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

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5. When Knights Were Bold - Reviews, etc. (4)
(1925 - 1953)

amateurknights

[From The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (28 November, 1925 - p.68).]

 

The Times (23 December, 1926 - p.8)

NEW SCALA THEATRE.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”

     Much play is made during this farce with a jest that Noah is supposed to have uttered during his cruise. One suspects that the general type of humour shown in the piece was already a precious memory to him when he embarked. But broad and venerable fun is not unpardonable at pantomime time; anyhow, the hearty audience at Mr. Bromley Challenor’s latest revival of Sir Guy de Vere’s burlesque adventures in the Middle Age had no complaint to proffer. We would only suggest that it seems hardly needful to underline the author’s points quite so loudly and industriously. For those who instinctively shiver a little when the institutions of chivalry and the shade of Sir Walter are thus handled, the only consolation is that (in England) such mockery usually disguises reverence.
     Apart from Mr. Challenor, whose stream of energy never runs dry, few of the performers have prominent parts. Mr. Stephen Adeson stands out with a genuine, if overdrawn, clerical character study as the Dean, and Mr. Derek Challenor as a credible young valet. Miss Enid Cooper has mainly to look lissom and elegant as the Lady Rowena of the fable, and fails not to do so.

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Programme for the New Scala Theatre, 22nd. December, 1926.

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The Stage (30 December, 1927 - p.30)

CHRISTMAS PLAYS.

THE SAVOY.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”

     That popular all-the-year-round as well as Christmas show “When Knights were Bold” has, after all, managed to find a West End home these holidays, Mr. Bromley Challenor opening with it once more with a matinée, at the Savoy, on December 22, Harriett Jay’s farce then going into the evening bill, and the afternoons being reserved for Mr. Hugh Marleyn’s production of another welcome visitor, “Alice in Wonderland.” Mr. Bromley Challenor and his son Derek are, respectively, director and manager, and assistant manager, for Famous Plays Syndicate, by which the Charles Marlowe “Dream of Ye Goode Olde Tymes” is being presented. The latter now plays the manservant Wittol, and the former, of course, resumes the rôle of Sir Guy de Vere, which since James Welch’s death he has made his own. Mr. Challenor still embroiders his performance with those simian and Calibanesque manifestations which thousands of amusement-seeking playgoers have enjoyed so vastly of late years. As aforetime, he is most funny of all in the second act, with the plunge 731 years backward to the Battlements, 1196. Here, with as picturesque display of mediæval pageantry as of old, we see the originally feeble Sir Guy performing doughty deeds in complete steel against the suitably truculent Sir Brian of Mr. Arthur Jenner, and rescuing from that ruffian fair ladies in distress.
     Once again, Miss Enid Cooper is a romantic and impassioned Lady Rowena, both in modern times and in the Middle Ages, with agreeable exponents of the skittish damosels Ladies Millicent and Marjorie Eggington in Misses May Vernon and Marjorie Lloyd. Chances for vivid and emotional playing are afforded to Miss Gwen Llewellyn, when Sarah Isaacson reverts to the Rebecca of “Ivanhoe,” and both phases of her sire and of Peter Pottlebury are duly contrasted by Mr. C. F. Lloyd and Mr. Stephen Adeson. Miss Violet Ellicot is once more a stately Mrs. Waldegrave, alike as Society lady and as Abbess. The witticisms of that chartered libertine, Charles Widdicombe are divertingly set forth by Mr. Cameron Hall, and Barker, the butler transformed into Seneschal, and his daughter, Alice, are represented befittingly by Mr. George Fytche and Miss Sheila Crawford. Mr. Annesley Hely is a stentorian Herald. It will be noted that there are several newcomers among the members of Mr. Bromley Challenor’s company. Brigata Bucalossi’s familiar and always welcome music is rendered ably under the direction of Mr. Philip Braham. Mr. Jackson Hartley and Mr. L. Osbourne are stage director and stage manager.

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Daily Express (18 January, 1928 - p.11)

Actor’s Long, Long Trail.

     Bromley Challenor starts off again on his tour of England next Monday. For twelve Christmases, now, he has come to London with “When Knights Were Bold,” which he has produced at ten different theatres. He arrives in London just before Christmas, and then, after trying to find a play suited for the West End, goes on the road, after six weeks in the city of his dreams.
     This year, after missing the Lyric and the Apollo by about an hour—there is always a wild scramble for London theatres at Christmas time—he suddenly got the Savoy, when “The Cave Man” fell down.

Two Plays a Day.

     Two years ago Challenor played in “When Knights Were Bold,” at the Princes, in the afternoons, and in “Are You a Mason?” at the Fortune, every evening.
     That year the Fortune fell suddenly vacant, almost on Christmas Eve.
     All this Christmas time, as has happened in the previous eleven years, he has been searching for a new play, one that will keep him in London.
     He does not complain about touring. Theatrical lodgings, nowadays, are better than they used to be. You can play golf now, you can motor from town to town, and people do not scowl at actors when they arrive on a strange station.
     Mr. Challenor feels, though, that London is the place to stay. If you have a comedy or a farce, do not send it to Al Woods, but to Bromley Challenor.

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Daily Express (6 November, 1928 - p.9)

Motorists in “When Knights Were Bold.”

     A production such as “When Knights Were Bold,” which is being undertaken this week by the Motor Union Athletic Club (Dramatic Section) at the Guildhall School of Music Theatre, interests me greatly. It is not only a dramatic production in the limited sense; it requires a stage crowd as well.
     Moreover, it contains one or two musical numbers. This has the great advantage of securing the interest of musical members and assists in achieving the object of securing legitimate stage experience for the members of a society’s chorus.

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The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) (17 November, 1928 - p.10)

STAGE GOSSIP
_____

Author of Palace Play
_____

“Charles Marlowe” and
Buchanan
_____

By FIRST-NIGHTER

     CHARLES MARLOWE is the programme name of the author of “When Knights Were Bold,” the amusing piece which has been revived at the Palace; but there was a time when the writer was known to theatre-goers and readers not as Mr. Marlowe, but as Miss Harriett Jay, actress, novelist, and dramatist. Robert Buchanan, who wrote many novels, poems, and plays, married Miss Jay’s sister, and he collaborated with his sister-in-law in the writing of eight stage pieces. The first was “The Queen of Connaught,” founded on a novel by Miss Jay which was published anonymously and was attributed by too-knowing reviewers to Charles Reade. No objection was made to this by Reade; he read the novel, saw its possibilities for the stage, and took interest in the progress of its dramatisation. Financially the most successful of the plays in which Buchanan and Miss Jay collaborated was the melodrama “Alone in London,” which is still revived by touring companies. In the original production Harriett Jay appeared at first as the boy who has much to do with the plot, and later in the season she took the place of another actress in the leading emotional part. Though the play did remarkably well always, Buchanan, who could write much better things, regarded it with contempt. “Taking my consent for granted,” says Miss Jay in her interesting biography of Buchanan, “he sold the piece for an absurdly small sum to Messrs. Miller and Elliston, and so parted with the goose which laid the golden eggs.”

_____

     Buchanan made large amounts by the success of other pieces, but he threw thousands away in theatre speculation and on the racecourse. He began racegoing when well advanced in middle age, and ended the experience in the unprofitable way that might have been expected. Among plays by Buchanan which had long runs were those of an eighteenth-century series adapted from noted novels. “Sophia” was founded on Fielding’s “Tom Jones,” and “Joseph’s Sweetheart” was from the same author’s “Joseph Andrews.” In Australia the Brough Boucicault company did excellent work in costume pieces of this type. Miss Jay appeared in a number of London productions, and her authorship as “Charles Marlowe” proved that she knew how to keep theatre-goers well entertained. In one city or another audiences have laughed at “When Knights Were Bold” many times since 1907, the year of its first production. At the Palace they are laughing still.

knightsjayad

[Advert from the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer (19 October, 1929 - p.9).]

 

Hastings and St. Leonards Observer (2 November, 1929 - p.13)

AT THE THEATRE.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”

ANOTHER TRIUMPH FOR THE
HASTINGS PLAYERS.

     There were people who asserted that the Hastings Players were far too ambitious in the selection of “When Knights Were Bold” for their autumn production, but they have had to admit that, although it might be an ambitious undertaking, this week’s production at the Gaiety Theatre has proved that the selection committee of the Players knew the ability of the members, for, under the guidance of Mr. George H. Child, who has many triumphs to his credit, they are playing this well-known and popular farcical comedy with unquestionable success, and one and all are deserving of the highest congratulations.
     A story of 1929 and 1196, “When Knights Were Bold” abounds with humorous situations, for the strange things which happen to Sir Guy de Vere, a very modern descendant of an ancient family, when seven hundred years pass backwards, are ludicrous in the extreme. It is comedy all the time, and laugh follows laugh in rapid succession.
     The entire action centres around Sir Guy de Vere, and no praise can be too high for Mr. Kenneth Saville’s portrayal of the part. He works hard from first to last and invests the part with a rare fire and freshness. A young man himself, Mr. Saville characterises the spirit of modern youth, care-free and easy going, but capable of quick and practical action when the need arises.
     Miss Dulcie Langham is a dignified and romantic Lady Rowena, whose histrionic abilities are given full play in the second act, while Miss Rosie Clark, Miss Marjorie Taylor and Miss Connie Burt are delightful as those “giggling girls”—Sir Guy’s cousins. Mrs. Macer Wright makes the most of the small part of the Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave, and one would wish to see more of her. The same may be said of Miss Doris Bohun as Miss Isaacson, no easy role to handle. Mr. Claude S. Frowd is well cast as the Hon. Charles Widdicombe, and Mr. John Sewell is splendid as the Dean of Beechwood. Mr. Duncan McPherson is an ideal Irish baronet, Sir Bryan Ballymote, and Mr. John Baylay does well as the Jew, Isaac Isaacson.
     Special mention must also be made of Mr. Eric Holman Dowling as Willie, Mr. P. Fitzroy-Sloper as Barker, and Miss Lois Brown as Alice, the housemaid. All contribute considerably to the success of the play, as also do the ladies and gentlemen who appear in the picturesque costumes of 1196 an d “trip the light fantastic.” Then one must not forget “Boodle,” the giant hound that ambles about the stage with an utter disregard for those on the other side of the footlights.
     The scenery, specially painted for the production, and the costuming, both modern and period, are delightful, whilst the period furniture adds greatly to the general effect. The vision at the end of the first act is also remarkably well handled, and here again the background and lighting effects are admirable.
     Reference has already been made to Mr. Child, producer and stage manager, who deserves the highest commendation, whilst others who work behind the scenes to ensure success are Miss Virginia Isham (assistant stage manager), Mr. Hubert Hammond (property master), Miss Dorothy Purrott (dancing instructress), Mr. Alex Dennett (business manager), and Miss Maude G. Tyler (hon. general secretary).
     There will be two performances of “When Knights Were Bold” to-day (Saturday) at 2.30 and 7.45, and those who have not yet seen this splendid production should secure seats immediately.

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The Yorkshire Evening Post (16 November, 1929 - p.7)

ACTRESSES INJURED.

One in Grave Condition After
London Accident.

     Mr. Bromley Challenor, the actor, and members of his company, which is appearing at the Lewisham Hippodrome, London, in “When Knights Were Bold,” were involved in an alarming road accident in Lewisham High Road last night.
     Mr. Challenor was driving some of his colleagues home from the theatre when his car skidded on the greasy road in avoiding another car, and crashed into a tram standard.
     Two actresses, Miss Pauline Lester and Miss Marjorie Playfair, were taken to hospital. Miss Lester was reported today to be in a grave condition, but Miss Playfair has been able to leave hospital.
     Mr. Challenor received slight injuries.

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The Times (24 December, 1929 - p.10)

THE PLAYHOUSE.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”
BY CHARLES MARLOWE.

Sir Guy de Vere
Sir Brian Ballmote
Isaac Isaacson
Rev. Peter Pottlebury, D.D.
Hon. Charles Widdicombe
Wittle
Barker
A Herald
Lady Rowena Egginton
Hon. Mrs. Waldegrave
Sarah Isaacson
Lady Millicent Egginton
Lady Marjorie Egginton
Kate Pottlebury
Alice Barker

BROMLEY CHALLENOR
DION QUIFF
ERNEST LEIGH
GEORGE MITCHELL
CAMERON HALL
DEREK CHALLENOR
GEORGE FYTCHE
JAMES CRAIG
ELANA AHERNE
VIOLET ELLICOTT
SHEILA CRAWFORD
MARJORIE PLAYFAIR
JOAN CHARTERIS
CHERRY HERBERT
OONAR BURTON

     When Knights Were Bold is simple to the point of crudity. It is based on the assumption that a confession of folly is as good as a proof of wisdom and certainly better then any pretence of cleverness. So invincible is such modesty that even when the hero is, in a dream, transported to the 12th century, he is as successful as if he had been the greatest of champions instead of an amiable imbecile of modern times. But in this revival of the play for the Christmas season its weaknesses are scarcely relevant. For the hero confesses his folly and so prepares the way for Mr. Bromley Challenor, who confesses even more clamorously and persistently, and with unflagging vivacity, that his jokes are perfectly foolish.
     He rattles continuously from the beginning of the play to the end, and yet not one word could be called witty. Every speech is the antithesis of an epigram. He is in perpetual and violent movement, but not one action is not utterly absurd. But this, of course, is the point both of his words and of his actions. They are the pure froth of nonsense, but of their kind very good indeed. There is nothing that requires the slightest exercise of the intelligence, and this is apt to be very exhausting.
     But if one does try to think about Mr. Challenor’s art, one becomes exhausted for another reason. Its structure is so curious, the jokes are so intricately pointless and elaborately absurd, that the whole performance appears to be the last and logical development of an entirely artificial tradition, rather than the creation of one man. This, indeed, it probably is, but Mr. Challenor is not encumbered by so much elaboration and artifice. It may be that he only just succeeds in manipulating his impossible medium, and at every point seems about to fall into dull absurdity, the artifice of which is only too obvious. But he contrives a hairbreadth escape, and, chiefly by means of his untiring vitality, just makes the artificial alive. The result seems to be a very formal and sophisticated art, which is an odd thing to be given in the disguise of a very simple play for the festive season.

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The Times (10 December, 1931 - p.12)

     The hardy Christmas annual, When Knights were Bold, with Mr. Bromley Challenor in his old part of Sir Guy de Vere, will be revived this year at the Duke of York’s Theatre, where it will be presented for matinées only, beginning on Monday, December 21. Mr. Challenor first played Sir Guy de Vere in 1915, and has appeared in the part over 5,000 times.

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The Vancouver Sun (12 December, 1931)

FUN SUPREME IN PLAY AT EMPRESS
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     Fun reigns supreme in “When Knights Were Bold,” the great comedy that holds a record in London for the number of performances in the leading theatres there. It will be produced by the British Guild Players at the Empress theatre for one week commencing today, with a matinee at 2.30 and evening 8.30 p.m.
     This famous play was written by Charles Marlowe (Harriet Jay) and first produced at Wyndham’s Theatre London, in 1907. It ran continuously for 579 nights, and was produced again in 1910, again in 1914, and then ran in revivals almost without a break till 1929. Few plays have such a great record.
     It tells the story of Sir Guy (Basil Radford) a descendant of an ancient knight. He has a number of guests staying at his home, among them Sir Bryan Ballynote (James E. Mills) and Isaac Isaacson, a Jew (Emerton Court). Isaac has plans for his daughter, Sarah (Marjorie Bennett) to marry Sir Guy de Vere, but he is keen on Lady Rowena (Gaby Fay).
     The Jew arranges with Sir Bryan to force his attentions on her, and induces the Dean (David Clyde) to put in a good word for him. Sir Guy is not aware of these arrangements, but during a dream, he imagines himself back in the days of his ancestors and finds a similar plot afoot. When he awakes, he finds himself in the position of being able to put everything right “to every one’s satisfaction.”
     On the conclusion of “When Knights Were Bold,” the British Guild Players will leave for Victoria for a short visit, returning to Vancouver in time to open at the Empress theatre on Christmas Day with “Peter Pan.”

vancouverknights

The Times (22 December, 1931 - p.8)

DUKE OF YORK’S THEATRE

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”

     With slight variations in jest and circumstance When Knights Were Bold lives on. Why it should is not at first easy to be seen. In the humours of a modern knight translated into the Middle Ages there would seem no greater warrant of immortality than that of a tale well worn. Nor is there much more in the anachronisms, the puns, and the acrobatics of Mr. Bromley Challenor and his friends. The secret—if secret there be, and it be not rather a matter of the mood of an audience—is in that particular form of English humour which consists in being silly, and of which Mr. Challenor is an exponent unexcelled.
     Though Mr. Bert Beswick as Charles Widdicombe, Mr. George Mitchell as the Rev. Peter Pottlebury, and Mr. George Fytche as Barker all play their parts with skill, Mr. Challenor is the play, a fact which some other members of the cast sometimes acknowledged too freely with broad smiles. After heaven knows how many years of playing the same part, he plays it still with zest, and with every appearance of a magnificently whole-hearted enjoyment of the fun he is making and giving. Whether he fight Sir Brian with wooden sword; reflect on the misfortune of a tobacco-lover born before Sir Walter Raleigh; or mock a gloomier Dean, the play, you feel, is a play, and nothing more. Which is also to say that it is nothing less, and an admirable entertainment for those who would laugh without effort.

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The Times (27 December, 1932 - p.6)

FORTUNE THEATRE

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”
BY CHARLES MARLOWE

     One good reason, among a multitude, for the revival of When Knights Were Bold each Christmas may be found in Sir Guy de Vere’s celebrated cold in the head. To those who have been suffering similarly or feel themselves about to suffer (and these two categories together compose a good majority of any winter audience) there is comfort in Mr. Bromley Challenor’s power between sneezes to wave his handkerchief into a rabbit, and magic in the manner of his falling asleep with his mustard bath untouched, only to awake an hour later without a snuffle.
     The Knight’s Room at Beechwood Towers, where we saw him fall asleep, is, as it happens, a notoriously draughty place, protected from the open air only by a tapestry. It is clear then that Sir Guy de Vere has really taken his stroll back to the year 1196, and that the cure is due to that vigorous half-hour upon the battlements in which he has frightened his retainers (Mr. George Fytche and Mr. Derek Bellairs), suffered his jester, rescued Isaac of York and his daughter, and finally pummelled the heavy-sworded Sir Brian Ballymote into subjection.
     That faint whiff of a chill which so often accompanies the first five minutes of a one-man farce when the one man has not yet appeared has already been long driven out of the auditorium. We have melted to Mr. Challenor as he sprang  four-legged for the family tree, warmed with him as he clasped his fur rug for the drive back to the past, and glowed finally when he added up seven knights to make a week. The half-hour upon the battlements has made us almost feverish, not merely because Mr. Challenor is now scarcely ever off the scene, but because his attendants, livelier and richer-spirited in their medieval costumes, surround him and feed him with humour as well as sack. Miss Mary Gannon as the Lady Rowena looks fair enough for any knight to win, Miss Gwen Llewellyn and Miss Phyllis Eck proper objects for a lady’s jealousy. Nor does the warmth of the comedy pass away when Sir Guy’s actions are repeated with variations upon his return in the third act to the present day. That nip from the spirit of the past leaves Mr. Challenor vigorous enough to play the double bass with his two-handed sword for a bow.

peggyfordcarrington

[From the Daily Express (6 December, 1933 - p.8).]

 

The Times (23 December, 1933 - p.8)

FORTUNE THEATRE

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”
BY CHARLES MARLOWE

     It is obvious that the small number of really successful farces must have some quality, though it is not always easy to discover, which distinguishes them from those which last a far shorter time. To judge by this example it is the presence of an idea sufficiently robust, and sufficiently clearly presented, to stand any amount of wear and tear. For the dialogue is nothing and in this performance was readily used as a framework for gags and topical interpolations.
     The framework is provided, but a very great deal is left to the ingenuity of the chief actor. Mr. Jackson Hartley took the part in the manner of the music-hall comedian, and in this style he was not unsuccessful.

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The Stage (29 December, 1933 - p.16)

THE FORTUNE.

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD.”

     The late Harriet Jay’s long-popular piece, which has for years taken its place as one of the diverting and attractive farces of the contemporary stage, has once more been revived as seasonable holiday fare by Mr. Caspar Middleton, with the production-work shared by Mr. Jackson Hartley and Mr. Charles F. Lloyd, the latter giving an effective and not obtrusively Hebraic impersonation of Isaac Isaacson and Mr. Hartley representing Sir Guy de Vere on the familiar lines laid down by James Welch, followed and enlarged upon by Mr. Bromley Challenor with various feats in animal- impersonation performance. Brigata Bucalossi’s tuneful incidental music enhances the effect of Ye Good Old Times scenes, with foresters and coif-wearing damosels filling in the picture on the Battlements of Beechwood Towers. The effectively carried out stage management is shared by Mr. Edmund S. Phelps, who also plays Barker, butler, and Seneschal, and by Mr. Jack Morris, and the acting manager is Mr. Charles Milton.
     Mr. Hartley’s Sir Guy has a blonde yet haughty vis-à-vis in the attractively played Lady Rowena of Miss Peggy   Ford-Carrington, fittingly contrasted with the duly emotional Sarah Isaacson of Miss Diane de Bret, seen to special advantage in the twelfth-century passages, where also the wonted effect is given to Peter Pottlebury, Charles Widdicombe, and Sir Brian Ballymote by Messrs. Stephen Adeson, Bertram Maurice, and Eric Weatherell, who makes an imposing figure of the recreant knight. The various phases of Wittol are shown clearly by Mr. Leslie Sparkes. A stately Abbess of the Middle Ages is found in the Mrs. Waldegrave of Miss Dorothy Fane, and the young women, Ladies Millicent and Marjorie Eggington, Katie Pottlebury, and Alice Barker, have their progress backwards shown effectively by charming Misses Elizabeth Grayson, Betty Rudder, Marcia Mayhew, and Phyllis Eck. The Herald has a stalwart representative in Mr. Clyde Melnotte. “Romance, Adventure, Laughter All the Way” is the description given to the farce in the programme at the Fortune, where it is being played twice daily for a short season.

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The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (6 January, 1934 - p.41)

jacksonhartley

The Times (27 December, 1934 - p.6)

FORTUNE THEATRE

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”

     There are, we are told, only two—or is it three?—stories in the world—all the rest are merely variations of them. The Cinderella story is one, and surely the story of the man who finds himself in the wrong period of time is the other. The opportunities either for profundity or for fun are inexhaustible, and, if Mr. H. G. Wells and Henry James, to take two modern names at random, have done their bit for profundity, Mr. Charles Marlowe strikes year after year a shrewd blow for fun.
     Even if his play was less well-contrived than it is and the proportion of poor jokes to good ones higher, it would still, in all probability, continue to amuse, for there is something intrinsically amusing in the position in which Sir Guy de Vere finds himself. At the beginning of the first act he is in the entrance hall of Beechwood Towers, the second act finds him on the battlements of the same house in the year 1196, and the third act sees him restored to his proper century. Mr. Jackson Hartley, as last year, takes the part made famous by Mr. Bromley Challenor and decorates it with a jovial heartiness, Mr. Frank Foster lives up to his name as Isaac Isaacson, and the rest of the cast enter into the farce with a spirit that suggests they enjoy it almost as much as those on the other side of the footlights.

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Daily Express (18 December, 1935 - p.5)

bromchalldeath

[Bromley Challenor’s obituaries are available in the When Knights Were Bold - Miscellanea section.]

 

Daily Express (20 December, 1935 - p.19)

     Advertising on the Underground still announces Bromley Challenor to play “When Knights Were Bold” at the Fortune. Jackson Hartley has taken it over. He played last year when Challenor was in Australia.

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The Times (27 December, 1935 - p.5)

FORTUNE THEATRE

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”
BY CHARLES MARLOWE

Sir Guy de Vere
Isaac Isaacson
Rev. Peter Pottlebury, D.D.
Sir Brian Ballymote
Wittol
Barker
Sarah Isaacson
Lady Rowena Eggington

JACKSON HARTLEY
LIONEL GADSDEN
STEPHEN ADESON
CHARLES CAMERON
DEREK BELLAIRS
EDMUND S. PHELPS
MARGARET LEONA
JOAN PANTER

     Certainly the moral of When Knights Were Bold would be badly missed by anyone who should draw invidious comparisons with the “good old days” of the play. James Welch and Bromley Challenor—multis ille bonis flebilis— had each his own conception of the part of Sir Guy de Vere, and even of the text of his lines. Mr. Jackson Hartley, valiantly buckling on their armour at short notice, has every right to wear it with a difference. This Sir Guy frankly tumbles through the part in the music-hall manner, or at least in that variant of it which is annually furbished up for pantomime. His colleagues automatically fall into the normal groupings of back-chat comedy, and collaborate in a rollicking, boisterous display which wins continuous laughter from that section of the audience whose recent studies predispose them to enjoy the roughest possible handling of the history book. The knockout blow on Sir Bryan’s helmet is delivered with no less crushing effect than of yore; and Sir Guy’s return to the twentieth century achieves new effects of riotous fun.
The play, in fact, wears well—so well, that in the midst of recent glosses about sanctions and Belisha beacons one is almost surprised to observe fossil relics of the age of horse transport and luxuriant female tresses. Of course, the part of Rowena is the most conspicuous fossil of all: even in farce not much except a stage convention can be made in 1935 of the ardent young dreamer over Ye Goode Olde Dayes of Chivalrie; but what can be done Miss Joan Panter does with suitably romantic hauteur. The knockabout atmosphere does not prevent Mr. Lionel Gadsden from playing Isaac Isaacson intelligently; Miss Margaret Leona is sympathetic as Sarah; and the three servants are all well played by Mr. Edmund S. Phelps, Mr. Derek Bellairs, and Miss Carol Tennant.

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Pages from the programme of the 1935 production at the Fortune Theatre.

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The Yorkshire Post (10 December, 1936 - p.8)

knightsdodie

The Times (28 December, 1936 - p.15)

FORTUNE THEATRE

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”
BY CHARLES MARLOWE

Sir Guy de Vere
Isaac Isaacson
The Rev. Peter Pottlebury, D.D.
The Hon. Charles Widdicombe
Sir Brian Ballymote
Wittol
Barker
Lady Rowena Eggington
The Hon. Mrs Waldegrave
Sarah Isaacson
Alice Barker

JACKSON HARTLEY
CHARLES F. LLOYD
ERNEST LEGH
THEO LAMBERT
KENNETH MURRAY
CYRIL HATZFELD
EDMUND S. PHELPS
PEGGY FORD-CARRINGTON
ZERLINA HARRINGTON
GWEN LLEWELLYN
MARY CAMBRIDGE

     “Acts One and Three, Present Day.” But there the programme is wrong. It is true there are the modern evening dresses and a few near-topical jokes, but this is otherwise a period piece in all three acts; and when in the intervals the orchestra jumps forward into jazz it merely underlies the gap between “Present Day” and the opening years of our century, when the play was written. And, since no fashions seem quite so stale as those of the day before yesterday, so “Act Two, Anno Domini 1196,” which is the meat in the sandwich, comes fresher to the palate today than the rest of it. The players themselves are most at home on the battlements of Beechwood Towers in the twelfth century. The white nuns’ robes of the Lady Rowena and her handmaidens set off their good looks to perfection. The male members of the cast are palpably more real, more characteristically themselves, in medieval garb than in the tails or dinner jackets that belong to the present. So with the acting. If the company are adequate in modern dress they are more than adequate in the trappings of chivalry. “Dressing up” is clearly half the battle in playing the fool.
     The old farce, then, became really enjoyable once Sir Guy’s dream had transported him back to the period and into the skin of one of those valiant ancestors whom Lady Rowena was so exasperatingly fond of throwing at him. Mr. Jackson Hartley, though denied the spiritual stimulus of fancy dress till he donned his armour for the combat with Sir Bryan, could none the less have his boisterous way with the audience, now they were warmed to enthusiasm. His part has been a-building for many years now. It is tempting to try to remember—or guess—whether this bit of business is as old as the farce itself, whether that was inserted by James Welch or Bromley Challenor, whether the other is Mr. Hartley’s personal gloss. All three have helped to shape the play, but Mr. Hartley has by this time made it his own, and so effectively that Sir Guy, like Charley’s Aunt, may well continue to please uncritical people through a further eternity of Christmases. Apart from Mr. Hartley, the cast is substantially new since last year. But Mr. Phelps is still playing Barker, butler and seneschal, and looking incredibly like him in both incarnations.

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The Times (28 December, 1937 - p.7)

FORTUNE THEATRE

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”
BY CHARLES MARLOWE

Sir Guy de Vere
Isaac Isaacson
Rev. Peter Pottlebury, D.D.
Hon. Charles Widdicombe
Sir Brian Ballymote
Wittol
Barker
Lady Rowena Eggington
Hon. Mrs Waldegrave
Sarah Isaacson

WILLIAM DAUNT
CHARLES F. LLOYD
STEPHEN ADESON
HERBERT CAMERON
MELVILLE CRAWFORD
CARL HATZFELD
ARTHUR BURNE
SHELAGH FURLEY
ALTONA STAFFORD
PHYLLIS GADSDEN

     It is scarcely possible to understand what will make one or two, among innumerable farces survive for so many years. No doubt after a while they can live by their momentum alone, but even so it is a great mystery. As time goes on they have almost everything against them; the tempo of humour alters and quickens, a social milieu that once seemed exhilarating grows frowzy and down-at-heel, and no topical allusions—there are a good many in this production—can alter the unimaginable touch of time. But here it is at least possible to perceive some content in the farce which may have a permanent interest; there is a certain genuine criticism of life, crude enough, but quite sensible and not ungenerous, in this contrast between the present and the past. And the very simplicity of its statement at any rate ensures that the point of the play will not be missed. Moreover, the bathos of modern manners introduced among the grandeurs—here it is explicitly stated that every one in the thirteenth century spoke in blank verse—is a mysteriously lasting joke.
     Mr. William Daunt, in the part of Sir Guy de Vere, carries the main burden of the play with untiring energy and considerable resource. It is a perfectly flat character, but vitality can do much to compensate for the absence of life. Miss Furley takes the part of the romantic heroine with charm and restraint.

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The Stage (30 December, 1938 - p.17)

     In presenting “When Knights Were Bold,” at the Playhouse, Newcastle, Donald Gilbert follows his usual practice in offering something different as Christmas entertainment. This delightful piece has been making a great hit since it began its fortnight’s run on Boxing Day, and as there are thrills galore and side-splitting comedy—it should suit all tastes. Desmond Walter Ellis has a part that suits his gifts for the ludicrous as Sir Guy de Vere. Alexander Gauge, Hereward Russell, Hugh Butt, Marion Brignall, Lois Sutherland, Hugh Paddick, Helen Sessions, Lawrence Rushworth, and Ross Duncan give talented support, and Alexander Gauge is responsible for the production.

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Daily Express (9 November, 1939 - p.11)

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Daily Express (13 March, 1944 - p.3)

Pay Corps gives ‘Box Office’ show

     The Leicester theatre group of the Royal Army Pay Corps came to London last night to perform “When Knights Were Bold” at the Comedy Theatre, W.
     It was one of a series of three Sunday shows for Allied Forces. The house was packed.

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The Stage (29 March, 1945 - p.6)

“Those . . . . Critics!”
     A correspondent wishes to know if a well-known actor is right in stating that “When Knights Were Bold” was first produced 50 years ago. Ignotus writes, “Stuff and nonsense! It was produced at the Royal, Nottingham, on September 17, 1906, and came to Wyndham’s on January 29, 1907. It has often been revived since and a musical version entitled ‘Kiss the Girls’ was presented at the Royal,, Newcastle, on April 26, 1943.” At Wyndham’s the first night did not at first go too well, and the audience were not responsive. James Welch had his own explanation. “It’s those . . . critics,” he exclaimed. “Disappointed dramatists, every man Jack of them!” He proceeded to put such stuff into his acting that enthusiasm was wrung even from “those . . . critics.”

knightsbrucegordonad

[Advert from The Stage (19 October, 1950 - p.9).]

 

Dundee Courier and Advertiser (25 December, 1951 - p.4)

YOU’RE SURE OF A
LAUGH AT THE REP.

     Dundee Repertory Company’s Christmas box to its patrons is chock-full of good things guaranteed to sustain the festive spirit well over the season.
     A light-hearted story, colourful characters and costumes, delightful melodies carrying witty lyrics, and many surprises all crammed into the box, labelled “When Knights Were Bold.”
     When the lid was raised last night a Christmas Eve packed house was enthusiastic over the gift.
     The company themselves were obviously in the mood. They sang with zest, and many pleasing voices were revealed. They danced to some of the numbers, and finished off in grand panto style with the whole cast leg-kicking the finale. They rollicked about the stage, enjoying every minute of their annual fun and games.
     The play, which appropriately opens at Beechwood Towers on Christmas Eve, gives plenty of scope for characterisation. Most of the cast play two parts—themselves in 1951 and their ancestors of 1351.

A FAMILY TREE
     Providing the flash-back 600 years is gay Sir Guy de Vere, lord of the Towers, whose noble family tree is a big one. But he’d rather chop it down and forget all about it, if only his loved one, Lady Rowena, would let him.
     Then an Irish baronet, Sir Bryan Ballymote, steps into the picture in an intrigue to capture the fair lady, and his method is to talk of the days when knights were bold.
     With a troubled mind and a nasty sneeze, which leaves his monocle dangling far too often, Sir Guy falls asleep and dreams he fights a duel with Sir Bryan over the hand of his lady. He wins, and prestige, gained unconsciously in his dream, results in a transformed 1951 Sir Guy, who sharpens his sword on the bell-pull and exposes Sir Bryan in real life.
     The first act gave little indication of the hilarity to follow in the second, which is in mediæval times, with Sir Guy in dinner suit surrounded by servants and courtiers in period dress.
     Willowy Michael Darbyshire and Edna Petrie, the clowns, are brought on to entertain. The are members of E.N.S.A. (Early Neolithic Silly Asses), give riddles in blank verse. Then Michael calls on Master Cyril (Cyril Mather, electrician) to switch on the theatre lights.
     There’s a clanking of bells and from the foyer door enters McGonagall, the camel, who refuses a drink of water from the silvery Tay but honks appreciatively for gin.
     Grand fun and the audience loved it.

LIFE AND SOUL
     In an outstanding group of players, special mention must be made of Peter Tuddenham, who played a perfect Sir Guy. He was the life and soul of the party, and so captivated the audience they willingly joined in singing and rasping queer sounds with him from the front of the stage.
     Nancy Mansfield was a ravishing romantic heroine, and the voices of both blended well in the theme waltz, “When Knights Were Bold.”
     Kevin Stoney was the Irish baronet, and had no difficulty with the accent as Kevin is an Irishman.
     Stella Young, talented composer of the ten melodies in the play, was warmly applauded each time she went to the grand piano in front of the stalls to accompany. The lyric writer, Myles Rudge, was not present to get his share.
     Geoffrey Edwards and set designer John Burnand deserve full praise, particularly for the scene in which the ancestors step from the wall tapestry to bring the dream to life.

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The Stage (1 January, 1953 - p.32)

WOOLWICH ARTILLERY

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”

     “When Knights Were Bold” is an excellent choice for the talented repertory company at the Royal Artillery. It would be easy to dismiss the play out of hand, but the piece has abounding good humour, and, what is more, humour that can be appreciated by people of nearly every age. Appearing as guest-artists are Claude Hulbert and Enid Trevor, and one suspects that the play has been tailored especially for the engagingly asinine personality of Mr. Hulbert, who plays the rôle of Sir Guy de Vere. The dialogue has largely been brought up to date, with various topical allusions, and one part, in which Mr. Hulbert attempts to make a pudding, is pure pantomime.
     A fairly large cast help to put the comedy over, with Enid Trevor as Lady Rowena. The Isaacsons, father and daughter, are competently portrayed by Reginald Selleck and Tarn Bassett, and an amusing caricature of a dean is offered by Nicholas Grimshaw. As the rascally Sir Bryan Ballymote, Jack Woolgar puts on a convincing Irish brogue. Gladys Tudor admirably plays the fussy Mrs. Waldegrave, and Vere Lorrimer makes the most of the butler, Barker. The young people are excellently portrayed by Ian Whittaker, Jill Hulbert, Anne Ridler, Jill bridges, Blair Aitken, Elsie Monk, and James Sharkey.
     Several interpolated musical numbers meet with approval and are energetically rendered, mainly by the youngsters, although Reginald Selleck scores an early hit with his comedy song. James Sharkey and Elsie Monk do well with “Walking My Baby Back Home,” in which they both move in good style. They are joined by Blair Aitken for “The Waiter, and the Porter, and the Upstairs Maid.” The excellent settings are by Dorning Hibbert, the Star Quartet accompany the show, and Vere Lorrimer deserves credit for his ingenious production.

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The Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle (8 January, 1953 - p.12)

On The Stage

CHARLES MAKES
A BOLD KNIGHT

     This week and next, the Cry of Players are presenting “When Knights Were Bold,” but they might well have called their production “When Charles Was Bold,” for Charles is the Christian name of the dominating personality of this show —Charles Workman.
     His sparkling performance as the main character puts him visor and shoulders above the rest. His tremendous zest forces its way through the lethargic perambulations of the first act, gets into its stride in the second, and achieves its magnificent final impact in the third.
     Of the others, a word of praise for Anne Pichon and John Bryans.
     Do not go expecting to see brilliant theatre, but be prepared for some laughs with this modernised edition.
                                                                                                                                                   —N.H.S.

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The Stage (31 December, 1953 - p.29)

MORECAMBE

. . .

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”

     This year’s special production at the Royalty is Charles Marlowe’s “When Knights Were Bold,” which Morecambe Repertory Theatre is presenting by arrangement with Emile Littler. This is a fast-moving and colourful production by Leonard James, who has taken full advantage of the many humorous situations provided by the script. The two amusing settings, one in pantomime-style and the other embodying the essence of Victoriana, were painted by Barry Vaughan. Heading the cast of 18 are Peter Wyatt as Sir Guy de Vere and Roma Dumville as lady Rowena Edgington, both of whom render highly spirited performances. John Dawson plays Sir Brian Ballymote, the villain of the piece, with full melodramatic gusto, and is ably supported by Peter Thorpe, who gives a clever character-study as Isaac Isaacson.
     Particularly effective is George Fenner as the Hon. Charles Widdicombe, who in the Dream Sequence becomes a medieval Court Fool and renders the plays’ main musical number. Strong support comes from Velvey Attwood, John Brittany, Alayne Farris, Maureen Murphy, Thelma Sandeman, James Butler, Barry Vaughan, Joel Morrell, Audrey Gay, Heather Gregory, June Bailey, Anthony Payne, and Michael Foster.

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The Stage (31 December, 1954 - p.17)

“WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD”

WITH a limited number of seasonable plays available the Salisbury Arts Players might have done much worse than select that now venerable comedy, “When Knights Were Bold,” for their Christmas production at the Playhouse. It gains from some refurbishing and the addition of some witty songs. These things give to the old play something of the air of an intimate revue with a plot. But in an age which knows more about bebop than bad barons the company have to work hard to conceal the joints still left in the armour; it is a tribute to the versatility of all concerned that they can convert themselves so smoothly into successful revue artists.
     In this adaptation by the company’s director, Geoffrey Edwards, and Michael Darbyshire, the light-hearted Sir Guy dreams his famous dream on Christmas Eve, and the dream itself is ushered in by a carol. The Dean becomes a “black-marketeer,” disposing of supplies left over from the Crusades, and other little touches remind one of “1066 and all that.” There is even a chorus song for the audience to join.
     Michael Gover, the company’s leading man, who only recently played an Ibsen rôle, blossoms out in the light comedy tradition with a Sir Guy cast in the mould of Ralph Lynn in an Aldwych farce. He suggests that there may be infinite possibilities for the company if they care to venture further into that field. Mr. Gover, with his notable zest, gives a first-class lead to his colleagues. Helen Jessop plays successfully the high-spirited and romantically minded Lady Rowena, George Cooper is first-rate as the self-made manufacturer—his song, “I’m a Millionaire,” is well handled—and Richard Hart and Brenda Saunders are well teamed as the couple who laugh only at each other’s jokes. Christopher Hancock, Avril Conquest and Keither Anderson are good as the domestics, especially when they lapse into the tongue of 1300, and the other parts are capably handled by Joyce Grant, Myles Rudge (who wrote the lyrics), Graham Squire, Patricia Blyton, Elisabeth Paget and Douglas Dempster, not forgetting the fore and hind legs of the elephant. The music was composed by Stella Young, and John Dinsdale is responsible for an attractive set.

[Note: If you want to see Peter Sellers’ Christmas message, here’s the full page.]

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The Stage (1 January, 1959 - p.32)

knightssouthampton59

The Stage (13 July, 1978 - p.9)

emilelittlerad

6. When Knights Were Bold in The Play Pictorial No.55

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