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Pan, Who and What Art Thou?

     “Pan, who and what art thou?” asked Captain Hook as he was losing the battle against his greatest adversary.

     “I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”

     From 1927 through the mid thirties, however, Peter might also have

Flyer advertising Peter Pan with Dinah Sheridan from the 1936-37 tour. Dinah looks alot like Jean Forbes-Robertson, though.

included: “I am Jean Forbes-Robertson!” Other than Pauline Chase, who played Peter Pan from 1906 ’til the end of the 1913-14 season, no one else had played Peter Pan year after year to the delight of critics, parents, and their children. There was something magical about Jean’s performances, half fairy and half boy, a Peter Pan that had not been fully exploited since his first year on the stage in 1904 when Nina Boucicault first essayed the part.

     Naturally, when the play closed its annual visit in London, much of the company would tour the other cities and counties of England. Sometimes, the star of the London production would join the touring company for a few weeks. Looking at programmes from different periods we will discover Cecilia Loftus, Pauline Chase, Elsa Lanchester, Nova Pilbeam, and Margaret and Julia Lockwood in such places as Brighton, Glasgow, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Manchester. And while there were flyers and broadsides distributed and hung in these various cities advertising the play and the actress playing Peter. However, when it came to Jean Forbes-Robertson, the management of Gilbert Miller chose to convey that Jean would be visiting that city even if in fact, the actress was not there.

     Take, for example, Dinah Sheridan; before Elsa Lanchester could

 

join the 1936-37 tour, Dinah played Peter Pan. An accomplished young actress, Dinah would play Wendy opposite Lanchester, that is, unless the older actress was ill. While flyers of the period used Dinah’s name for advertising, the stance of the young actress was to emulate that of Jean Forbes-Robertson, seen in this flyer of 1932 for the Hippodrome in Brighton.

Jean Forbes-Robertson flyer for the hippodrome in Brighton, 1932. Or is it? No, it is not a poster advertising Peter Pan with Jean; it's starring Doris Hilditch! This poster design was used in several cities during the 1932-33 season. One has to wonder if what the audiences were expecting Doris to look like. There are other flyers that also mixed the images of the actresses. Consider this flyer from 1939 with Margaret Cooper: yes, Margaret's name is listed but it is clearly Jean's photo being used as a drawing card. Margaret Cooper Peter Pan flyer, 1939 Jean Forbes-Robertson at the Garrick Theatre.In 1939, due to war-time conditions, there was no London production. However, a touring company with Margaret Cooper, Raf de la Torre, and Hilda Schroder toured Wolverhampton, Swansea, Croydon, Cheltenham, Bath, Exeter, Peterborough, Leicester, Bristol, Kingston, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, and Lewisham from December 26 through May 5, 1940. The flyer used was the same design as used for advertising Jean-Forbes-Robertson's arrival just a few seasons earlier. In fact, producer Gilbert Miller decided to just recycle the design with Jean. It's similar to today's regional theatres in the US, who, rather than spend a bit more to individualize advertising for their season of plays, often use photographic images of people who do not appear in the actual plays; a sort of Hallmark Card effect.

FOR COLLECTORS of PETER PAN EPHEMERA Over the next few months I shall be selling Peter Pan

Anna Neagle at the Palladium flyer

programmes and photographs on Ebay. With my Peter Pan On Stage and Screen book on the market these last six months, there is no longer a need to hold on to the duplicate copies I have acquired over the years. Included this week are the following: a 1906 Cecilia Loftus programme; a 1913 Pauline Chase/Noel Coward programme; a 1916 Unity More programme, an autographed photo  postcard of HildaTrevelyan as Peter; and a first season programme from Jean Forbes-Robertson’s reign. I have started their prices considerably lower than others I have seen on Ebay.

Jean Forbes-Robertson at the Palladium flyer

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Pan, Who and What Art Thou?

  1. In some posters for one of Cathy Rigby’s early tours, an illustration of her head was pasted onto the the poster for Sandy Duncan’s Broadway run. It looks wrong, too.

    Posted by Dan Patterson | February 20, 2012, 3:55 AM

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