Many boys in the late 19th and early 20th centuries played Cedric Erol (Little Lord Fauntleroy) on the stage in the many theatrical productions. Many of the important chikld actors at the tme played the role. HBC does not have a complete list of the boys involved, but we have acquired information on several of them. And several girls also played the part. The first boy appears to have beem Tommy Russel. We have acquired some images of unidentified actors. Our list at this time is mostly American and British boy actors. The play, however, was staged throughout Europe so there are many actors we know nothing about. Certainly the most famous actors to play Fauntleroy were Buster Keaton and Mary Pickford. We are hoping that a HBC reader knowledge about late 19th and early 20th century stage actors can provide us some background information on these young actors.
HBC is not sure, but we believe a boy identifoed as "Little Donnely" played Little Lord Fauntleroy and other child roles in the American live theater at about the turn of the 20th century. We have few details at this time, just two photographic images.
Buster received his name fromj Houdini after tumbling down a flight of stairs, he was introduced to the stage by his father, almost as soon as he could walk. He played vaudelbville with his parents in a slap stick routien that proved emensely popular. On the road, Buster learned not only to be his father's roughhouse partner, but to sing, dance, play the piano and the ukulele, juggle, do magic and write gags and parody. The performers he knew were also his teachers: Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, then at the start of his career, taught the little boy to dance, decades before he taught another child, Shirley Temple, to dance for the movies. The great Harry Houdini taught him card tricks. Although Keaton would one day be praised for his brilliance, he attended less than one day of public school, in Jersey City, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. His formal education ended abruptly at lunch time, after his quick wit and
vaudeville gags proved too distracting to the other students and
particularly to their teacher. His mother, who herself had only a
third-grade education, taught him what she knew, eventually hiring
tutors and governesses to fill in the gaps. Buster was thrown around on the stage in the slap stick routien to the extent that his parents were arrested because police were convinced Buster was being mistreated. "We used to get arrested every other week that is, the old man would get arrested," Buster said. "Once they took me to the mayor of New York City, into his private office, with the city physicians . . . and they stripped me to examine me for broken bones and bruises. Finding none, the mayor gave me permission to work. The next time it happened, the following year, they sent me to Albany, to the governor of the state." Another vaudevillian, Will "Mush" Rawls, confirmed Buster's version, saying: "... and then Buster would have to go down to the chief of police, pull off his little shirt and pants and show them that he had no bruises or broken legs." I have few details, however, at this time on his appearance as Little Lord Fauntleroy. He was about 10 years old when he played Cedric, reportedly on tour. I have few details on how Buster was dressed as a boy, but availablke images suggest that he wore, of course, Buster Brown suits as a young boy and then above the knee knickers into his early teens. Of course Keaton went on to become a great silent film star.
Elsie Leslie was one of America's most important child stars in the American late-19th century theather. Two of her best known roles were Frances Hodgson Burnnett's "Little Lord Fauntleroy" and Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper". She was the daughter of an affluent New Yorker. She first appeared on the stage when she was about 4 years old (1885). She became famous when she played Editha (1887). This was a little girl who encounters a burglar. She was enormously popular in subsequent productions of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" (1888-89). It was at this time that William Merritt Chase, one of the great American portratists, painted her. "Little Lord Fauntleroy" was one of the most popular stage plays of the late 19th century. There were many productions of the play throughout the United Stats, England, and the major cities of Europe. Quite a number of child actors played the part, both boys and girls. Several girls played the part necause Cedric was usually costumed with long hair as depicted in the Regional Birch drawings used to illustrate the first edition of the book. Next she did "The Prince and the Pauper" (1890). She then withdrew from the stage. Apparently acting was in her blood and attempted a come back 8 years later. She did not succeed, however, in capturing the stage magic of her younger days.
No information available at this Ray Maskell. He appears to have been a very popular child actor. I'm not positive about the years, but it looks to be the late 1880s or 1890s. He presumably played a variety of rolls. Given the popularity of Little Lord Fauntleroy, it may have been one of his primary roles. Available images show him in a variety of Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes at different ages, suggesting he played in many productions during his career as a child actor. The costumes were always quite elaborate.
Maurice Pollock was an English child actor and played mainly female roles. Most of his early plays were put on by his Mother, who was an accomplished actress. Maurice was the first boy to play Little Lord Fauntleroy on the English stage. He played Cedric at the age of 14 in 1898.
We have been able to find little information on Tommy Russel at this time. We do know When Mrs. Burnett open Little Lord Fauntleroy in New York, the role was split between Elsie Leslie, who had earlier played the part in Boston, and Tommy Russel. Tommy would have been born about 1880. We do not know precisely when he began playing the part. Presumably this means that he was the first boy to play the role, but we can not yet confirm this. Available images show Tommy in his costume during 1889. These do provide insights on the costume he wore. He has long, hair that was not done in ringlets. It looks rather like a wig. He wears a velvet suit with what looks like a red sash.
Vyvian Thomas appaers to be one of the many boys who played Little Lord Fauntleroy on the London stage. We have very little information about him at this time. We know he was a child actor because he was photographed by Rotary Photo in London for a seies of postcards for English actors and actresses. At the time sending and collecting these postcards was a popular pursuit. The card was signed by Vyvian in 1903. We believe that he played Little Lord Fauntleroy because he was photographed in a velvet Fauntleroy suit complete with a lace collar and long shoulder-length hair. He looks to be about 12-13 years old in the portrait. Unfortunately, we know nothing else about his acting career.
HBC had acquired some photographs of unidentified child actors. We hope to be able tomidentify these actors as HBC acquires more information on stage productions of Little Lord Fauntleroy.
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