his daughter’s advance on the ancient title. Now this Sir Guy has a long line of fierce and warlike ancestors behind him, but he does not inherit any of their bloodthirsty proclivities. He is, in fact, a mild-mannered young man, with twentieth century leanings somewhat of the silly ass variety, and is very much bored by the persistence of his relatives, particularly his cousin, the latter being considerably attracted by the boasting of Sir Bryan.
     Sir Guy, falling asleep in the “Knights’ Chamber,” goes a-dreaming, and is transported back 700 years, to the time of Richard of the Lion Heart, and re-enacts some of the scenes, in which his ancestor was supposed to have participated, all the while clothed in a modern tuxedo suit. He slays Sir Bryan in single combat for love of Lady Rowena; that is, he beats him to death with hi fists and feet after the conventional weapons of the times have failed, and about that time wakes up, but resolves to teach everybody a lesson. He feigns madness, exposes Sir Bryan, who shows himself to be a coward, as a bog trotting adventurer and card sharp, and wins Lady Rowena, who realizes that she has carried the ancestor idea too far. The whole thing is interesting, and at times hilariously funny, while a vein of romanticism is introduced in the second act, which is the period of the dream, showing the battlements of the feudal time, with a party returning from the hunt, and the effective rendition of appropriate song.
     While the action centers around Mr. Wilson in the make-up of the cast, still there are a number of other portrayals of interest, and all are good. Mr. Frederick Beane gets plenty of comedy out of the role of Hon. Charles Widdercombe, also impersonating the jester in the dream. Mr. Clarence Handyside is clever in the unctuous part of Rev. Peter Pottleberry, and Isaac Isaacson, by George Irving; Sir Bryan Ballymote, by John E. Trevor; Wittle, by Victor Benoit, and Barker, by F. Owen Baxter, are all agreeably interpreted, the female contingent fully sustaining their side with Miss Edna Bruns as Lady Rowena, who, by the way, is unusually attractive; Miss Helene Montrose as Miss Isaacson, Miss Margherita Sargent as Lady Millicent, Miss Edith Lenox as Lady Marjorie, and Miss Adelaide Wilson as Alice Barker.
     The audience was large and good-natured, and it seems impossible to depart from this play without a feeling of restful humor, and a prayer to be delivered from “our canned ancestors,” as Mr. Wilson playfully designed his armor-clad forbears of the play.



The Sketch (23 June, 1909 - p.18)


4. When Knights Were Bold - Reviews, etc. (1910-1924)

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