There have been several noted families whose members appeared in Peter Pan through the years. Margaret Lockwood played Peter to her daughter Julia Lockwood’s Wendy in England while in the U.S. Mary Martin seriously contemplated her daughter Heller playing Wendy until the decision was made to cast her as Liza. And of course, Cathy Rigby has occasionally employed her offspring in her productions as well but there was one family that still holds the record in terms of the numbers of immediate family members who have played in Peter Pan in London or New York; the Hollom family.
I first became aware of the Holloms quite by accident while I was doing research in London for my first book in 1990. While I spent much time in the research room at the old V & A Theatre Museum, I tried to spend two hours a day going to other museums while each night I would try catch a play. One sunny afternoon, rare in London, I was on my way to the British Museum when I stopped for directions. The woman who came to my aid asked what I was doing in London and when I explained, she told me that she recently obtained a vintage Peter Pan programme as well as a copy of the Peter Pan Keepsake. “Would you be interested?” she calmly asked. “Would ! exclaimed, practically drooling. “Here’s my card,” she responded with a smile. “Write to me.” The card read: Margarita Reeve, Ph.D., Specializing in Children’s Literature. Margarita was on her way to an antiquarian book fair nearby (which I also decided to attend and bought a few items for my book although not nearly as exciting as what I would eventually purchase from Margarita).
As soon as I was back in New York I sent an international money order to Margarita and a week or so later I received the Keepsake and an odd paper leaflet; a small programme for a “Special Representation of Scenes from Mr. J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, By the Juvenile Members of the “Peter Pan” company.” “Oh my God!” I shouted to my son as I ran to pull my Fifty Years of Peter Pan by Roger Lancelyn Green from the bookshelf. I was holding an original Duke of York’s Theatre juvenile programme. You see, these programmes are quite rare as only members of the companies were received them. This one, however, dated Tuesday, February 8, 1910, was not even listed in Green’s book! And, even better, the cast included the first stage performance of Peter Pan with the lead cast character played by a boy. Herbert Hollom.
Herbert Hollom played Michael Darling from 1907 through 1910 (at the Duke of York’s as well as on tour), inheriting his role from his brother Ernest, who essayed the part in 1906. At right we see Ernest Hollom in the role of Michael, refusing the medicine that Wendy is attempting to give him while below left he is on the pirate ship.
Herbert then went on to portray John Darling during the 1910-11 season in London and on tour. What was interesting about the 1910 juvenile performance was that not only did Ernest return to the company to play this one time (as Mr. Darling), but two other brothers were also listed: James Hollom as John and Willie Hollom as Michael. With Herbert as Peter that were four Holloms! Could there be any others?
Yes! One Violet Hollom also appeared for several seasons as the First Twin; 1907-08 (in London and on tour), 1908-09 (touring company), and again in 1911-12 (on tour).
Just who were these Holloms? Unfortunately, not much is out there about the family although I imagine one could trace their genealogy and/or their stage appearances by sifting through the hundreds of thousands of theatrical ephemera housed in the Theatre Museum in London. Here are a few facts: Violet Hollom, who was born in March, 1890 in Brixton, London, appeared as early as six years old in A Night Out at the Vaudeville which opened on April 29, 1896. Later, in 1907, she was seen in See-See and at The Grand, was featured in Dick Whittingham, a pantomime with Tom Foy, in 1909. That same year she married Alan Hillier Henry Gardner in December.
Unfortunately, as little info as I have on Violet, I am even less knowledgeable about her brothers. Herbert appeared in Mrs. Grundy in 1905 as a four-year old character playing opposite Forbes Robertson (whose daughter Jean would later be acclaimed as one of the best Peter Pans of all time) and Gertrude Elliott. The three actors received good notices from The Bystander’s November 29 review.
Last year I came across another Peter Pan juvenile programme (from 1911, and this time not by accident) which, although Green listed it in his appendix, he omitted the line crediting the direction of the special performance to Herbert Hollom. And again, James and Willie are credited as playing John and Michael, respectively while brother Herbert played Hook.
- Did the Hollom brothers continue in the acting field as did Violet? What became of Violet, Ernest, Herbert, James, and Willie? Does anyone else care? Perhaps, for, coincidently, a few days after I had written and stored this entry as a draft, I received an email from my friend, Christine De Poortere at the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, telling me of one Andrew Cutmore of London who is researching his family’s history. The family? The Holloms! Stay tuned.