LYDIA YEAMANS-TITUS & LESLIE HARRIS, SOCIETY ENTERTAINERS
This postcard with the bluish green Half Penny stamp of New South Wales was postmarked with the duplex WILLIAM STREET/ FE 20/ 12- ( )PM/ 06/ N.S.W and the numeral ‘697', and also had a MORE TO PAY/ 1D / [maltese cross] handstamp. It was addressed to Andrew Smart Esq, “Weekly Mail”, Wellington, New Zealand. The printed advertising matter reads: Opera House, Wellington, commencing Saturday, Sept 22 1906 Prices: 3/-, 2/-, 1/- BOX PLAN AT HOLLIDAY’S (Figure 1).
The reverse described the Australasian Tour of Madame Lydia Yeamans-Titus (with the only known photo of her smiling face) and Mr. Leslie Harris, seated at the piano. They were described as ‘The World Famed Society Entertainers’ who were under the Sole Direction of Mr. Allan Hamilton (Figure 2).
The entertainers were in Australia and New Zealand from June 30th until September 22 1906, although the early date for Lydia Yeamans-Titus has not been confirmed, for they may well have split up as the billboard only shows Leslie Harris. The billboard (found at a Tasmanian website) describes performances at the Theatre Royal, as follows: Under the direction of Allan Hamilton/ Five Nights Only/ Commencing Saturday June 30th, 1906/ Mr Allan Hamilton’s Tour/ of the World Famed Society Entertainer/ Mr. Leslie Harris/ Popular Prices, 3s, 2s and One Shilling/ Doors open at 7/ Commence a 8 / Carriages at 10.15,/ Box Plan as Usual. There are nine photographs of Leslie Harris, six seated at the piano and three posed standing. This flamboyant billboard was printed by John Andrew & Co. Sydney (Figure 3).
Lydia Yeamans-Titus’s year of birth was given as ‘1866?’ in Australia. She is described as a singer and an actress of the silent films. Her mother, Annie Yeamans was a noted stage performer on two continents. Annie was born in 1835 as Anne Griffiths in the Isle of Man, and she died on 3 March 1912 in New York City. She migrated as a young girl with her parents, who had accepted stage work in Australia. She began her career at a young age in an Australian circus, married a fellow-performer clown, and they with their three Australian-born daughters immigrated to San Francisco, where Annie gravitated to comedic roles. Some 19 plays and singing roles in musical comedies are listed as her adult performances.
In 1912, Lydia Yeamans-Titus was Annie’s only surviving daughter. Another daughter, Jennie, who also played comedic roles, had pre-deceased her mother. As a vaudeville attraction in 1900, Lydia Yeamans-Titus was made an honorary member of the Buffalo New York Elks Lodge and later of the San Francisco Lodge. She became a screen performer for Samuel Goldwyn Studio, starring in films with Lillian Gish and Geraldine Farrar. Lydia made popular the song Sally in Our Alley, performed it for King Edward VII, and he presented her with a gold bar pin with the first notes of the song written in diamonds. As an actress she was especially skilled in playing child life roles, for she was very small at 4 feet 9 inches. Her imitations were masterpieces of the art of mimicry. She married the pianist Frederick J. Titus, thus the hyphenated name. Lydia died in 1929 from a stroke and her ashes were thrown into the waves of the Pacific Ocean. She had a filmography of 122 motion pictures, made from 1911-1929.
Mr. Leslie Harris, an English pianist was written up in the New Zealand Free Lance on 4 August 1906 (during the time shown on the postcard). The report was in the form of an O.C.R. transcription full of so many typographic errors that only the gist of the review will be given: “Leslie Harris appeared before crowded houses fo two nights at the Opera House and is now at the Town Hall. He is spontaneous, an originator, a fine comedian, has a fine voice, and he enjoys himself. He is round and chubby, he smiles, has a North of England accent, has a habit of jumping up from the piano as if he was pleased with the instrument. You feel he would like to dance just for sheer joy. First of all he is a musician, he satirises new songs in a light airy witsome fashion, everybody chuckles at him, so consumedly at times that it infects him, so he holds himself so he won’t spoil the next story. He is a mimic, playing the voice of an irate man, he is a throaty tenor or a husky base or a simpering soprano. He takes The Honeysuckle and the Bee and treats it as a hymn, and as if it had been written by Mendelssohn, Chopin or Wagner. His own-written pantomime sketch of a political speechmaker who is ‘seen but not heard’ is irresistibly droll, his unheard exclamations are immense, his facial play excellent and the suggested whizz of a hurtling egg inimitable”, and this is only part of the review.
A review in The New York Times of January 15, 1908, is headed “A Delightful Entertainer. Mr. Leslie Harris, at the Piano and Away from it, Makes Successful American Debut” is well worth recording (Figure 4)