Miss Pearl Lyndon & Her Strange Career

postcard - pearl lyndon front small

While researching the photographer Louis Saul Langfier (see previous post) I came across his wife, theatre artiste Pearl Lichtheim. They married in London, 1903. Pearl’s own story is so fascinating that I decided to write this post, and bought the postcard shown above. I had already encountered the same portrait in a 1905 publication (ref 1):

Pearl Lyndon - The Tatler - Wed 11 Jan 1905Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Born 1882, she was known on stage as Pearl Lyndon. An earlier publication shows Miss Lyndon as “San Toy” in a theatre production of the same name (ref 2):

1901 The Sketch - Wednesday 22 May 1901Image © Illustrated London News Group

Given her successful career and angelic images, it was surprising then to find a later entry in the Fife Criminal Records, dated 1924:

1924 Ancestry; Fife Collections Centre; croppedFife Criminal Register Photographs; Reference: A/AAX 7/3/4 (Ancestry)

It seems Pearl had lived by a variety of names (Pauline Marjory Lydon or Stevens, Madame Rosell(e), Mrs Chester, Mrs Langfier), some of which were related to a theatre school she ran for young children. She advertised frequently in the newspapers of the time as a teacher of music and dance. Another of her pseudonyms, not mentioned in the crime records, was Madame Rosario:

1914 The Stage - Thursday 14 May 1914Image © The Stage Media Company Limited

The above advertisement (dated 1914; ref 3) gives her point of contact as husband Louis Saul Langfier, trading under the name ‘S.Langfier’ from his business address in Oxford Street, London. Intriguingly, Pearl describes herself as ‘Professor’. Really? She certainly was creative in the pursuit of her goals!

So what happened to bring about Pearl’s change in circumstances?

We begin to see evidence of a downturn in her fortunes in 1920 when according to the Illustrated Police News (ref 4), Pearl and a man by the name of Henry Charles Wall (living together) claimed to have been assaulted by their housekeeper and her son:

1920 Illustrated Police News - Thursday 05 February 1920 titleImage © Successor rightsholder unknown

Pearl alleged to have been thumped by Mrs Tate (the housekeeper), who attempted to strangle Pearl and ‘bit her fingers until the blood came’. Mrs Tate and her son denied everything, saying it was a ‘fabrication of lies’, calling Pearl ‘an adventuress’ and ‘a wicked woman’ who had wanted them to join her in her crooked ways ‘and keep a night club’.

Another report (ref 5) describes further accusations of assault on Henry Charles Wall and Pearl Lyndon, this time at a dance club on Maddox Street, London, by three of the club’s visitors. Pearl was apparently struck in the face, suffering broken teeth, and one of the accused was said to have ‘produced a revolver saying, “I will put an ounce of lead into you”.’

At the very least, Pearl Lyndon was mixing in dubious company, and her attachment to Henry Charles Wall suggests her husband was no longer around.

By 1922, Pearl and Henry were running a dance club in Little Denmark Street, London. Known as Merry’s, it appears to have been a target for the police, who fined Pearl for selling intoxicants without a licence (ref 6):

1922 Daily Herald - Tuesday 28 February 1922Image © Trinity Mirror

The extent of Pearl’s involvement in the nightlife of London’s West End becomes clearer in the newspaper reports surrounding her arrest and subsequent trial (refs 7, 8, 9, 10). No less than three of her clubs were raided by the police, with Pearl escaping most of the raids. The reports even mention that opium was being sold, although not directly by Pearl herself (ref 10). The police net was tightening, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why Pearl moved back to Scotland, since at the time of her arrest she was living in Leith (near Edinburgh).

1924 Sunday Post - Sunday 20 April 1924 titleImage © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd (10)

In April 1924, a trial took place in Dunfermline. Pearl’s relationship with Henry Charles Wall had soured to the extent that Wall accused her of conspiring to harm him. In her defence, Pearl claimed to have financially supported Henry for ‘about seven years’ during which time he had demanded money and ‘knocked her about’. She always forgave him because she loved him.

Henry Wall on the other hand, claimed that Pearl had harassed him after he had ‘taken up with another woman’, that she ‘followed him about the country’ and that she had hired a man (who was also convicted) to threaten him with a razor. Wall lived in fear of her since she had assaulted him on more than one occasion: ‘While he was asleep, he said, he was struck on the head with a hammer, and when he came to himself there was a gas ring close to his head with the gas turned on.‘ (ref 9)

It came down to one person’s word against another. Although the evidence was scant and confusing, it was enough to convict Pearl Lyndon to two months imprisonment. Her alleged co-conspirators (two men), who were also given short prison sentences.

1916 The Era - Wednesday 19 January 1916 bImage © Successor rights holder unknown (1916; ref 11)

Following her release from prison Pearl disappeared, at least as far as the newspapers were concerned. There are hints that she remarried but I cannot confirm this. Plus, I respect her for finally shunning the limelight and wish to leave her in peace. After all, she’d had quite enough excitement for one lifetime!

Newspaper clippings/quotes/information courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry.

References:
(1) The Tatler, 11 Jan 1905
(2) The Sketch , 22 May 1901
(3) The Stage, 14 May 1914
(4) Illustrated Police News, 5 Feb 1920
(5) Globe, 30 Jan 1920
(6) Daily Herald, 28 Feb 1922
(7) Dundee Evening Telegraph, 3 Apr 1924
(8) Dundee Evening Telegraph, 17 Apr 1924
(9) Edinburgh Evening News, 18 Apr 1924
(10) Sunday Post, 20 Apr 1924
(11) The Era, 19 Jan 1916

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To Bella, From Cheesie

theatrical cabinet card small

theatrical cabinet card inscription

Sometimes I buy cabinet cards with high hopes of tracing the person, particularly if the card carries an inscription like the one above (With best wishes to Bella from Cheesie, Belfast Sep 30/85). Obviously theatrical, I assumed the gentleman to be an actor, but try as I might could not find any resemblance to other contemporary images nor any actor whose nickname might be Cheesie. A breakthrough came when I searched for the photographer John Deane Hilton of 443, West Strand, London instead:

theatrical cabinet card photographer

Advertising in The Stage, 24th September 1886, Mr J Deane Hilton described himself as a ‘theatrical photographer’:

The Stage - Friday 24 September 1886

And further searches revealed a connection between Mr Hilton and an actor named Mr W Cheesman (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News – Saturday 15 October 1887) . Could this be Cheesie, the man on the cabinet card?

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - Saturday 15 October 1887 a small

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - Saturday 15 October 1887 b small

As mentioned in the above article, Mr W Cheesman was working with Mr J L Toole’s repertory company during 1885. In September the same year they can be located in Belfast, Ireland, touring with a production of Byron’s play The Upper CrustMr W Chees{e}man played the role of Tibthorpe (Northern Whig – Tuesday 29 September 1885), placing him in Belfast at the time he sent the photograph to Bella:

Northern Whig - Tuesday 29 September 1885 small

So where does this leave us with the image itself? The Upper Crust doesn’t involve the style of costume worn in the photograph, but a previous production does. In July 1885 Toole’s Theatre, London, staged The O’Dora by Burnand, a parody of Sardou’s Theodora. Mr Cheesman was cast as Agadokitis and judging by the following illustration, the costumes bore a strong resemblance to the cabinet card:

The Era - Saturday 11 July 1885 smallThe Era – Saturday 11 July 1885

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News - Saturday 01 August 1885 smallIllustrated Sporting and Dramatic News – Saturday 01 August 1885

So I believe we now have a name to put to the face. Thank you Cheesie, for leaving us the clues! If anyone has a connection to Mr Cheesman feel free to contact me, I would love to hear from you.

Newspaper clippings from The British Newspaper Archive  © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Blanche Victorine Forsythe (Actress)

blanche forsythe actress

Recently bought on eBay, this vintage photograph is roughly the size of a cabinet card. Unfortunately it has been trimmed and part of the signature is missing, but the 1911 census helps to identify her as Blanche Forsythe, an English actress born 1873. She made her name in various theatrical productions and later in silent films.

blanche-sig-census

Blanche signed the 1911 census (Class: RG14; Piece: 7283; Schedule Number: 34). She lived with her mother and two brothers in Tottenham, London at the time of the census and gave her occupation as ‘actress’.

In the above photograph Blanche is dressed as Trilby O’Ferrall from a stage adaptation of the novel ‘Trilby’ by George Du Maurier (published 1894).

The following interview is taken from the Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser, 31 July 1896. In it, the interviewer asks Blanche to compare herself to another English actress Dorothea Baird, who also played ‘Trilby’ around the same time. Blanche is unfazed, saying that neither is “better than the other”:

leigh-chronicle-and-weekly-district-advertiser-31-july-1896-1-copy

leigh-chronicle-and-weekly-district-advertiser-31-july-1896-2-copy

During the 1910s, Blanche was cast in various silent movies including title roles in ‘Jane Shore‘, ‘East Lynne‘ and ‘Sixty Years a Queen‘. Coincidentally she also played the part of Ustane in the film adaptation of ‘She‘ by Henry Rider Haggard, an author I have previously come across while writing this blog. The IMDb website has more information about Blanche’s film success.

I have searched but am yet to come across any other clear photographs of Blanche Forsythe on the internet. If anyone knows of any, please contact me!

Update (January 2018)

Thank you to Debbie for contacting me and sharing information. Debbie has brought my attention to the BFI Player, where Blanche Victorine Forsythe can be seen in a small number of early films. In particular, in 1915 Blanche stars as Sal in ‘Heart of a Coster’ (3’25”), and as Peggy in ‘The Lure of Drink’ (from the beginning). Both are well worth viewing!