Theatricals Of Felbridge

Theatricals Of Felbridge


The original definition of the term ‘theatrical’ is: ‘of, for or relating to acting, actors or the theatre’ and it is with this definition of the word that the following document recants the biographies of some of the theatricals that have made Felbridge their home at some point during their lives.


One of the most active theatricals that had connections with Felbridge was Harry Herd who was better known as the ‘Handcuff King’ and later performed as Harry Loraine, the stunt-man, silent film actor and film producer who made over forty films, two of which that were actually filmed in Felbridge.  Born in 1885, Harry was an active theatrical on both stage and in the film industry from the early 1900’s until the early 1940’s [for further information see Handout, Harry Heard, Harry Herd, Harry Lorraine, SJC 11/09].


This document is the first of several that will cover the lives of more of the theatricals of Felbridge, the first six biographies being: Hilary Allen, Coralie Harrington, Ivan Kotchinsky and Mademoiselle Du Boisson and the Macdonald Twins, all people whose chosen careers were ‘of, for or relating to acting, actors or the theatre’.


Hilary Allen

Hilary Allen was born Hilda Marjorie Allen on 17th January 1922, the daughter of Reginald and Lily Allen.  Reginald John Allen, a bank clerk, had married Lily E Fox in Kingston, Surrey, in 1913, although the birth of Hilda was registered in Wandsworth, Surrey.


Nothing is known about Hilary’s early life but by the age of seventeen she was a professional dancer/musical theatre artiste and the earliest surviving record of her performing is in 1939 when she appeared in The Dancing Years by Ivor Novello at the Theatre Royal, Dury Lane, London.  The name change from Hilda to Hilary Allen may be due to the fact that there was a successful, well established Canadian actress (although born in England in 1906) by the name of Hilda Allen performing when Hilary took to the stage.


The Dancing Years is a musical play in two Acts, written and composed by Ivor Novello with lyrics by Christopher Hassall.  It was produced at the Theatre Royal on 23rd March 1939 and ran for 187 performances.  The story is set in Vienna before the First World War where penniless and un-known composer Rudi Kleber befriends the daughter of his landlady and vows to propose to no-one until she is old enough to have first refusal.  During the next three years Kleber’s talents are recognised by operetta star Maria Ziegler who sponsors his first success and falls in love with him.  However he keeps his word to the landlady’s daughter on her return from finishing school only to be refused but sadly Maria does not hear the outcome and heart broken, marries Prince Metterling.


Hilary Allen is not credited with a role in any of the surviving reviews of The Dancing Years and was probably one of the chorus of dancers.  It is interesting to note that The Dancing Years was one of Ivor Novello’s most popular musicals and was given an expensive, spectacular production with several scene changes and a large cast including many extras and dancers.  However, at the start of the Second World War many London theatres closed and The Dancing Years took to the road returning to the West End in 1942 to a very successful run.  It has not been possible to determine whether Hilary toured with the production or returned to the West End stage with it in 1942.  It would seem unlikely that Hilary did return to the West End with the production as on 14th March 1942 she married Jack Lawton Goodwin at St Margaret’s church, Streatham Hill, SW2. However, shortly after this she began appearing in Sky High, a re-make of the 1922 musical comedy Whirled into Happiness, which opened on 4th June 1942 at the Phoenix Theatre, Charring Cross Road, London, where it ran for 149 performances before touring where it took in the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow.


Jack Lawton Goodwin had been born on 31st March 1913 in Kingston, Surrey, the son of James Provan Goodwin, a journalist, and his wife Annie née Lawton.  Although born Jack he was also known as John.  It is not known how Hilary and Jack met but their marriage in 1942 was during World War II and at the time of their marriage twenty-nine John was a Naval Officer, which would have meant leaving Hilary, aged just twenty, to continue her stage career whilst he was at sea.  At the time of their marriage, Jack Lawton was living at 102, Broom Road, Teddington, Middlesex, and Hilda, with no profession listed, was living at 94, Downton Avenue, Streatham Hill, her father by then a bank manager.  Little else is known about Jack other than in 1951, when he and Hilary purchased 1 & 2, Rowplatt Lane, Felbridge, he was listed as an Advertisement Representative, giving their address as 17B, Christchurch Road, London.  Numbers 1 & 2 Rowplatt Lane became one property and was later renamed Lyric Cottage and was to remain Jack’s home until his death, at the age of sixty-two, on 23rd May 1975.


Returning to June 1942 and the Phoenix Theatre, Sky High, the remake of Whirled into Happiness, is a story built around hairdresser’s assistant Horace Wiggs who visits the Majestic Music Hall and is mistaken for the Marquess of Brancaster, an intimate friend of the Majestic’s star Delphine de Lavalliere.  Shown to a private box he catches the eye of Florence Horridge, the daughter of a nouveau-riche hatter.  Florence’s father, ever the social climber, invites the Marquess to a party that evening at his villa in the suburb of Crouch End, and he also invites Delphine to perform.  At the party all goes well until the arrival of the real Marquess of Brancaster and Horace is unveiled as an imposter.  However, after a sequence of farcical manoeuvres Florence and Horace are finally united.  From the biography of Hermione Gingold (1897-1987) the author lists Hilary Allen as the performer of two songs: the first song, along with Douglas Orr and the Girls, called If I Could Write a Hit Song, and the second, called Period Pieces, sung with Zoe Gail.  Leaving Sky High, Hilary returned to the West End appearing in Arc de Triomphe, a three act play with music by Ivor Novello, which opened on 9th November 1943 and ran for 222 performances at the Phoenix Theatre.


Arc de Triomphe tells the story of a rising French opera singer named Marie Forêt through twenty years of her professional and private life, the loss of the love of her life in World War I and eventual retirement from the stage.  The production was reviewed in Theatre World in March 1944 accompanied by twenty-one photographs.


The next production that includes the name Hilary Allen is The Lisbon Story, a musical play written by Harold Purcell that opened at the Hippodrome Theatre on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square, Westminster, on 17th June 1943.  The production ran for 492 performances before touring Britain, returning to the Stoll Theatre, Portugal Street, Westminster (now the site of the Peacock Theatre), on 17th October 1944.


The Lisbon Story was billed as an ‘exciting spy play of the Second World War’ with ‘great music thrown in’.  The story is full of dramatic episodes portraying the tension of people living in occupied France, Nazi intrigue and the forced gaieties of Paris.  The staging was deemed as not ‘particularly difficult’ but there was a ballet and other dancing that was choreographed by experienced choreographer Eileen Baker.  Again Hilary is not named as a character so was probably part of the ensemble of ‘Ballet Characters’.   From surviving archival material, Hilary was part of the touring company when the production left the West End, appearing at the Liverpool Empire (programme undated) and at the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow, on 10th April 1945.


After the end of the Second World War, Ivor Novello built on the success of his wartime productions, in particular The Dancing Years, with his musical romance Perchance to Dream that opened at on 21st April 1945 at the Hippodrome Theatre, which ran for 1,022 performances.  Perchance to Dream, like The Dancing Years, was another of Ivor Novello’s most successful works, being the only musical for which he wrote the lyrics.


Perchance to Dream, taking its name from one of Shakespeare’s quotations from Hamlet, tells the interconnected stories of the fates of several occupants of one house through differing time periods with unforeseen repercussions upon each other.  During the run there were several character changes that had a knock on effect.  Zena Dare replaced Margaret Rutherford as Lady Charlotte Fayre, the character later taken on by Sylvia Cecil, who had previously replaced Muriel Barron who had been playing the characters of Lydia Lyddington, Veronica Lyddington and Iris.  When Sylvia Cecil was called upon to replace Zena Dare as Lady Charlotte, her replacement for Lydia Lyddington, Veronica Lyddington and Iris was none other than Hilary Allen.


Felbridge locals remember that Hilary was never out of work, she was only ever ‘just resting’ and between the end of the run of Perchance to Dream in 1945/6 there are no archival references to Hilary Allen until 1951 when she appears in The Lyric Revue alongside Ian Carmichael at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London.  This may be coincidental with the purchase of 1 & 2, Rowplatt Lane and its subsequent name of Lyric Cottage but the property became known as Lyric Cottage shortly after their purchase and Hilary’s appearance at the Lyric Theatre.  The Lyric Revue later became the Globe Revue when it transferred to the West End in 1952 and Hilary again appeared alongside Ian Carmichael who was joined by another well-known actress – Dora Bryan.  A review of the production appeared in the 1952 October edition of Theatre World.  This appearance also coincided with Hilary’s move into the world of the movie, at the age of thirty, appearing as one of the Can-Can dancers in the film Moulin Rouge.


Moulin Rouge was based on the novel written by Pierre La Mure, the film directed by John Huston with the screen play by Anthony Veiller and John Huston.  Filmed at Shepperton Studios and on location in England and Paris it was released in America on 23rd December 1952 and in Britain the following year.  The film is set in Paris in the late 19th century and follows the artist Toulouse-Lautrec in the city’s bohemian life-style found in and around the burlesque palace.  The film stars José Ferrer as Toulouse-Lautrec and Zsa Zsa Gabor as Jane Avril, roles later portrayed by John Laguizimo and Nicole Kidman as Satine (a re-named Jane Avril) along with Ewan McGregor as love struck Christian in the 2001 re-make.


In 1953 Moulin Rouge was screened at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Silver Lion.  It also received seven Academy Award Nominations and won two: Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design; received three BAFTA nominations for Best British Film, Best Film from any Source and Most Promising Newcomer – Colette Marchand; Colette also won a Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and the British Society of Cinematographers award went to Oswald Morris.  A further accolade was given by Bob Fosse who acknowledged that the filming of the Can-Can was very influential on his production of Cabaret.


With Moulin Rouge a hit in the cinema, Hilary returned to the stage appearing in The Lyric and Globe Revue.  The production directed by William Chappell may have been performed in London before touring but there are no surviving archives available but by 4th May 1953 the Revue was touring the provinces, appearing at the Theatre Royal at Newcastle on Tyne, moving to the King’s Theatre, Bath Road, Glasgow, on 11th May, and the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh on 18th May.


A West End musical comedy inspired by Moulin Rouge was staged in 1954 under the name Can-Can with music by Cole Porter and choreography by Michael Kidd.  The West End production premiered on 14th October 1954 at the Coliseum Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London, and ran for 394 performances.  The story line of the stage production focused on the showgirls of the Dance Halls of Montmartre during the 1890’s.  Local residents of Felbridge have always spoken of Hilary as performing in ‘Can-Can on stage’ but sadly none of the available cast lists credit Hilary Allen as a cast member, most only listing the main characters and not the individual names of the Dancing Ensemble, so this cannot be confirmed.


Having trawled through many resources the name Hilary Allen does not appear in connection with theatre, stage or film productions in Britain after her performance in the film Moulin Rouge in 1952/3.  However, in 1969 there is a mention of an actress named Hilary Allen appearing in a play called Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime at the Playhouse Theatre, Perth, Australia, but there is no evidence to prove whether she was the Hilary Allen from Felbridge.


After the death of her husband John, Hilary remained at Lyric Cottage until 1986 when she sold the property and moved to Mountfield Court, Turners Hill, where she was remembered as an elegant, slight, frail, elderly woman who wore her hair in a bun.  Hilary later moved to the Nutley area from where she died aged eighty-three, in 2005.


Coralie Harrington

Coralie Harrington was born Marjorie Nellie Harrington on 3rd October 1909, the daughter of John and Ellen Harrington. John Stephen Harrington had been born in Jagersfontein, Orange River County, Orange Free State, South Africa, in about 1884.  The town was a diamond mining town established around 1870 when a 50 carat diamond was found on the land, so presumably John’s father (whose name has not yet been established) was working there at the time of his birth.  It is known that John’s parents were British as the 1911 census records that he was ‘British by parentage’.


In the early summer of 1909 John Harrington had come to England and married Ellen Gould, their marriage registered in Fulham, London.  Ellen, also known as Nellie, had been born about 1883 in Hammersmith.  By 1911 the Harrington family were living at 8, Montrose Vilas, The Mall, Hammersmith, London, and John was working as a technical assistant in the architects department of the London City Council.


From a local newspaper article about Corlaie dating to 1965, it states that she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, but sadly it does not detail why she chose the stage name – Coralie.  The article also states that she ‘played repertory companies in Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Huddersfield and has also appeared in the West End’, and the Scottish Theatre Archive show that she was certainly active in Scottish theatres in 1928, appearing in Doctor Knock, Out to Sea and The Good King as a member of the Masque Theatre Company.


The Masque Theatre Company was founded in London in 1928 by Robert Fenemore and had an annual season at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Scotland, for five years.  Doctor Knock, also known as The Triumph of Medicine, written by Jules Romains in 1922, was one of the first plays to be presented by the Masque Theatre Company, firstly at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow before transferring to the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.  The play is a comedy in three acts about a doctor and the arrogance of the medical profession who can always find something wrong with the patient.  Coralie performed in this play at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow on 14th May 1928 and then on 21st May, still at the Theatre Royal, Coralie performed in the play The Good King (no further details) before travelling to the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh to perform in Doctor Knock again until the end of July 1928.  In October 1928, Coralie was back in Glasgow where she appeared in Out of the Sea, a four act play written by American humorist, journalist and author, Don Marquis, at the King’s Theatre.


In the winter of 1930 Coralie, as Marjorie Nellie Harrington, married Bernard Maurice Bardwell, their marriage registered in Brentford, Middlesex, and in the winter of 1931 they had Michael whose birth was registered in Kingston, Surrey, and three years later Anthony.  Bernard, who was born on 6th September 1901, had a career in banking and in 1949 the Bardwell family moved to Thicket Cottage, Crawley Down Road, Felbridge [for further information see Handout, Professor Furneaux and the ‘Penlees’ of Felbridge, SJC 03/09].


It has not yet been established whether Coralie combined her acting career with motherhood but on her arrival in Felbridge she joined the Lake View Social and Drama Club, assisting with costumes and make-up [for further information see Handout, Lake view Drama Club, SJC 01/02].  Whilst in Felbridge, Coralie also returned to the stage performing with the East Grinstead Dramatic Society in plays such as And so to Bed by James Bernard Fagan, first written in 1926, and The Marquise written by Noel Coward.


In 1960 Coralie was forced to give up her amateur dramatics and in 1963 Thicket Cottage was sold and the Bardwell family moved from Felbridge, but remained in the area.  However in 1965 Coralie had recovered from her illness and returned to the stage performing with the East Grinstead Dramatic Society in Goodnight Mrs Puffin, a comedy by Arthur Lovegrove, in which Coralie played the title role.


Unfortunately, just six years after the newspaper article about Coralie’s return to the stage, Marjorie Nellie Bardwell died, aged just sixty-two.


Ivan Kotchinsky and Mademoiselle Du Boisson

Ivan Kotchinsky was born Moses Weltman on 17th March 1888 in Tomashov, the son of Samuel and Rebecca Weltman.  At the time of his birth Tomashov was a mainly Jewish town in what had been since 1795, the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth.  However, by the 1800’s the Kingdoms of Prussia (including Austria) and Russia had expanded into the country and divided it between them, with Tomashov, situated in the province of Brestskaya Voblasts, close to the border with the Ukraine, becoming part of the Russian held Polish lands known as the Congress Poland.  After an uprising in 1864 Russia reorganised its Polish lands and revoked its separate status incorporating it as the Western Region of the Russian Empire, now Belarus and during the last quarter of the 19th century the Russian grip tightened with the aim of eradicating Polish national identity.


During the late 19th century there was a growing hostility towards the Jewish population in the Russian Empire that culminated in a series of violent attacks known as pogroms (condoned by the forces of law) against members of the Jewish communities.  In 1881 there was a significant pogrom at Warsaw, one of the largest cities near to Tomashov and from family legend it was sometime around this date that the Weltman family left and came to England.  There may be some truth in this story as documents relating to a later request for British Naturalisation record that Moses Weltman, aged eight, arrived in Britain with his family, which would make their arrival circa 1896.


In theory the Weltman family should appear in the 1901 census records as they would have been in the country for five years by then but unfortunately neither Moses nor his parents appear.  Having searched the census records of 1901 there is no Moses or Morris Weltman living within a Samuel Weltman household.  However, there is a thirteen year-old Moses living within a Weldman household, the son of Simon and Rebecca.  This Weldman family were living at Tewkesbury Buildings, Whitechapel, London, and Simon, listed as a Russian subject, born about 1863 was working as a tailor.  Rebecca was born about 1865 and was also listed as a Russian subject.  Their family consists of Samuel born about 1883, Sarah born about 1886, Moses born about 1888 and Betsy born about 1894, all recorded as Russian subjects.  Unfortunately it has not been possible to prove that this is Moses’ family but it is the most likely candidate.


The first document confirming Moses residence in Britain is his marriage certificate dated 4th December 1910 when he married Dora Kochinsy at the Stepney Synagogue.  The certificate details his name as Moses, a twenty-two year old bachelor, working as a tailor’s machiner and living at 53, Old Montague Street, Mile End, London.  Moses’ father is listed as Samuel, who was working as a tailor.  Dora Kochinsky is listed as a twenty-one year old spinster, working as a tailoress and also living at 53, Montague Street.  Dora’s father is listed as a barber, deceased.  However, although Moses is listed as Moses, he signs the certificate as Morris, and as for Dora’s family, there are two Kochinsky families living in London in 1901, but there is no mention of a Dora or any female child born around her birth date of 1889 as given in their marriage certificate.


Moses’ next appearance in British records is the 1911 census where he was boarding within the household of Elizabeth Rudge at 9, Gloster Street, Bolton, Lancashire.  By 1911 Moses was known Morris, probably as it is a more Anglicised name than Moses.  Also boarding in the same household was his wife Dora Weltman, listed as two years younger than Morris, the couple are both listed as single and as having been married for two years, both born in Germany and both pursuing the occupation of theatricals.  There appears to be some confusion on Morris’ birth place, given as Germany, because it has already been established that he was born in Tomashov, Poland, then part of the Western Region of the Russian Empire, now Belarus.  Unfortunately it has not been possible to determine where Dora was born as various documents give England, Russia and Germany, all that has so far been established is that she was born about 1889/90, and that between the date of Morris and Dora’s marriage in December 1910 and the census of 2nd April 1911, they had left their occupations in the world of tailoring and entered the world of entertainment, being listed as theatricals in 1911.


It transpires that the theatrical art that Morris and Dora performed was dance, touring much of Europe from at least 1911.  What is unclear is when and where they learnt to dance but it is from this date that Morris adopts his wife’s maiden surname as his stage name.  Statements in Morris’s Naturalisation Papers detail that in May 1911 Morris Weltman, known professionally as Ivan Kotchinsky, went to Austria and performed for four weeks at the Metropolitan in Vienna then to Galicia (the name given to the Austrian portion of Poland before World War I) where he performed for fifteen days in Lemberg (now known as Lviv in the Ukraine).  At the end of June, Ivan Kotchinsky was in Cracow before returning to Britain on 3rd July then returning to Europe on 29th July to perform at the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the Pantomimeteatret (Pantomime Theatre), built in 1874, served as a venue for various performing arts.   By October 1911 the Weltman’s were back in Britain living at 3, Greenfield Street, Commercial Road, Whitechapel, London, which was to remain Morris’ residence until 19th February 1917.


On 7th September 1913, Dora Weltman, travelling as Dora Kochinsky arrived in New York from Southampton on board the SS New York.  The limited information entered on the passenger list records that she travelled alone, had been resident in London, was aged twenty-two, was Russian and single.   Five months later, Ivan Kotchinsky left Liverpool for New York as a tourist; he did not perform in America.  The passenger list records he travelled alone on board the Baltic, was aged twenty-four, had been resident in the United Kingdom, was of Hebrew ethnicity and was married.  Ivan left New York within a month of arriving, returning to Britain, alone on 30th March 1914.  After a brief sojourn in Britain, Ivan left to perform at the Winter Gardens in Berlin between 25th May and 15th June, returning to Britain just before the outbreak of World War I.


Although there are no surviving passenger lists recording Dora’s return to Britain, she must have come home and possibly even toured with Ivan because on 5th September 1914, Dora Weltman of London, left Liverpool for New York on board the St Louis steamship, as a 3rd Class tourist, aged twenty-two, giving her nationality as English of Hebrew ethnicity and married, arriving in New York on 12th September.  However, there are no surviving records that show Ivan Kotchinsky travelling to New York with his wife or following her out there at a later date, and there are no further British documents referring to Dora Weltman/Kotchinsky, just a death record that shows that Dora Weltman died on 28th September 1924 in Los Angeles, being buried on 29th September 1924 at the Mount Zion cemetery.


By 1915 Ivan Kotchinsky was being billed as ‘The Living Spinning Top, the World Famous Russian Dancer’.  He had been engaged by the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, London, to perform for fifteen weeks and on one special matinee, in front of Royalty.  After this performance Ivan felt at liberty to call himself ‘Royal Dancer’, a term he was later asked to refrain from using.  Documents from his Naturalisation Papers suggest that Ivan’s act was ‘Ivan Kotchinsky and his Cossacks, World Famous Singers and Dancers’, and that besides performing, he also ran ‘The Ivan Kotchinsky Dancing Academy’ from the Alhambra and the London Coliseum theatres teaching ‘All styles of stage dance’ including ‘Ballet, Classical and Character’.  He also advertised ‘Engagements found for First-Class Dancers for Pantomimes, Revues and London Productions’.


Between February and October 1917 Ivan moved to 9, Union Mansions, Adler Street, Whitechapel, London, and then to at 4, Robsart House, Kenton Street, Russell Square, London, from where he joined the Labour Corps on 8th June 1918.  Ivan’s army papers record that he signed up as Morris Weltman, Music Hall Artist and Dancer, of Russian ethnicity, aged thirty years and one month.  Classed as ‘An Alien’, Private Morris Weltman no. 557950, was posted to the 8th Labour Corps being transferred to the 102nd Labour Corps and sent to France on 12th August 1918.


The Labour Corps had been formed in 1917 and was manned by officers and other ranks who had been medically rated below the required fitness for front line service.  They were employed on a wide range of tasks including maintaining roads and railways under shell fire, digging reserve positions, moving ammunition and battlefield clearance.  Morris returned to Britain in 1919 and transferred to the Army Reserve on 12th February 1919, his army character listed a ‘Good’.  It was a month later the Morris Weltman, professionally known as Ivan Kotchinsky, applied to the Secretary of State to become British.


In April 1919 Ivan Kotchinsky moved to a new address of 76, L Plumbers Row Buildings, Whitechapel, London.  He was still using his headed letter paper so must have resumed his professional career in dance, as a teacher, agent and performer with his Cossack troupe of singers and dancers.  Three months later in July 1919 Morris Weltman was issued with his British Nationality and Naturalisation certificate, and the request that he cease to use the term ‘Royal Dancer’ after his name, this he grudgingly agreed to in August 1919.


The year 1919 saw a new chapter in the life of Morris Weltman as he had met another partner, probably one of his troupe of dancers, Gladys Du Boisson.  Gladys was several years his junior being born in 1900, the daughter of William Greenwood Du Boisson and his second wife Hannah also known as Annie.


The Du Boisson Family

Gladys’ father William Boisson had been born in 1850, in Paddington, London, following a life-long career as a ‘piano forte tuner’.  In 1870 William married twenty-one year old Elizabeth Chapman in Marylebone and in 1871 they were living at 2, Hartland Road, Kentish Town, London, but by 1881 William and Elizabeth had moved to 38, Broadway, Salford, Lancashire.   Although there is no record of Elizabeth’s death, by 1891 William was living with second wife Hannah, aged twenty-six and two of their eventual six children at 137, Heaviley, Stockport, Cheshire.


William and Hannah (also known as Annie) had, Richard Headley born on 27th October 1886, Leslie born in 1889, Bernard on 25th January 1894, Doris born on 1st March 1899, Gladys born on 17th November 1900 and Reginald Arthur born on 28th June 1906, the births of the first four children were registered in Southport, Lancashire, with the births of Gladys and Reginald registered at Ormskirk, Lancashire, with all six children baptised at St Luke’s Southport, on 29th December 1906.  At the time of their baptisms, the Boisson family (now known as Du Boisson) were living at 87, Hawkshead Street, Southport, moving to 65, Hawkshead Street by 1911.


It has not yet been possible to establish when or how Ivan and Gladys met. However, by the end of 1919 they had a son Max, whose birth was registered in Romford, Essex, with a second son, Boris, born in the spring of 1922 in the London/Middlesex area. They then married in the summer of 1925, six months after the death of Ivan’s first wife Dora.  Ivan and Gladys would eventually have five more children, Zelda born in 1927, David born in 1929, Paul born in 1931, Rita born in 1933 and Ivan David born in 1936, all their births registered in Thanet, Kent.


Although Ivan and Gladys had started a family it did not prevent them from performing and touring and in September 1921 Ivan Kotchinsky and his Company, billed as a ‘Speciality Russian Dance Act’ performed as part of the Zwarte Tulp (Black Tulip) Cabaret and Variety Programme, followed by part of the Gebochelde (Hunchback) Cabaret and Variety Programme both in Holland.  When not touring, Ivan and Gladys were living at 6, Burton Road, Brixton, London.


In 1924, an article in the August edition of The Lady wrote about Ivan Kotchinsky and Mille. Du Boisson:

The ever-changing bill at the Alhambra always provides fresh novelties or old friends, among whom last week “Little Tich” was perhaps the most conspicuous in the latter category.  But it is to a “turn” Jack Hylton and his famous band that the most generous applause is directed, and last week certainly this “British Master of Rhythm” made heads nod and toes tap to his beat as he directed a remarkably capable group of instrumentalists through various tuneful frolics.  The there were the Dollie and Billie Sisters [sic], who roused much applause, and Rebla, a comedian and juggler of rare ability.  And those who like skilful dancing were much impressed by the spirited work accomplished by Ivan Kotchinsky, Mlle. Du Boisson, and others in some excellent numbers that included a Tzigane Love Dance and a Gipsy Knife Dance.  But then the Alhambra always provides a good programme – last week, this week, next week! – always different, yet always the same.


In April 1925, travelling alone and as Morris Weltman, Ivan left the Port of London for the Cape on board the Baradine, the embarkation list recording him as a Music Hall Artist, aged thirty-seven.  On his return, the Weltman family moved to Gypsy Villa, Crow Hill Road, Margate, Kent, where from the surviving records, Ivan took up employment as a producer and booking agent for the Margate Corporation.  A year after the birth of their third child, Zelda, Ivan was joined by his wife and son Max on a trip to Durban and Darwin in South Africa.  Ivan travelled as Morris Weltman and Gladys as his wife, no professions listed.  Sadly within a month of their return their eldest son Max died.  It was around this date that the Weltman family moved to Grove House, Westbrook, Margate.


Between 1930 and 1933 Ivan Kotchinsky travelled annually to South Africa in January, returning in April, giving his occupation variously as Artiste, Musical Hall Artiste and finally Producer.  Then in January 1934 Ivan Kotchinsky, Theatrical Manager, was bound for Brisbane, Australia, on board the Maloja.  An article in the Courier-Mail details his visit:





Producer’s Plans


Some of the best English Theatrical talent may be brought to Australia towards the end of the year by Mr. Ivan Kotchinsky, producer and theatrical booking agent, who is now doing the round trip by the Maloja, which arrived in Brisbane yesterday.


As the sole booking agent and producer for the Margate corporation and for the new palatial pavilion at Bournemouth, Mr. Kotchinsky handles in the summer season the following well-known artists:- Miss Gracie Fields (seen recently in Brisbane in a talking picture), Jack Hylton, (orchestral leader), Will Hay and Wee Georgie Wood (comedians), Flotsam and Jetsam (who are coming to Australia soon to do broadcast entertainments), Layton and Johnstone, Nerv and Knox, and many other vaudeville entertainers of wide reputation.


It is of interest to note that the Big Four, a party of Melbourne artists, who are well known in all the States, were given engagements by Mr. Kotchinsky, who has a high opinion of the talent of Australians.  If he brings out a party towards the close of the year it will comprise all principal artists, and the supporting talent will be engaged in Australia.


“You have excellent ballet girls in Australia”, he said.  “Not only have they good looks and fine figures, but they can dance.  I say so – I, Kotchinsky – and I know ballet dancing, the great Russian ballet dancing, for instance. I was delighted with the Williamson production, The Dubarry, in Sydney, and I thought the Ernest Rolls revues very good, too.  The picture theatres are a credit to Australia”.


This article outlines the list of entertainers that Ivan Kotchinsky handled with some well respected acts including:

Gracie Fields, the singer and comedienne and star of the Music Hall and film who was born Grace Stansfield in Rochdale, Lancashire, in 1898.  She may well have met Ivan Kotchinsky in Lancashire before the World War I or at the Alhambra Theatre when she appeared there in 1925.

Jack Hylton, born John Hilton in 1892 in Great Lever, Bolton, Lancashire.  He began his career in as a pianist with the Stroud Haxton Band before moving to the position of musical director of the band of the 20th Hussars.  After World War I he moved to London where he formed his own band playing and recording the new style of jazz derived from American dance music, eventually becoming director and the major shareholder of Decca records.  Again Jack Hylton may have met Ivan Kotchinsky in Lancashire or London.

Will Hay, who was born in 1888 in Stockton-on Tees, County Durham, was a trained engineer and a self taught juggler and Music Hall artiste, eventually taking up acting in his mid forties becoming a prolific and popular film comedian between 1934 and 1943, being probably best known for his role in the film Oh, Mr Porter!

Wee Georgie Wood, born George wood in 1894 in Jarrow, County Durham, who began a long Music Hall and Variety career at the age of five.  Being fully grown at just 4ft 9ins (1.5m) he spent most of career impersonating children, being awarded the OBE for services to the entertainment business in 1946.

Flotsam and Jetsam, (Bentley Collingwood Hillingham born in 1890 and Malcolm McEachern born in 1883), were an Anglo-New Zealand musical duo considered by some as precursors to Flanders and Swan.

Layton and Johnstone, successful musical double act Turner Layton born in America in 1894  and Clarence Nathanial “Tandy” Johnstone born in Carlisle, Cumberland,  in 1895, who had numerous hits in the 20’a and early 30’s.

Nervo and Knox, alias Jimmy Nervo, born James Holloway in London in 1898 and Teddy Knox, born Albert Edward Cromwell Knox in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, in 1896, who began their careers as an acrobatic dance team later becoming part of the original Crazy Gang.


In 1935 Ivan Kotchinsky, travelling as Morris Weltman, took his wife Gladys (listed as a housewife) and two of their children, Zelda and David to Brisbane on board the Hobsons Bay, presumably for a similar trip to that of 1934.  Ivan returned again to Brisbane in 1936, travelling alone on board the Mooltan, as a Theatrical Producer, and again in 1937 returning to Britain in March.  There are currently no more entries in any passenger lists that record Ivan Kotchinsky travelling abroad and since 1935 he had been working as the Theatrical Producer for Westbrook Pavilion, adding the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth, Hampshire, to his portfolio in 1938.  There is some evidence to suggest that Ivan Kotchinsky had disbanded his troupe of dancers as in 1937 an advertisement appeared in the Riddlesdown Recorder placed by Carol Howard offering ‘Dancing, Physical-Culture (based on American limbering) and Elocution and Deportment, being late of Kotchinsky Ballet, Marshmallow and Cabaret etc’.


Sometime around 1940/41 Ivan Kotchinsky and his family moved from 19, Avenue Gardens, Cliftonville, Margate, to the Felbridge area taking up residence at The Laurels, Hophurst Hill, Crawley Down.  Several advertisements survive stating: ‘The Pavilion Theatre – Bournemouth, 1549 seats.  Stage Plays, Variety, Operas, Ballet, Musical Comedies etc.  Variety booked by Ivan Kotchinksy, The Laurels, Crawley Down, Sussex’. Three of Ivan’s youngest children went to Felbridge School, entering on 1st July 1940.  They are remembered by several local Felbridge residents who were at school with them in the 1940’s.  They recall that Zelda and Rita were very fair and there was a brother Paul.  The older brother David was very bright and went the East Grinstead Grammar School, whilst the youngest son Ivan was too young to start school.  They also recall that Zelda suffered a lot with illness and spent much of her time in a wheelchair and that she sadly died whilst attending Felbridge School in the spring of 1942, aged fifteen; a plaque being erected to her memory, sadly now missing.


In September 1942 the Weltmans returned to Margate but 1942 would prove to be a very sad year for the Weltman family as not only did Zelda pass away at the beginning of the year but shortly after they left Felbridge Morris Weltman died aged just fifty-four.


By 1951 Gladys Weltman was living at Academy, 2A Rancorn Road, Westbrook, and was known by the name of Madam Kotchinsky.  Using a stage name would suggest that perhaps Gladys had returned to her roots, may be not as a dancer but passing her knowledge on to dancers of the future.  Sadly there is no supporting evidence for this scenario but one of her sons recalled her as the ‘Great Russian dancer, Madam Kotchinsky’ a name she did not adopt until after the death of Ivan as in her performing days, before caring for their children, she was known as Mademoiselle Du Boisson.


As a post script, an admirer from Australia wrote in 2006:

One remembers the Great Russian dancers of the 1920’s Ivan Kotchinsky and his wife Madam Du Boisson.   They danced in all the great cities of the UK, Europe and South Africa. Arguably the greatest couple of their time.


Macdonald Twins

The Macdonald Twins were born Clara Maria and Millicent Macdonald in Coventry on 13th July 1916, two of at least four children of Thomas Augustus Macdonald and his wife Elizabeth née Bruce.


Thomas Macdonald, born about 1880 in Richmond, married Elizabeth Bruce in 1911 in Kensington, where they made their home at 221, Cromwell Road.  Elizabeth had been born about 1883 in Dundee, Scotland, and family legend has it that she was descended from Robert the Bruce.  Clara and Millicent’s siblings included Elizabeth Dorothy (known as Dorothy) born in 1911 in Kensington, Surrey, and Thomas (known as Tommy) born in 1913 in Fulham, London.   In 1911 Thomas Macdonald was working as a mercantile clerk for a Machinery Agent, but by 1916 the Macdonald family had moved from the London area to Coventry where Clara and Millicent were born.


Around 1920, the Macdonald family moved back to the London area, settling at Highgate Village, where Clara and Millicent attended a Convent School.  However, by the age of eight Clara and Millicent had been enrolled at a dance school in Paris as the nun’s at the Convent School ‘believed their dancing talent was a gift from God’ (the sister’s own words).  It was whilst in Paris, at the age of fifteen, that Clara and Millicent were spotted by Maurice Chevalier who secured them as a dance act at the Casino de Paris, The Parisian Music Hall of its day.  During their time at Casino de Paris their mother acted as chaperone and she would not let them stay to the end of the performance because it had naked dancers that she felt was unsuitable for her daughters to watch.  However, a group of nuns from the Convent came to watch them perform and, in full habit, sat in the audience until the end of the show.


Maurice Chevalier had been born in 1888 and began his entertainment career as an acrobat before a serious accident ended that career and he turned to singing and acting.  In 1917 Maurice Chevalier became a star at The Casino de Paris playing before British and American troops and becoming acquainted with jazz and rag time.  He was then imprisoned in a Prisoner of War camp where he formulated the idea of touring Britain and America and set about learning English.  After the war he travelled to London where he found success at the Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus, Westminster, although having studied English he still sang in French.  During the 1920’s and 30’s Maurice Chevalier had a successful career at the Casino de Paris and had made it in Hollywood making his film debut in Innocents in Paris released in 1928, followed by a string of successful films.  It was during this phase in his career that he met and promoted Clara and Millicent Macdonald.


However, shortly after their debut on the French stage, Clara and Millicent met an American producer who brought them back to England where they began performing under the stage name the Macdonald Twins.  Also at some point in time (not yet established) Clara adopted the name Claire Maria and Millicent became known as Beau.


Back in Britain, the first show they recalled appearing in was ‘Babes in the Wood in Drury Lane’, with Charlie Chaplin purported to have been in the audience that night.  It has not been possible to determine which year this was but Babes in the Wood appeared in Drury Lane in 1931 and 1938.  However, in 1933 the Macdonald Twins must have been performing on the cabaret circuit in London as they appear as part of British Pathé series of London’s Famous Clubs and Cabarets, at the Cosmo Club where they were billed as “The Macdonald Twins, two girls doing slow acrobatic and balletic movements” to the music of Phil Corke’s Metronomes.


The London club and cabaret scene of the 1920’s and 30’s was promoted through the slogan ‘Theatres are closed but London after dark continues its gay dancing’.  British Pathé filmed several evenings of entertainment at various clubs and cabarets including The Cosmo Club at Wardour Street, Princes Golden Brassiere, The Casa Nouva Restaurant, the Kit Kat Club, and Piccadilly Cabaret at the Piccadilly Hotel, all catering for a late night entertainment for the ‘High Life’ with dancing to music of the resident band for the clientele who then sat at tables around a performance space to watch a programme of acts that generally included a contortionist act, a comedy act, various dance acts including tappers, ballet or chorus of girls and singers.  Even the ‘working man’ was catered for; their venue being The Anchor Club whose entertainments followed a similar programme to those of the ‘High Life’ but with music played on a piano.  When viewing these recordings the cabaret presented, both in the ‘High Life’ and ‘Working Man’s’ venues, appears to be an extension of the traditional acts found in Music Hall.


In 1939, Beau married Leslie Victor Fallick, one half of the stage act known as The Pompy Twins, his twin brother Alan Ivor being the other half of the act.  Leslie, who went by the name Victor, and Alan were born  on 27th October 1909 (their births registered in the Portsmouth registration district), and were two of four sons of Osmond Edward Fallick and his wife Laura Blanch née Fiford; the other two sons were Donald Clifford born in 1911 and Eric born in 1913.


Although Beau was now married, the Macdonald Twins continued performing during the war years, spending much of their time touring the country entertaining the troops or performing at the Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, London.  After performing at the Cambridge during the evening, Claire Maria was on Fire Watch patrol on the roof during the night.  In their own words: “We were bombed in Birmingham and in Dover we were shelled.  In Bristol we were left dancing on stage and a bomb came through the roof and went right through the middle of the stage, but it was a dud’.  From surviving documents the Macdonald Twins were appearing at the Hippodrome, Bristol, in 1941 along side names such as Ethel Renell and Grace West (popular female double act), Billy Bennett (comedian), Richard Neller (actor), Keppel and Betty(popular Music Hall act), Darita, Sid Plummer (actor) and  Navan O’Reilly.


Another surviving document from 1942 has the Macdonald Twins performing at the New Theatre, Abington Street, Northampton, alongside acts such as Murray (Australian entertainer and escapologist), Harry Hemsley (child impersonator), Chris Gill, George Betton (actor), Al and Hilda Heath (comedy double act), Hengler Brothers (acrobatic tumblers/slapstick) and the Four Cranks (slapstick).


Quoting from ‘Twins still on their toes at 90’: They returned to France on a number of occasions during the war.  Beau said “When we got a little older we went back to Paris.  Nobody took any notice of us because we were so young and blonde”, and added quietly: “We used to pass information back to the British Government”’.  Beau and Claire Maria met many high powered people during the war years including Vyacheslav Molotov (formerly the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union who had been appointed as the New Commissar of Foreign Affairs by Stalin in 1939).  Molotov was of the opinion that Beau and Claire Maria should return with him to Russia and join the Bolshoi Ballet.  They were also introduced to Sir Winston Churchill who had asked to meet them after having watched them perform.


It was during the war that Claire Maria met her future husband, Lancaster Bomber pilot Edward Guinibert.  “I met him at the stage door one night in London and he wanted to take me out to dinner.  I said yes because we were on rations”.  Claire Maria and Edward Guinibert married in 1943 and in 1948 they had a daughter who remembers that her mother still performed, living a week here and a week there, always taking with them her travelling trunk of beautiful Parisian costumes.


In the 1960’s Beau and Claire Maria moved to the East Grinstead area where thrice married Beau lost her last husband in 1991 and where Claire Maria lost her husband three years later in 1994.  Now in their late 90’s both sisters live at Whittington College, Felbridge.


In recognition of the talents during the war both Beau and Claire Maria were awarded the Crown and Country medal for Service to Entertainment.



Handout, Harry Heard, Harry Herd, Harry Lorraine, SJC 11/09, FHWS

Hilary Allen

BMD Index

The Guide to Musical Theatre,

Ivor Novello – Victoria and Albert Museum,

Goodwin/Allen marriage certificate, FHA

Schedule of Deeds for Lyric Cottage, FHA

Scottish Theatre Archive,

Hermione Gingold (1897-1987) by Judy Harris

Theatre World, Mar 1944 (No. 233)

Liverpool Empire Theatre programme

Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre

Documented memories of M Jones, FHA

Theatre World, Oct 1952

Moulin Rouge,


Census records, 1891, 1901, 1911

Coralie Harrington

Census records 1911

Actress makes come back as Mrs Puffin, Local newspaper article, 1965, FHA

Handout, Professor Furneaux and the ‘Penlees’ of Felbridge, SJC 03/09, FHWS

Handout, Lake View Drama Club, SJC 01/02, FHWS

Ivan Kotchinsky/Gladys Du Boisson

Documented memories of D Weltman, FHA

Documented memories of J Weltman, FHA

Census records 1891, 1901, 1911

Free BMD

Marriage certificate of Weltman/Kochinsky, 1910, FHA

Weltman/Kotchinsky Naturalisation Papers, NA

NY Passenger lists,

British Passenger lists

Kotchinsky postcard, RAM archive

Weltman Service papers,

Weltman death, 1924, Jewish Gen Family Finder

Article from The Lady, 21st Aug 1924, FHA

Telephone Directories 1926 - 1953

Stage Stars may come, Courier-Mail, Brisbane newspaper article 1934, FHA

Advertisement from Riddlesdown Recorder newspaper, 1937, FHA

Advertisement, Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth, c1940, FHA

Felbridge School Log, FHA

Documented memories of M Jones, FHA

Documented memories of J Roberts, FHA

Documented memories of an anonymous Australian resident, FHA

MacDonald Twins

Twins still on their toes at 90, by S Woledge, Local Newspaper article, 3/8/06, FHA

Birth certificate of Clara Macdonald, 1916, FHA

Maurice Chevalier, The Man with the straw hat, my story

History of The Casino de Paris by Maximillien De Layfayette

London’s Famous Clubs and Cabarets, British Pathé

Texts of all Handouts referred to in this document can be found on FHG website:

SJC 11/12