W.P. Dando's improved Tableaux Vivants at the Palace Theatre of Varieties, London.
Trailing behind them a long, complex history of performance, both amateur and professional, tableaux vivants--frozen-moment representations of well-known paintings and statues or other familiar or invented figures and scenes--had reached the stage of the Palace Theatre of Varieties, in Shaftesbury Avenue, only recently, with the arrival in London of the enterprising Hungarian Eduard Kilanyi and his troupe late in 1893. Kilanyi's ingeniously mounted series of tableaux, presented in rapid succession to a fascinated audience, caught on right away with music hall and variety theatre patrons and became an immense attraction. At the Empire Theatre of Varieties, a short walk away in Leicester Square, the canny and energetic manager George Edwardes had recognized a good thing when he saw it and was soon mounting tableaux, which he insisted on calling 'Living Pictures', in competition with the Palace. At the latter house, the chief machinist, Walter P. Dando, a mechanical genius with a large inventive streak and a brilliant sense of theatre, had taken over the presentation of tableaux almost immediately after Kilanyi's troupe had moved on and invented his own improved apparatus for mounting them. Dando evidently had the reluctant blessing of the new manager of the Palace, Charles Morton, on his enterprise. Morton was concerned over possible reaction to the character of the Palace tableaux, decidedly risque and, to some, scandalous for the seeming nudity featured in many of the subjects, in contrast to the staid and more fully clothed though still erotic character of the 'pictures' which Edwardes was mounting at the Empire. Morton's anxiety was well founded. Social purity activists caught wind of the Palace tableaux, found some of them unequivocally offensive despite their claims to high art, and began to raise insistent objections. By 1894 the culture wars were on, for both the Palace and the Empire, and in the autumn of that year objections to the alleged indecency of tableaux at the Palace, and to the racy clientele who observed the Empire tableaux from the vantage point of the five-shilling promenade, were being laid before the hard-working Theatres and Music Halls Committee, the licensing arm of the London County Council.
In the context of these attacks on the moral character of tableaux vivants and their witnesses, Dando's ostensibly uncomplicated contribution to the superb technical quality of the Palace shows, of considerable interest in itself, merits a closer look. What Dando must have learned from Kilanyi and then turned to his own and the Palace's advantage offers significant insight into the connections, so often indistinct, between the technical aspects of theatrical performance and the cultural and social significance they ultimately generate. The objections of social purity activists to the erotic images of the tableaux vivants at the Palace Theatre of Varieties--sumptuously mounted and vividly lighted images arranged by Dando on his newly designed apparatus--unwittingly shed an interesting light on the links between stage technology, theatre art, and the values and assumptions that underlie audience perception and response. In particular, the higher degree of 'realism' Dando was able to achieve through enhanced technical means not only provided greater aesthetic (and erotic) pleasure to audiences; it ended up confounding the social purity advocates, who could not decide whether the nearly but not quite faultless verisimilitude achieved by Dando's improvements served their cause or not. Did Dando's technical wizardry end up aiding their moral critique of the tableaux or subtly yet definitively undermine it?
Walter Pfeffer Dando was born in London in 1852 (2)--a moment the German master machinist Karl Lautenschlaeger would later identify as the inception of 'the golden age of the stage engineer, for the issue of success or failure hinged chiefly on his will and ability'. (3) After a brief stint in an accounting firm Dando left to pursue a career in technical theatre and production, and by 1875 he had patented a device to fly human performers over a stage. (4) Three years later he perfected the machinery and effects for aerial ballet, as performed at the Gaiety Theatre by 'AEnea', the stage name of Letitia Barry, whom he married. In 1879 the couple took their act to the Theatre du Chatelet, in Paris, and they continued to work on the Continent for several years while maintaining addresses in London. Such was Dando's growing reputation that in 1887 he was hired by Richard D'Oyly Carte to design and install the stage and machinery for Carte's new Royal English Opera House, to be constructed on a plot of land on Shaftesbury Avenue at the junction with Charing Cross Road, known as Cambridge Circus. When Carte's idealistic vision of a permanent home for English opera paled after some initial success, in December 1892 he sold his theatre to Augustus Harris, and the building became known as the Palace Theatre of Varieties (later simply the Palace Theatre). When it failed to flourish Charles Morton was called in, in October 1893, to rescue the establishment. At this point Dando, who had remained through these transitions as 'Chief Machinist', then, more grandly, as 'Regisseur', and finally as 'Stage Manager', (5) abruptly found himself a man in the right place at the right time.
Dando's situation and impressive credentials together put him in a prime position to exploit new opportunities. His patent for the stage machinery at the Royal English Opera House, granted in 1890, was his fourth, his innovations and improvements there being new enough to merit patenting. Dando's approach to spectacle at Carte's beautiful new theatre had been essentially through 'rise and sink' scenery: an undermechanism was employed to raise and lower the scenes through various cuts in the stage floor; in addition to cuts for 'sliders' and 'bridges', there were Continental 'slits' for 'chariots and Poles'. (6) The effectiveness of Dando's machinery is indicated by a reviewer of Arthur Sullivan's Ivanhoe, the opening production at the English Opera House (31 January 1891), who observed that 'the apparatus for shifting the scenery works rapidly and well, the average time for changing one scene for another being less than half a minute'. (7) The Builder praised Dando's designs for mechanical and lighting effects, judging them 'very ingenious and complete' and likely to 'save much labour and danger'. (8) When Eduard Kilanyi's tableaux vivants arrived at what was now the Palace Theatre of Varieties, in mid-October 1893, just on the heels of Morton himself, (9) they not only reversed the problematic fortunes of the house but propelled Dando into an entirely new phase of his career.
The historical moment at which we can now see Dando arriving was one in which the turntable, or revolving stage, invented in Japan in the eighteenth century and reinvented in Germany in the nineteenth, (10) was being exploited for larger, mainstage purposes. Perhaps the most impressive instance of such use in the period was Lautenschlaeger's own, grand application of hydraulic and electrical power, combined with manual labor, to the turntable stage at the Residenz Theater in Munich and, shortly thereafter, to the Munich Court Opera House. As Lautenschlaeger himself explained, he had 'captured' the electric motor 'for the stage'. (11) In the third volume of Modern Opera Houses and Theatres, E. O. Sachs makes an important connection between Lautenschlaeger's system, in which 'everything on the stage floor level and in the "under machinery" is planned on the "turntable" principle', and its adoption 'in miniature' in 'the tableaux vivants of our Variety Theatres'. (12) That adoption had occurred only four or five years before, as other variety houses rushed to follow the lead of the Palace; but the idea of the turntable, or revolving stage, had been maturing for some time. At some point in the long history of tableaux vivants, (13) revolves began to be used to present tableaux in series. Interesting evidence of their early use occurs in the misogynistic reminiscence in the 1870s of the firebrand reformer James Greenwood, in The Wilds of London. Greenwood looked back towards mid-century to the presentation by Renton Nicholson, sometime proprietor of the disreputable Coal Hole, in the Strand, of elderly women 'attired in fleshings and kilts, hand in hand, and revolving on a pedestal', along with 'a trio of bold-faced women, with noses snub, Roman, and shrewish, with wide mouths and eyes crowsfooted, having the impudence to represent the Graces!' (14) Kilanyi, of an age with Dando, who was born in 1852 in Dieben, near Budapest, and who began as a scene painter at the Victoria Theatre, Berlin, was also arriving at the right time. By March 1892 he had produced his first 'living tableaux of art' at the Reichshaller Theater and had secured a German patent for his turntable mechanism. By 1893 Kilanyi's tableaux were enthralling crowds at the Eldorado in Paris and then briefly in Spain before arriving in London and opening at the Palace. (15) When Kilanyi moved on, after four months, to Brighton and then the United States, Dando found himself facing an irresistible opportunity to pick up where Kilanyi had left off.
Dando, like Kilanyi himself, was undoubtedly aware of the basic limitations of tableau presentation but also of its great attraction if properly managed. The duration of exhibition of a given tableau was, understandably, limited by the length of time its human subjects could remain motionless and seemingly not breathing: in practice, about a minute at the most--which, as any actor can explain, is a long time on stage. However long or short the duration, the next tableau had to be ready for exhibition almost immediately, or else the audience would become restless and, even more important, the wondrous aesthetic effect of a whole series of such tableaux revealed in swift succession would be compromised. As a rule the curtain should be open 'for fifteen to twenty-five seconds, or even more, at the stage-manager's discretion', explained a writer in the Strand Magazine, offering advice for amateur tableaux production. If a series of different tableaux are to be exhibited, the writer pointed out, a way must be found to change them in quick succession, for 'in arranging tableaux, quickness is the very essence of success'. (16) Kilanyi's apparatus for displaying tableaux vivants addressed both of these concerns. It consisted of an ingenious mechanism that could display up to eighteen pictures, one at a time, in less than fifteen minutes, a rapidity 'obtained by the use of a revolving table divided into sections, and having removable backgrounds'. (17) The rapidity of succession, surely a great part of the appeal of tableaux to audiences, would have required extensive rehearsal and precise coordination on the part of backstage personnel, but once perfected the series could be repeated over many nights, with new pictures intermittently being substituted for old.
The technical details of Kilanyi's invention make for absorbing study. First patented in Germany on 25 February 1892, his apparatus is described in his application for a United States patent for the same invention dated 30 October 1894. In the diagrams accompanying the description, four extended semicircular sections are shown arranged at ninety-degree intervals on a double table running on tracks up to a large curtained picture frame 'illuminated within at sides and top by electric lights'. Set upon the circular base table is another, revolving table predominantly square but with rounded corners; four circular tableaux sections are set into this upper table, one along each edge of the square. These sections have rollers at their bases, allowing the apparatus they support to move in a circular fashion around the fixed lower table. In operation, 'the tables are brought into position before the frame', the curtain is opened, and the first subject is exhibited. Meanwhile, the next picture in sequence is receiving its finishing touches, the one before that is in process, and the one before that, which has just been exhibited, is being dismantled: 'its background and other scenic accessories are removed and new ones substituted'. This process continues to occur as each picture is revealed, Kilanyi explains, 'and thus the entire set can be quickly shown'. (18)
In this manner Kilanyi was able to exhibit some eighteen tableaux, with such titles as 'Diana', 'Moonlight', 'Sappho', 'Venus of Milo', 'Psyche at the Well', 'The daughters of the Sheik', 'Aphrodite', and others. (19) Kilanyi's tableaux were first advertised in the week ending Saturday, 14 October 1893. (20) Public reaction, very favourable from the start, only increased the next week, as Kilanyi introduced new subjects to the mix. (21) As audiences multiplied, he continued to add to the variety of his presentations. In February, toward the end of his time at the Palace, new subjects included 'Hebe', 'To Heaven', 'Pharoah's Daughter', and 'The Fairy of the Moon'. (22) Evidently, only the pressure exerted by previous commitments would eventually take Kilanyi's troupe, together with the easily portable apparatus he had designed, away from the Palace and on to his next booking.
Well aware of the terms of Kilanyi's contract, Morton and Dando took timely notice of his departure, to judge from the fact that tableaux vivants continued at the Palace almost without interruption. After Kilanyi's tableaux disappear from the Palace's advertisements in the Era, on 10 February 1894, a mere two weeks later the Palace is advertising 'the New Series of Tableaux Vivants'. (23) The Palace program for 26 February 1894 offers 'An Entirely New Series of TABLEAUX VIVANTS ... Arranged by W. P. Dando' and touts them in choice phrases:
These Tableaux have been in course of preparation for some months past so as to ensure their being presented with a perfection never before attained. Every regard, both as to the beauty of the subjects and the details of the Scenery, Accessories and Mechanism has been carefully studied, so that the Management feel the result will be a series of Living Pictures never previously equalled.
Some twenty tableaux, all new except for Kilanyi's 'Summer', were shown, with such titles as 'The Storm', 'Pierette's Dressing Room', 'Tinted Venus', 'Aurora', 'La Cigale', 'Bronze Electric Statue', and 'Polar Star'. A programme dating from 12 June 1894 includes two Kilanyi titles, 'Summer' and 'Winter'. (24) A programme dated 17 June 1894 lists some fifteen tableaux mounted by Dando; two of them, 'Ariadne' and 'Will o' the Wisp', had also been featured in Kilanyi's earlier selections. (25) As late as June 1894 Dando was still recycling a few Kilanyi tableaux, as in the case of 'Summer' and 'Winter', (26) but the majority were of his own invention. Patronized by the Duke of Cambridge and the Prince of Wales himself (who had encouraged Morton, worried about government interference), Dando's tableaux drew a rapidly expanding audience, some of whom had never been to a music hall before. (27)
Whether Dando had actually been taught the tricks of the tableaux trade by Kilanyi during his four-month sojourn in Cambridge Circus remains unclear, but certainly Dando was in a position to observe them at close hand, for he had mounted a 'ballet divertissement' called The Spider and the Fly--'Invented', a Palace programme explained, 'by Mr. W. P. Dando' (28)--featuring 'AEnea' as the Fly; it shared the bills with Kilanyi from 28 October until it disappeared in early April. (29) And, of course, Dando continued to serve under Morton as stage manager and regularly received credit in the programme for this work.
Kilanyi's departure had evidently left behind an enormous enthusiasm for this new form of theatre art, notable for its pretensions to high culture, simultaneous appeal to the untutored eye of a popular audience, and its easy assumption of life-like imitation. A description of Kilanyi's tableaux in a New York newspaper dating from March 1894 provides a precise impression of what audiences at the Palace would have seen during his tenure there:
These living pictures are set in a massive frame, set well to the rear of a stage darkened and draped with black. During the arrangement of the pictures, which follow each other with remarkable celerity, this frame is concealed by dividing curtains, which are alternately drawn apart and reclosed by two pages. The works selected for reproduction are faithfully shown by means of painted backgrounds, and by corresponding accessories necessary to produce the proper perspective effects. All of the principles of art have been thoroughly considered, and by means of careful lighting excellent atmospheric effects are obtained. (30)
It is uncertain whether the Palace and Empire used pages to draw the curtains open and closed; and the Empire curtains were red, not black. All the same, to judge from descriptions provided by contemporary London reviewers, the method of staging tableaux vivants remained essentially the same from theatre to theatre, though important variations must have obtained. The writer for Black and White in February 1894 appeared to be generalizing about the tableaux at both the Palace and the Empire when he explained how the lighting was done:
The elaborate frame in which they are set nowadays is studded on all sides with glow lamps in glasses of white, yellow, red, green and purple, all under the control of an operator, and so separated that most wonderful effects of lighting can be produced at will, especially when the rest of the stage is kept in utter darkness. (31)
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Another commentator described the effect of the Empire tableaux. The lights in the auditorium are lowered, and with no delay at all 'in the centre of a dark stage, a massive gold frame is revealed framing a charming picture'. As for the subjects displayed, 'Courtship', 'A Duet', 'Good Night', 'Pets', and 'The Three Graces' are 'among those which return most vividly to the memory, and the performers who tremulously attempt to emulate unmovability are nearly as successful as they are in emulating the requisite standard of beauty'. As one tableau succeeds another, red curtains blot out the current representation, and in the darkness another is brought forth. (32) An illustration in the Daily Graphic entitled 'Living Pictures at the Empire--Arranging the Tableau "Night"' captures both preparation and finished product and makes clear that the Empire had taken up the technology of the revolve (Fig. 1).
Once Kilanyi's troupe had arrived and his tableaux were featured nightly on Palace programmes, Dando evidently lost no time in responding to the impending challenge of carrying on with these profitable productions after the troupe was to have left, in mid-February. The statement in the February programme that Dando's tableaux had been in preparation for some time was no exaggeration, for as early as 14 December 1893 Dando had submitted his application for a patent for 'Improvements in Apparatus for Theatrical and Stage Effects' to Her Majesty's Patent Office. Meanwhile, as he waited for bureaucratic wheels to turn, he was evidently busy employing the apparatus in the months intervening between Kilanyi's departure and the granting of the patent on 15 September 1894.
The text of Dando's application explains that his specific invention was an apparatus intended for 'producing in an improved manner living pictures or tableaux vivants'. (33) Scrutiny of the specifications in his application makes clear that the improvements were based on the original concept of exhibiting tableaux vivants patented by Kilanyi in Germany in 1892, but were also very likely the product of Dando's astute critique of Kilanyi's apparatus in operation. Dando's platform, revolving on a central pivot fixed to a square frame with wheels on the stage floor at all four corners, was designed, like Kilanyi's, 'to allow of several pictures (by preference four) being set at the same time thus enabling the pictures to be quickly and readily changed with all the necessary scenery personages and accessories placed in position'; moreover, 'the preparation of three of these pictures can be going on during the time one perfect picture is being shown to the public'. For all its ingeniousness, Kilanyi's apparatus evidently had some limitations and some rough and ready aspects that Dando must have decided he could improve on.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Dando's improvements fall into four related areas in which he sought for better mechanical functioning of the apparatus, as Dando's figures 1, 2, 3, and 4 illustrate (Figs. 2, 3, and 4):
(1) eliminating vibrations of the platform: Dando had apparently observed that the frequent to-ing and fro-ing of Kilanyi's apparatus on its runners, as the present tableau concluded and a new tableau, rotating into frontal position, took its place, produced vibrations and waverings of the table that tended to spoil the illusion of the picture. Dando's solution to the problem of vibrations was to place on the supporting framework itself wheels running on bearings, to reduce any friction resulting from unequal weight on the revolving platform occurring either during the setting of pictures or as the platform turned. Not satisfied even with this improvement, Dando placed 'eccentric cams' at the front ends of the framework easily inserted under the revolving platform, eliminating any extraneous movement;
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
(2) improving access from the stage floor to the revolving platform and eliminating wavering of the platform: A staircase leading up to the platform of the apparatus is not indicated in any of Kilanyi's diagrams, though some access must have been provided. In any case, Dando conceived of a way to completely conjoin the steps placed on the stage floor with the edge of the apparatus, so facilitating the process whereby performers crossed over from the top of the steps to their places on the tableau. In order to prevent wavering of the platform while persons were mounting or dismounting, Dando adjusted the steps Kilanyi had presumably used so that they fitted just under the revolving table; and he fixed to their top 'an India rubber or lignum vitae wheel' positioned so that, when the revolving platform begins to turn or any extra weight is exerted right over the steps, the rubber or wooden wheel will take the weight and prevent any untoward movement; (34)
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
(3) improving overall physical contact between the frame, the apparatus proper, and the exhibited tableau: Kilanyi's method of allowing room for the rounded-off square edge of the upper table to turn without colliding with the lower sides of the frame was the relatively awkward one of pulling the entire apparatus back on its runners far enough to make room for the upper table to accomplish its quarter-turn, and then pushing the apparatus forward again into place behind the picture frame. Aside from minimizing the vibrations such movement could cause, Dando saw both aesthetic and mechanical advantages in devising a method that obviated the constant movement of the full apparatus back and forth. His solution was to provide an adjustable, hinged inner frame, fastened as four separate pieces to the inside edges of the main picture flame itself. This inner frame could stand open at any angle, preferably sixty degrees, from the plane of the picture frame during the showing of the picture, and then, by means of ropes running through pulleys on either side of the apparatus and attached to the four sections, could be folded flat and out of sight against the inside of the frame, thus allowing the upper table with its rounded-off square corners to turn freely without having to move the entire apparatus back from its forward-most position. Once the new tableau was in place, the inner frame could be redeployed out to the optimal sixty degrees by the operation of India rubber springs or counterweights, whose force would move the sections of inner frame back into place when the rope or a lever was released. Dando's justifiable pride in this innovation is evident even in the matter-of-fact tone of the patent application. For in this way he was able to effect a firm join and seamless connection between outer frame and exhibited tableau--and, not so incidentally, to enhance the perspective effect and the realism of an actual framed picture for the viewing audience;
(4) improving control over lighting the exhibit: Dando also proposed improvements in the manner of lighting the tableaux. Kilanyi's patent document pays scant attention to lighting, declaring simply that the picture frame is 'illuminated within at sides and top by electric lights'. (35) Dando's more sophisticated approach accords with his extensive interest and expertise in the technology and art of stage lighting. He called for a ladder to be attached just behind each side of the picture frame and at right angles to it, and connected just above the top of the frame by a bridge eighteen inches in width, high enough to clear the revolving stage and its scenery; a lighting technician, situated on the bridge and hidden from the audience by the curtains that surround the picture frame, could control the specific 'electric light or other suitable illumination' in such a way as to duplicate the light values present in the original picture being reproduced.
These refinements constitute 'a novel and portable construction', Dando explains, 'easily and quickly put together'. At the end of the patent application Dando summarizes in three brief paragraphs the innovations that he believes can be claimed as substantially new and therefore worthy of patenting: the combination of the rotating platform and folding inner picture frame; antifriction rollers and eccentric cam levers for preventing vibration and wavering; and--most important--the combination and arrangement of all the various parts of the apparatus as specified in the description and the diagrams. Presumably, Dando's patent agents, Johnsons and Willcox, had advised him that what could be patented were not only the specific innovations of folding frame and hardware to prevent vibration and wavering, but the full combination of these and other parts and aspects of the apparatus working in harmony together.
The great success of Dando's improved method of staging tableaux, in particular the invention of the flexible inner frame, is indicated in the comments of a writer in the Sketch in 1894, who explains that Dando's 'simply exquisite pictures' are markedly superior to Kilanyi's, partly because 'the pictures come to the very edge of the frame, which undoubtedly adds to their realism'. (36) A sketch of a tableau on view at the Palace in 1893, depicting Moses in the rushes, plainly indicates the presence of Dando's inner frame, angling back away from the outer frame toward the tableau and in evident contact with it. (37) When Dando's patent was awarded, ten months after he applied for it, he could claim possession of the rights to an entire, coherent method of exhibiting tableaux vivants and a complete, flawless apparatus for articulating it. Thanks to the constant appearance of his name in Palace programs and the eagerness which journalists felt to interview him, he could also claim a degree of attention quite rare, at this time or any other, for an otherwise obscure theatre technician, no matter how talented. The 'improvements' he had pursued in his patent application, now increasingly acknowledged by the theatre-going public, turned out to be a means of gaining full, proprietary control over an extremely effective and highly profitable engine of mass entertainment.
In 1894, by which time his tableaux vivants had become an invariable presence on the Palace program, Dando paused to give an on-stage interview about his lighting techniques to a reporter from the Sketch. Concealed in the flame behind the curtain, Dando explained, are 'over 272 lamps, worked on twelve different circuits', enabling him to light the tableau 'exactly as shown in the original painting'. If the light in the picture appears to be coming from the right, for example, he arranges for light to be played on the subject from that direction, bringing to bear complementary lights from the left in order to tone down any harsh shadows. At the same time, he augments the chiaroscuro effect on the figures in the 'canvas' by implementing his latest invention, 'arc lights' fixed on the gallery, or bridge, placed over the frame. These lights enable him to 'copy the lighting of any picture to the smallest detail'. To the reporter's question about the advantages of electric light over limelight, Dando's answer cited the relative cheapness in cost of electric light and the danger and noisiness of limelight. He went on to explain the technology of his arc light, whose simplified construction made possible its manipulation by an ordinary limelight man having little if any experience with electricity. Merely by turning a screw at the back of the lamp, the flow of electric current between the polarities of the 'two carbons' in the lamp could be altered, doubling the rate of electricity fed to the positive pole and creating a brilliant arc of light. (38) The problem with the pool of light cast by either the limelight or arc light lies in its crisply defined edge, Terence Rees has observed. What Dando somehow failed to mention to the Sketch reporter, Rees points out, was his habit of having the lenses he used with carbon-arc lights 'either ground or painted with semi-opaque varnish around the periphery and some little way in toward the centre in order to soften this hard edge'. Together with a colleague, J. E. A. Gwynne, Dando secured a patent for this improved lighting technique in 1894. (39)
Dando's great adeptness in mounting tableaux vivants and his relentless quest for improvement in the 'realism' of the art paved the road of continued success for Charles Morton and the Palace Theatre of Varieties. Dando's tableaux would remain on the bill until shouldered out by the advent of a still more popular entertainment phenomenon, the American Biograph, in March 1897. (40)
Meanwhile, as 1894 advanced, the Kilanyi tableaux and the tableaux by Dando that succeeded them were creating a furore unintended by either man. A writer in the Sketch in March 1894 followed up the interview with Dando on the subject of lighting with broader coverage of how the tableaux were produced. 'J.M.P.' pointed out the notable difference between the tableaux at the Empire, where subjects are 'draped' so heavily that 'scarcely an ankle or the tip of a toe is visible', and those at the Palace, where the management has deliberately selected for exhibit 'the chefs-d'oeuvre of the nude' by William-Adolphe Bouguereau and other master painters of the form. The writer rushes to defend such choices by insisting that 'all is pure in art'; although no precedent exists for them in previous living pictures (a dubious claim at best), 'there is absolutely nothing about them to offend even the most sensitive or modest temperament'. (41) (Was J. M. P. on the Palace payroll, one wonders?) The manager of the Empire, George Edwardes himself, would have disagreed. 'An artistic pictorial study of the female form divine is a very beautiful thing', Edwardes would chivalrously allow, in a symposium on the subject published in November in the New Review, 'but I consider that the impersonation of the nude upon the stage is calculated to do a deal of harm'. (42)
An important, if small, cohort of the viewing public would also have begged to differ with J.M.P.'s blithe judgement of the moral acceptability of the nudes on view at the Palace. Their efforts would come to fruition just a few months later, when the Palace along with other theatres and music halls was engaged in the process of annual licence renewal. On 10 October members of the National Vigilance Association (NVA) appeared at the licensing sessions of the Theatres and Music Halls Committee to oppose the relicensing of theatres whose performances or clientele they found offensive.
The two most prominent persons to appear at the sessions were Laura Ormiston Chant and William A. Coote, both of them seasoned reformers and both insistent that they attended as private persons, not as officials of the NVA. (Their colleague Lady Henry Somerset, who lent an aristocratic aura to such proceedings and who had written to Charles Morton to protest the on-stage nudity at his theatre, was out of the country and could not be present.) Despite their evident attempt to broaden the appeal of their charges by separating themselves from the parent reformist body and its reputation in some quarters for extremism, Chant and Coote were clearly in league and very likely had laid careful plans to focus separately on their two intended targets. Mrs Chant, wife of a prominent surgeon, a formidable platform orator in the cause of social purity, a long-term member of the NVA and sometime editor of its organ the Vigilance Record, appeared as the leader of a group of activists to protest against the presence of what she alleged was indecent costuming in the ballets on the stage of the Empire and prostitution going on in the five-shilling promenade, arguing that the renewal of the Empire's licence should be denied because of these patent offences. She had gone to the Empire fully five times in recent weeks to view the ballets and the living pictures from the vantage point of the promenade. Having concluded that the living pictures were without offence, she concentrated her efforts on indecency on stage and in the promenade. (43) Coote, who at this juncture had served for nearly ten years as the secretary of the NVA and had his own substantial record as a proselytizer on behalf of social purity, appears to have decided to concentrate exclusively on the nudity allegedly on view in some of the tableaux vivants at the Palace, whose licence, he argued, should not be renewed so long as the offensive tableaux continued to be shown.
Coote was backed in his objections by reports and views published in recent issues of the Vigilance Record, which pronounced the genre of living pictures a novelty 'of a very undesirable character'. Artistic though they may have been, some of the pictures were 'decidedly indecent and calculated to demoralise not only those who take part in the performance, but also those who witness it'. Having denounced the tableaux in a sermon, the Rev. W. Carlile, pastor at St Mary-at-Hill, Eastcheap, was challenged to go to see them for himself; although most were unobjectionable, five were 'a shameful outrage and scandal to the modesty of any good woman.' 'It is impossible', he concluded, 'for women, thus exhibited with the merest vestige of clothing, to retain their simplicity and modesty'. (44) Coote himself had a more elegant, if unintentionally ambiguous, phrase for the tableaux, labelling them 'the ideal form of indecency'. (45)
Attention both official and otherwise had been turned in the direction of the Palace for some months, and the Theatres and Music Halls Committee itself was marching in the vanguard of hostile interest. As early as 25 November 1893 Maltus Q. Holyoake, a member of the Theatres Committee's paid inspectorial staff, was dispatched to visit the Palace and the next day submitted his report. Holyoake had been directed to observe the tableaux vivants particularly and so took a five-shilling orchestra stall. His attention, he explained, directed generally toward the entertainment, was arrested by the tableaux, which struck him as 'a new departure':
Some of them are very clever representations of pictures, and several are of a classical nature, represented by apparently semi-nude, or nearly nude women. The last one, 'Aphrodite', was apparently quite nude, except for a scarf over the loins. I say, apparently, because in every case, I observed that the body, arms and bosom, were completely clothed in very delicate close fitting fleshings, which when a warm light was thrown on them, appeared like nature. The tableaux appeared as though in a frame. They were certainly very beautiful, and the audience seemed to approve of them, and applauded much. They were evidently not regarded as indecent, but as skilful and artistic living representations of well-known paintings and sculptures.
Holyoake went on to comment on the aesthetic and moral implications of what he had seen. Some would object strongly to 'such public and complete display of the female form', he believed, but it was difficult to determine 'where propriety ends, and impropriety begins. The borderland which divides the legitimate from the objectionable is not well defined'. Sent back to the Palace repeatedly in subsequent months, on 10 August 1894 Holyoake reported on his viewing of the Palace's fourth series of tableaux. 'The Moorish Bath', he said, was 'the most daring of the undraped representations--the prominent figure being an apparently entirely nude woman (though encased I believe in delicate pink fleshings) with a slight transparent gauze thrown across the lower portion of the body'. He added a telling comment about the aesthetic quality of the performance: 'The figures are so still and artistically arranged that unless one is very close, it is difficult to tell that they are not merely pictures'. (46)
Holyoake and many other commentators drew attention to what they viewed as the essential point about nudity on the Palace stage: that it was in fact simulated nudity, so skillfully lighted and carefully posed that the flesh tones were quite convincing as such. It was, after all, well known to readers of popular periodicals that actual undraped skin was not on view at the Palace. The previous March J. M. P., writing in the Sketch, made a point of the fact that 'the beautifully-fitting tights in which all these lovely girls are encased are especially made for these tableaux by a London firm, even the fingers and toes being carefully modelled' so as to eliminate 'any line which would be caused by the material ending at the ankle or the wrist'. (47) Dando and Morton were evidently going to extreme lengths and considerable expense to make their tableaux as convincingly realistic as possible, even while all except the most naive viewer understood that the women in question were covered from neck to toe in 'nude' fleshings.
Coote himself was aware of the calculated subterfuge perpetrated on an audience ready and willing to suspend their disbelief; but when the Theatres Committee turned to the Palace application, and he rose to object to the renewal of license, he found himself troubled over how to explain and justify his views. Coote's objections themselves were clear enough. Some of the pictures were, he declared, 'detrimental to the best interests and moral well-being of both performers and spectators', and he asked the committee to ban certain specific pictures--'Moorish Bath', 'The Naiad', 'Ariadne', and 'The Polar Star'. Scandalized and outraged by what he had seen, he complained that on the stage of a duly licensed place of entertainment the possibility existed of presenting 'the living female form, unobscured by a single stitch of drapery'. (48) But as he went on to describe the precise character of the offensiveness, his embarrassment mounted over how to deal with a situation in which what met the eye was not the truth and yet was meant to be virtually true. In 'Ariadne', he explained, 'a naked woman' was represented 'lying on the back of a lion':
There were four or five wrinkles on the lower part of the body distinguishing it from an ordinary picture. The left leg was placed under the lower part of the right, to produce the wrinkles. She was lying in such a position that had it not been for the tights gross indecency would have resulted.
Coote was saying, in effect, that only the presence of visible wrinkles in the fleshings, caused by the bending of one leg under the other, prevented him from concluding that the woman was in fact naked. And yet he did know, independent of the observed wrinkles, that the woman was not unclothed but only made to appear so. There is consequently an emergent though unintended comic irony in Coote's complaint, since it suggests that the horror he felt came as a result of the imperfection of the intended illusion. (49)
'Naiad' constituted in Coote's view a parallel case, in which 'a naked woman' was represented. He hastened to qualify the term: 'I believe tights were worn, but it was a matter of inference and faith rather than actual knowledge'. 'A thin piece of gauze was thrown slantingly across the person', he added, 'but not sufficient for its purpose'. (50) As for 'The Polar Star', it represented 'a perfectly nude female--at least it appeared to me to be perfectly nude--standing on a pedestal. Her arms were extended above the head, holding an electric lamp'. (51) It was unclear from the totality of Coote's testimony what was worse, the impersonation of complete nudity or the ineffectual attempt to cover it. In November 1894 Frederick A. Atkins, editor of the magazine The Young Man, would describe the pictures at the Palace unflatteringly, as 'an exhibition of girls standing in the glare of the electric light with nothing but thin flesh-coloured tights from head to foot!' or, in some cases, with 'just a string of drapery--a light sash, a filmy, fluttering ribbon of white gauze, that only served to emphasize the absence of clothing'. (52) Again, it was not clear which was considered worse--that is, which was more erotic--the fully 'unclothed' figure or one whose covering was demonstrably inadequate. Coote said he had visited the Palace on 25 August and again on 7 September and saw 'semi-nudities' there, 'less draped than the Venus of Milo' and differing from that famous subject 'only in respect of a narrow strip of white gauze, such as would pass through a lace hole on a finger ring'. (53)
Coote had betrayed himself into describing what he had seen in language nearly as erotic as the subject matter itself. Evidently, the spectacle of ostensible nudity or near-nudity on the Palace stage stirred deep feelings, some of them quite unacknowledged or even inadmissible, among those who responded to or chose to comment on the developing controversy. Not to be moved or swayed by such matters, Charles Morton, testifying before the licensing committee that same morning on behalf of the Palace management, took a matter-of-fact position on the whole situation, explaining that the color of the tights worn was 'flesh colour, or as near flesh colour as possible'. (54) In a symposium on the subject in the November New Review, Morton would claim to be unable to perceive indecency in the nude or semi-nude pictures at the Palace. People who come to see them, he said, with crass disingenuousness, 'regard these pretty things from the purely pictorial point of view, and are concerned with the ingenuity of the effects rather than with the fact that they are looking upon young women wearing little more than fleshings, with, In some cases, plaster moulds over the breasts'. (55) Morton's point of view was that of the seasoned, biase theatrical entrepreneur, whose sang-froid was a cultivated professional stance and whose business it was to create a satisfying illusion of reality through the most effective technical means available. Coote's, in contrast, was that of a hostile sometime member of the music-hall audience who was decidedly not sympathetic and who felt preyed upon by an illusion he knew was not real, and so could not be objected to on technical grounds, and who was nevertheless convinced that he was being asked to believe in that illusion as a reality---one that by its very nature was sexually teasing and arousing and therefore offensive in a public place. Adding to Coote's frustration was the fact, as he explained, that he could not take such evidence of indecency into court for a judge to inspect.
As the controversy mounted and newspapers, especially the Daily Telegraph, began to focus on it and print a great range of correspondence on the matter, under the general heading 'Prudes on the Prowl', (56) other writers, much better known than Coote or Morton, joined in the fray. The celebrated dramatist A. W. Pinero possessed a more sophisticated understanding of the phenomenon, but his conclusion was the same as Coote's. The 'intrinsic attraction' of living pictures was 'vivid impersonation', Pinero argued, and therefore when the spectator 'sees a woman clad only in a garment representing the bare skin, he knows that he is looking upon a woman who is impersonating a naked woman, and to impersonate a naked woman upon the stage is obviously an indecency'. (57) Bernard Shaw, who often found himself in conflict with Pinero's ideas, somewhat belatedly took another point of view in this instance also. Having been drawn to the Palace in April 1895, by an address by Coote to the Church and Stage Guild, to see the living pictures for himself, Shaw found it 'only too obvious to a practised art critic's eye that what was presented as flesh was really spun silk'. The illusion produced on the ordinary music-hall audience was nevertheless 'that of the undraped human figure, exquisitely clean, graceful, and, in striking contrast to many of the completely draped and elaborately dressed ladies who were looking at them, perfectly modest'. The living pictures, Shaw concluded, were 'not only works of art: they are excellent practical sermons'. (58) Such conclusions, belated or not, would have fallen on deaf ears in the case of Coote and his colleagues, though presumably Morton and Dando himself would have been inclined to agree.
As the committee hearing over the Palace's application continued, pressed by Councillor Beachcroft to explain why he withdrew the tableau entitled 'The Moorish Bath' Morton acknowledged he had done so 'partly owing to a letter from Lady Henry Somerset' protesting its indecency. The directors saw no advantage to keeping it on 'if there was the smallest objection to it', he explained. Urged by Councillor Russell to give 'an understanding that nude pictures shall not be produced in the future', the solicitor C. F. Gill, who along with his colleague Arnold Statham was representing the Palace management, demurred, explaining that this might 'lead to the withdrawal of some of the most beautiful pictures that ever existed'. Gill asserted the willingness of the Palace management to 'withdraw at any time any particular picture objected to by the Council'. Declining to descend to such detail, after closeting themselves for half an hour the committee voted 7-1 against Gill's proposal and let the Palace off with a warning, recommending to the Council 'that a licence for music and dancing be granted, on the undertaking that the management will exercise greater caution in the future...'. (59)
What is remarkable about the controversy over the tableaux vivants at the Palace is that it was generated by the very effectiveness of the mounting of the tableaux on Dando's improved apparatus and by the extremely realistic lighting he brought to bear on the subjects. No documentation appears to have survived to indicate whether Dando had any idea that the superb, seamless production of rapidly changing tableaux on the darkened stage of the Palace Theatre of Varieties would stir up such deep feelings about the ostensibly nude display of what Edwardes praised as 'the female form divine'. (60) Nor is there any indication that Dando was present at the committee hearings that morning, among the throngs of newspaper reporters and others drawn by the sensational and well-publicised nature of the business before the Theatres and Music Halls Committee. Dando might have derived no little satisfaction, had he attended, to discover to what a great extent stage nudity turned out to lie in the eye of the beholder.
In any event, Kilanyi and Dando had together set going one of the most significant trends in the theatrical production of their time. Dando's ingenious improvements in mechanics and lighting quickly set a higher standard than Kilanyi's, a standard to which journalists held his competitors and even Dando himself. A reviewer of tableaux vivants at the Lyric, presented between the acts of Little Christopher Columbus, complained that the tableaux were lacking in finish: 'The elastic coverings of the body in several instances are different in colour from the face of the flesh and neck, and in one or two cases it is quite evident where the former end and the latter begins'. (61) Such flaws were not to be tolerated, and offerings at the Palace were subjected to the same hard scrutiny. A reviewer appraising four new tableaux there in early November 1894 pointed out that the shadow of the body of a shepherd cast on 'a range of mountains a mile or so away' strained plausibility and needed corrective attention. As for another of the four, 'Mountain Sprite', the almost negligible clothing of the model, sitting 'on a rock at a turn of a mountain pass', strained credulity in a different way: 'The slight but judiciously placed drapery, the only garment on the young lady, must leave her, one would imagine, painfully exposed to the inclemency of the weather.., at a high altitude'. (62) Ironically, Dando's success in mounting tableaux vivants had been so complete that he now stood open to being joshed about even the slightest imperfections.
Finally, there was seemingly no way to satisfy simultaneously the demands of realism and the exigencies of nude representation. Presumably in search of greater technical facility, Kilanyi at length abandoned turntable technology in favor of a 'series of platforms or cars' carrying 'groups or persons properly posed' on rails behind a frame. (63) Dando stayed with the technology he had perfected, having gone perhaps as far as the facility available in this age would allow in the direction of a sumptuous, carefully calculated and elegantly displayed verisimilitude. It would require the development of the moving picture camera--a new and rapidly improving technology in Dando's time, and one that he enthusiastically welcomed and adopted himself--to take the level of realism to greater heights. Meanwhile, in the mid-1890s, at the most beautiful theatre in London, Dando's contributions to the construction of an efficacious stage illusion that popular audiences would find satisfying and enthralling comprise an important chapter in the history of the technology of scenography. Taken in their larger context, those contributions make up another, closely connected chapter in the social and cultural history of entertainment as well.
Appendix: W. P. Dando's British patent for improved presentation of tableaux vivants
No. 24,064 [official seal] A.D. 1893
Date of Application, 14th Dec., 1893
Complete Specification Left, 21st July, 1894--Accepted, 15th Sept., 1894
Improvements in Apparatus for Theatrical and Stage Effects
I, WALTER PFEFFER DANDO Stage Manager, Palace Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue London, W. do hereby declare the nature of this invention to be as follows:--
My invention relates to apparatus for producing in an improved manner living pictures or tableaux vivants.
My invention consists of a novel and portable construction of framework which is easily and quickly put together. Upon the centre truss of this framework revolves a platform upon a centre pivot, and the platform is made sufficiently large to allow of several pictures (by preference four) being set at the same time thus enabling the pictures to be quickly and readily changed with all the necessary scenery personages and accessories placed in position, the preparation of three of these pictures can be going on during the time one perfect picture is being shown to the public. I place at suitable positions, on the framework, wheels running in bearings, to reduce any friction there may be from the unequal weight placed upon the revolving platform during the setting of the pictures and also to facilitate in turning the revolving platform when changing one picture for the other. I also provide an arrangement of steps leading up to the level of the revolving platform to enable the persons taking part in the tableaux vivants to easily ascend and get into position on the revolving platform, those steps fit underneath and clear the underside of the revolving platform by a few inches, and I fix to the steps an India rubber or lignum vitae wheel in such a manner that when the revolving platform is put into motion or has any extra weight put upon a point directly over the steps, by the action of any of the persons taking part in the tableaux ascending to or descending from the revolving platform the wheel on the steps will take the bearing and prevent any movement in same. I also provide at the front ends of the framework eccentric cams which I can readily put into position immediately under the front end of the revolving platform so that any movement in the tableau being shown to the public may be prevented, or any vibration obviated. This is most essential as any movement or sway of the platform causes a movement in the scenery and the persons taking part in the tableau and spoils the illusion.
In conjunction with the framework and revolving platform I attach to the sides of the framework a picture frame of suitable design and proportions so that the tableau presented to the public may appear just as an ordinary picture does, inside a frame. The picture frame proper is provided with a mount hinged in four sections to the four inner sides of the picture frame. These four sections forming the mount, can be set at any angle, which by preference should be about 60 [degrees] to the square of the picture frame. This inside mount is arranged in such a manner that by connecting the top and bottom portions of the same, either by cranks and rods wires or other means I can by one movement of a cord or lever attached to the top portion of the inside mount at one end and passing through suitable pullies into the hands of one of the stage men bring the two sections of the inside mount to fold close against the back of the picture frame.
A similar arrangement can be fixed to the two side or upright portions of the inside mount, allowing them also to fold quite flat against the inside of the picture frame. By this arrangement of a folding inside mount I am enabled to revolve the platform with the pictures arranged on same during the time the curtains which are hung and suitably draped in front of the picture frame are closed.
Immediately the curtains are closed and the inside mount is folded flat against the back of the picture frame, the next picture which has been previously prepared is revolved into position and the inside mount released and allowed to take up its proper position: the curtains are then opened and the new picture shown.
India rubber springs or counterweights may be used to bring the movable inside mount back to its proper position when the cord or level is released. This arrangement of inside movable mount in conjunction with the picture frame fixed to the framework upon which the platform revolves forms a complete junction between the tableau vivant and the picture frame and shows no break between the background of the picture, and the inside edge of the picture frame, and also does away with the necessity of any supplementary pieces of scenery called in theatrical parlance 'tormentors'.
At right angles to the picture frame at the reverse side to that seen by the public, I fix upon the portable framework two light ladders of a suitable height with a platform or bridge about 18 in. wide running from one ladder to the other at a height just above the top portion of the picture frame so as to be invisible to the public and allow of the revolving of the platform with its scenery &c. From this bridge the necessary electric light or other suitable illumination is worked to light up the tableau vivant in accordance with the lighting shown by the picture being reproduced. All the previously described apparatus can be mounted upon suitable grooved wheels running upon T iron, and will enable anyone to readily move the entire apparatus to any part of the stage.
Dated this 14th day of December 1893.
W. P. DANDO
Improvements in Apparatus for Theatrical and Stage Effects.
I WALTER PFEFFER DANDO of 28 Marquess Road, Canonbury do hereby declare the nature of this invention and in what manner the same is to be performed to be particularly described and ascertained in and by the following statement:
My invention relates to apparatus for producing in an improved manner living pictures or tableaux vivants and consists in providing in combination a novel construction of framework which can be easily and quickly put together and a rotatable platform of sufficient size to allow of several pictures (by preference four) being set at the same time and the pictures to be quickly and readily changed with all the necessary scenery, personages and accessories placed in position, the arrangement permitting of the preparation of three of the pictures during the time one perfect picture is being exhibited.
In order that my invention may be clearly understood I will describe the same with reference to the accompanying drawings premising however that I do not restrict myself to the details of construction illustrated and described.
Figure 1 is a perspective view of an apparatus constructed according to my invention looking towards the front, the parts being in position for exhibiting a picture and
Figure 2 is a similar view looking towards the back of the apparatus, the parts being in the position they occupy while the platform is being rotated.
Figure 3 is a longitudinal vertical section and Figure 4 a plan of the apparatus with parts broken away for the purpose of more clearly shewing the construction.
A is a rigid framework of wood (but which may be made of metal if desired) mounted on wheels B to facilitate its movement from place to place. C is a platform pivotted at D and bearing on antifriction wheels or rollers E carried on the frame A, which rollers afford an efficient support to the platform and prevent undue friction by unequal weights placed thereon in setting the pictures. These wheels or rollers also facilitate the turning of the platform when changing one picture for another. Steps F are provided to enable the persons taking part in the tableaux vivants to readily ascend and get into position on the platform. These steps fit under and clear of the under side of the platform to admit of the rotation of the said platform and I provide the steps with a lignum vitae or other wheel G so that when the platform is put into motion, or should any extra weight be put upon it at a point directly over the steps, for instance by the act of any of the persons taking part in the tableau ascending on to or descending from the platform, the wheel on the steps will take the bearing and prevent any movement thereof. To prevent movement of the platform while a tableau is being shewn I provide at the front ends of the opposite sides of the framework A eccentric or cam levers H which can be readily turned into position to support the front end of the platform, so that the frictional contact thereof will prevent any vibration of the platform. This is most essential, as any movement or sway of the platform causing a movement in the scenery and persons taking part in the tableau during the time it is being exhibited would destroy the illusion. In conjunction with the framework and rotary platform I attach to the sides of the framework a picture frame I of suitable design and proportion, so that the tableau presented may appear like an ordinary framed picture. At the inner side of the picture frame I is hinged a mount made by preference in four sections K K L L. These four sections forming the mount may be arranged at any desired angle, preferably of about 60[degrees] to the plane of the picture frame, and the side sections K or the top and bottom sections L may be connected together by rods, wires or other convenient means so that by the movement of one of the sections the other section connected thereto will also be moved. The movement of the sections L L is shewn as being effected by means of a cord M connected at one end to the top section L, the said cord passing round suitable pullies into a convenient position to be operated from below, so that by means of this cord the two sections L of the mount may be caused to fold towards the back of the picture frame. The two side or upright sections K K of the mount may be similarly operated if desired so as to fold towards the back of the picture frame, or they may be separately folded by hand or by mechanical means if desired. By this arrangement of folding mount I am enabled to rotate the platform with the pictures arranged thereon during the time the curtains (which are hung and suitably draped in front of the picture frame) are closed. While the curtains are closed and the mount is folded towards the back of the picture frame, the platform may be rotated so as to bring the next picture which has been previously prepared into position for exhibition. The upright sections K K are then returned to their angular position and the cord M is released whereupon the sections L L of the mount will also resume their angular position shewn in Figure 1, the upper section L resting on the upper ends of the sections K, the new picture being then ready for exhibition. India rubber springs or counterweights may be provided if required to facilitate the return of the sections of the mount to their proper angular positions when the cord or lever is released. By this adjustable arrangement of the mount in conjunction with the picture frame I a complete junction is made between the platform carrying the tableaux vivants and the picture frame there being no visible break between the background of the pictures and the inside edge of the picture frame, whereby the necessity for supplementary pieces of scenery called in theatrical parlance 'tormentors' is entirely obviated.
At the back of the picture frame and at right angles thereto I fix upon the frame work A two light ladders N of a suitable height to reach a platform or bridge O extending across the back of the picture frame from one ladder to the other, the said platform being situated just above the top portion of the picture frame so as to be hidden from view but allow of the rotating of the platform with scenery or the like. From this bridge O the necessary electric light or other suitable illumination can be worked to light up the tableaux vivants in accordance with the lighting required to be cast on the picture being shewn. In the drawings I have shewn on the front of the picture frame I a hollow bead i containing electric incandescent lamps or other suitable illuminating device or devices for throwing light on to the picture frame the said lamps being concealed from view, electric lamps or other suitable illuminating device or devices being similarly arranged at the back of the picture frame as shewn for instance at K between the picture frame I and the mount in combination with other suitable illuminating device operated from the bridge O for illuminating the picture.
The apparatus described being mounted upon the wheels B is capable of being readily moved from place to place or to any part of a stage as required.
Having now particularly described and ascertained the nature of my said invention and in what manner the same is to be performed I declare that what I claim is:--
1. In apparatus for exhibiting tableaux vivants the combination with a rotatable platform on which the pictures are set, of a folding or hinged picture frame or mount constructed and arranged substantially as and for the purpose hereinbefore described.
2. In apparatus for exhibiting tableaux vivants or the like the combination with a collapsible or folding frame and a rotatable platform on which the pictures are set, of anti-friction rollers on which the platform runs and excentric or cam levers for preventing the movement of the platform while a picture is being exhibited substantially as hereinbefore described.
3. The combination and arrangement of parts constituting apparatus for exhibiting tableaux vivants or the like, substantially as hereinbefore described and illustrated by the accompanying drawings.
Dated this 21st day of July 1894.
JOHNSONS & WILLCOX,
In the preparation of this article I have received generous help, including the sharing of copies of patent documents, from Graeme Cruickshank, former curator of the Palace Theatre archive, and kind assistance from Mark Fox of Really Useful Theatres, Ltd.
(1) 'Living Pictures', Black and White, 24 February 1894, 233.
(2) Biographical details are taken from The Green Room Book, or Who's Who on the Stage, ed. Bampton Hunt, London, 1906, 95, and further details from Walter Pfeffer Dando, 1852-1944: A Chronology, 5th ed. revised, comp. Graeme Cruickshank, London, privately printed, 2000. For information on the Royal English Opera House / Palace Theatre of Varieties see also Survey of London, gen. ed. F. H. W. Sheppard, vol. 33, London, 1966, 300-4; and The Royal English Opera House and The Palace Theatre: 1891-1991:100 Glorious Years, comp. and ed. Graeme Cruickshank, London, 1991.
(3) Karl Lautenschlaeger, 'Theatrical Engineering Past and Present', Scientific American Supplement LX, nos. 1541-1542 (15 - 22 July 1905), 24686-87, 24701-03.
(4) Dando's flying mechanism for 'la Mouche d'or' and her 'gracieuse danse aerienne' is illustrated and described in Georges Moynet, Trucs et decors: explication raisonnee de tous les moyens employes pour produire les illusions theatrales, Paris, 1894, 164-70. Although Moynet does not name Dando, he mentions AEnea ('CEneas'), Dando's wife, and explains that the mechanism was invented in England and imitated and modified in theatres throughout the world (164).
(5) Programmes, Palace Theatre of Varieties, 10 December 1892; 12 February 1893, 29 August 1893, and 7 November 1893; and 20 November 1893, Harvard Theatre Collection.
(6) Edwin O. Sachs, quoting the language of the patent and citing Dando as 'an engineer who had considerable experience with French applicances', Modern Opera Houses and Theatres, vol. 3, London, 1898, 30. The mechanisms for raising and lowering scenes employed ropes, drums in the cellar, and counterweights (Sachs, Modern Opera Houses, 31; see Figs. 51 & 52 and details of undermachinery, 33). The text of Dando's patent, No. 16,699 (GB189016699), is abridged in British Theatrical Patents 1801-1900, ed. Terence Rees and David Wilmore, London, 1996, 82.
(7) 'Royal English Opera', Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 7 February 1891, 715.
(8) 'The Royal English Opera House', The Builder, 14 February1891, 126-7.
(9) Walter James Macqueen-Pope, The Melodies Linger On: The Story of Music Hall, London, 1950, 195-6.
(10) An International Dictionary of Theatre Language, gen. ed. Joel Trapido, Westport, CT, 1985, s.v. 'revolving stage'. An article in the Scientific American Supplement credits the German mechanical director of the Royal Theatre of Bavaria, Karl Lautenschlaeger, as the inventor of a new revolving stage and explains that people 'associated it with the device used on Japanese stages, which consists of a revolving platform in the center of the stage'; however, the Japanese device bears 'only superficial resemblance' to Lautenschlaeger's, which 'resembles more closely a device employed in America and England for displaying living pictures'; 'Lautenschlager's [sic] New Revolving Stage', no. 1078, 29 August 1896, 17230-31.
(11) Karl Lautenschlaeger, 'Theatrical Engineering Past and Present', Scientific American Supplement, LX, nos. 1541-1542, 15-22 July 1905, 24686-87, 24701-3.
(12) Sachs, Modern Opera Houses and Theatres, 69. Lautenschlaeger himself acknowledged that the 'impulse for my new system originated ... in the art of presenting tableaux vivante [sic] in England' and explained that the Japanese theatre's stage 'with a revolving platform in the center' bore 'only a superficial similarity' to his invention; see Lautenschlaeger, The Munich Revolving-Stage in the Royal Residenztheater, 1896, quoted in Gunter Schone, 'Karl Lautenschlager: Reformer of Stage Scenery', Innovations in Stage and Theatre Design, ed. Francis Hodge, New York, 1972, 66. Lautenschlaeger is credited with inventing the revolving stage, and two illustrations of his scenery for Don Juan (Mozart's Don Giovanni), are reproduced in Albert A. Hopkins, ed., Magic: Stage Illusions, Special Effects and Trick Photography, 1898, rpt. New York, 1976, 276, 279.
(13) For overviews of this history see, for example, Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London, Cambridge, MA, 1978, 342-49; Martin Meisel, Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England, Princeton, NJ, 1983, 47-49 et passim; and Kirsten Gram Holmstr6m, Monodrama, Attitudes, Tableaux Vivants: Studies on Same Trends of Theatrical Fashion 1770-1815, Stockholm, 1967, 209-33.
(14) Quoted in Tracy C. Davis, Actresses as Working Women: Their Social Identity in Victorian Culture, London, 1991, 125. Much research is yet to be done on this important chapter of theatre history, the evolution of the turntable.
(15) Jack W. McCullough, 'Edward Kilanyi and American Tableaux Vivants', Theatre Survey, XVI, May 1975, 29; and McCullough, Living Pictures, Ann Arbor, MI, 1983, Appendix, 155.
(16) 'Tableaux Vivants', Strand Magazine, undated photocopy of an original article (courtesy of David Wilmore).
(17) New York Dramatic Mirror, 31 March 1894, 14, quoted in McCullough, Living Pictures, 104.
(18) Eduard yon Kilanyi, Buda-Pesth, Austria-Hungary, Apparatus for Displaying Tableaux Vivant [sic], (GB189519841), filed Mar. 29, 1894. The full text of the application and accompanying diagrams are reprinted in McCullough, Living Pictures, Appendix, 154-5.
(19) Programmes, Palace Theatre of Varieties, 7 November 1893, 20 November 1893, Harvard Theatre Collection.
(20) The Era, 14 October 1893, 14.
(21) 'London Variety Stage', The Stage, 26 October 1893, 13; 'Palace', The Stage, 2 November 1893, 16; both cited in McCullough, 'Edward Kilanyi', 29-30.
(22) Programme, Palace Theatre of Varieties, 8 February 1894, Harvard Theatre Collection.
(23) The Era, 24 February 1894, 14.
(24) Programmes, 26 February 1894, [12 June 1894], Harvard Theatre Collection.
(25) Programme, New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theatre Collection, cited in McCullough, 'Edward Kilanyi', 40, note 23.
(26) Programme, [12 June 1894], Harvard Theatre Collection.
(27) Macqueen-Pope, The Melodies Linger On, 196, 201.
(28) Programme, [7 November 1893,] Harvard Theatre Collection.
(29) The Era, 28 October 1893, 14; programme, 7 April 1894, Harvard Theatre Collection.
(30) New York Clipper, [31 March 1894], 31, quoted in McCullough, 'Edward Kilanyi', 31.
(31) 'Living Pictures', Black and White, 24 February 1894, 233.
(32) 'Living Pictures', Daily Graphic, 8 February 1894, 5.
(33) Improvements in Apparatus for Theatrical and Stage Effects, patent no. 24,064/1893 (GB189324064), W. P. Dando. Subsequent quotations are taken from this document. For the full text, see Appendix.
(34) The device of the India rubber wheel was perhaps a by-product of Dando's experience as an India rubber merchant in the 1880s; Dando would be awarded another patent in 1915 for improvements in the manufacture of India rubber springs (Walter Pfeffer Dando, 1852-1944).
(35) McCullough, Living Pictures, Appendix, 155.
(36) J. p. M. 'Tableaux Vivants at the Palace Theatre: A Glimpse Behind the Scenes', The Sketch, 28 March 1894, 482.
(37) The Sketch, 20 December 1893, 420.
(38) 'How the Palace Tableaux are Lighted: A Chat with Mr. W. P. Dando', The Sketch, 14 March 1894, 373.
(39) Rees, Theatre Lighting in the Age of Gas, London, 1978, 192; and Rees, Commentary on the Sketch interview, ABTT News, April / May 1991, 1-2. Dando and Gwynne's patent, Improvements in lenses and electric lamps, more especially intended to use for theatrical stage purposes, GB189417077, is cited by Rees, Theatre Lighting, 227, note 28, and the text of the patent is abridged in British Theatrical Patents 1801-1900, 111. Cruickshank gives the date of this patent as 1895 (Walter Pfeffer Dando); both dates may be correct, since patents were often filed for in one year and awarded in the next.
(40) Dando had left the Palace in 1896 to capitalize on his next invention, the combination of 'a Cinematographe with coloured pictures and a phonograph used together'; The Music Hall, 10 April 1896, quoted in Walter Pfeffer Dando.
(41) J.P.M., 'Tableaux Vivants'.
(42) 'The Living Pictures', New Review XI, no. 66, November 1894, 461.
(43) Joseph Donohue, ed., 'The Empire Theatre of Varieties Licensing Controversy of 1894: Testimony of Laura Ormiston Chant before the Theatres and Music Halls Committee', Nineteenth Century Theatre, XV, 1987, 50-60. The controversy over the Empire license, in which Chant and Edwardes played central roles, has been treated at greater length in Donohue, Fantasies of Empire: The Empire Theatre of Varieties and the Licensing Controversy of 1894, Iowa City, IA, 2005.
(44) 'The "Living Pictures"', Vigilance Record, 15 September 1894, 15-16.
(45) William Alexander Coote, 'Episodes of the Work of the National Vigilance Association', Church Reformer, 14 April 1895, 84.
(46) London County Council Minutes, 10,870: 7.
(47) J.P.M., 'Tableaux Vivants'.
(48) Coote is approximately quoting William Archer's shocked observation, first published in the World, that it was 'now possible to present on the stage of a duly licensed place of entertainment, before an audience of both sexes and all classes, the living female body unobscured by a single stitch of drapery'; quoted in the Daily Telegraph, 11 October 1894, and subsequently in John Stokes, In the Nineties, Chicago, 1989, 77.
(49) It would appear that Coote used the term 'gross indecency' advisedly, as the current phrase of choice to characterize impermissible and morally offensive sexual activity. Its use in Coote's testimony echoes its presence in the language of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 as an umbrella term to describe forbidden physical contact between male persons (apparently there was no thought of extending the law to women). The term remains well known today among students of the subject because of the conviction of Oscar Wilde for acts of 'gross indecency' just a few months later, in May 1895; for an excerpt of the relevant language from the Act of 1885, see Richard Ellmann, Oscar Wilde, New York, 1988, 409n.
(50) London County Council Minutes, 10,717: 403.
(51) London County Council Minutes, 10,870: 10.
(52) 'The Living Pictures', New Review, 469.
(53) Testimony quoted in William Alexander Coote, A Romance of Philanthropy: Being a Record of Some of the Principal Incidents Connected with the Exceptionally Successful Thirty Years" Work of the National Vigilance Association, London, 1916, 75.
(54) Quoted in 'The National Vigilance Association and the "Living Pictures"', Vigilance Record, 15 October 1894, 17-22.
(55) 'The Living Pictures', New Review, 462.
(56) See Stokes, In the Nineties, 54-56, 76-77, and Donohue, Fantasies of Empire, 118-29.
(57) 'The Living Pictures', New Review, 463.
(58) George Bernard Shaw, 'The Living Pictures', Saturday Review, 6 April 1895, reprinted in George Bernard Shaw, Our Theatres in the Nineties, London, 1932, 1: 80.
(59) London County Council Minutes, 10,717: 403.
(60) 'The Living Pictures', New Review, 461.
(61) 'Tableaux Vivants at the Lyric', Era, 20 October 1894, 9.
(62) 'The London Music Halls: The Palace', Era, 3 November 1894, 16.
(63) In 1895 Kilanyi took out a patent for this new means of displaying tableaux with both the British and American patent authorities (British patent no. 19,841 (GB189519841); US548279). The text of the British patent is abridged in British Theatrical Patents 1801-1900, 122.
(64) This text, GB189324064, is abridged in British Theatrical Patents 1801-1900, 105.
The text and drawings of patent specifications from many countries can be retrieved at http://gb.espacenet.com though the data is not complete before about 1920. Some British patents before 1900 are present.
Joseph Donohue, a theatre historian and textual editor, is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, General Editor of The London Stage 1800-1900, former editor of Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, and author, most recently, of Fantasies of Empire: The Empire Theatre of Varieties, Leicester Square, and the Licensing Controversy of 1894 (2005). He is currently preparing critical editions of several plays for the Oxford edition of the complete works of Oscar Wilde, in progress.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2009|
|Previous Article:||Re-emergence of a unique theatrical teapot.|
|Next Article:||Notes & queries.|