Gabrielle Ray

'Gabrielle Ray said, 'I am always dancing; I love it! When I don't dance, I sing. What else is there to do?'

A Glittering First Night – The Sketch – Monday 1st December 1958

May 16, 2022 Posted by | Actress, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, The Sketch, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gabrielle Ray – The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News – Friday 21st September 1934



Memories of the Great Actresses and Stage Beauties of Twenty and Thirty Years Ago



WHAT has become of those people whom we delighted to watch on the stage twenty, twenty- five, and thirty years ago? Their names used to blaze forth in light in front of the theatres. The shop windows in those days were full of their postcards. Their faces appeared on the chocolate boxes, and all the world and his wife went to see them. Some, of course, survive and are big stars drawing capacity houses still. Many are dead, but many are still living, happy and prosperous. They have left the footlights for the fireside. You see them from time to time in restaurants and very often they go to first nights. That is where the playgoers show their loyalty and long memory. The old favourites, as soon as recognised, get hearty applause from the pit and gallery. The theatre public does not forget.

Although such a short time has elapsed between the cessation of the silent films and the triumph of the talkie, one wonders how many people to-day could name quickly twenty big people of the silent screen. Yet any theatre-goer will reel you off scores and scores of actors and actresses whom he remembers, although he has not seen or even heard of them for years.

You have not forgotten Ada Reeve. You remember her with her incisive style and general smartness in “Florodora,” if ou have forgotten much else, Some of you may remember her in a very charming play called “Winnie Brooke, Widow.” Few artists could sing a song with more point than Ada Reeve. A great personality – a woman of treat charm. She is still working and appears in South Africa and Australia with success. Perhaps one day London will see her again.

Many of you remember “The Dairymaids,” and if you remember “The Dairymaids” you will remember Carrie Moore. She left the stage to get married, and settled in Australia. A few months ago she was over here, happy and prosperous, doing a round of the theatres.

One of the most photographed beauties of her day was Miss Gabrielle Ray. Probably more picture postcards of this blonde beauty were sold than of any other actress. “Gabs” Ray was a Gaiety girl – a real one. She was beautiful to look at – slim and lovely, and she was one of the few actresses who had a really distinctive carriage and walk. She wasn’t a great singer but she could dance. When she appeared in pyjamas in “The Orchid” all London went to see her. She had a number, the chorus of which went:-


“She’s a pink pyjama girl all pink and rose

She’s a lovely little lady to adore.

If she’s a pink pyjama girl she’s all rightee

And she’ll never wear her nightie –

Any more.”


Not a great lyric, but it caught on. Perhaps it compares with some of the crooners’ stuff to-day such as:-


“Hocus pocus, Mr. Magician,

Won’t you bring my baby back to me?”

 Pyjamas for women were a novelty in those days and the gilded youth of the day stared its eyes out. Gabrielle Ray is married now and lives mostly in the country. She is some times, though rarely, seen at first nights, but when she appears in a restaurant old admirers flock round her.

Whilst on the subject of clothes, everyone remembers “A Little Pink Petty for Peter,” Gracie Leigh’s song in “Miss Hook of Holland.” Gracie was a great comedienne. She scored her triumphs at the Prince of Wales’s, the Adelphi, and elsewhere, Her husband, Lionel Mackinder, an excellent actor and a grand fellow, joined up the s moment war broke out and was the first actor to be killed in the Great War. Gracie Leigh never quite recovered from this. To-day she lives in a country cottage and is seldom seen. The stage misses her. There is nobody to-day quite like her.

At a first night of a musical comedy recently a little woman with fair hair was smiling excitedly and shaking hands with some friends. She was delighted to see Tom Reynolds, the producer, who happened to be there. It was Pauline Chase, perhaps the best known “Peter Pan” of them all. She is happily married. She lives in Sussex and she has a family, but there is still that same elfin charm about her.

ONE of the great stars of the Gaiety, a girl who reached “stardom” there in practically one night and who afterwards starred in many other theatres, is now the Dowager Countess of Dudley. Gertie Millar was the supreme example of what a musical comedy artist should be. Sing, act or dance, she could do it all. Her entrance to the stalls to-day brings the house to its feet. She still looks just the same, in spite of the title.

If you remember faces and are observant and happen to be at a matinee in the West End you will very likely see sitting near you one of the loveliest women that ever trod the British stage. Hers was another face that adorned the postcards, a face that everybody knew and which compelled admiration – Mabel Love – still beautiful, still attractive, still sees all the shows and very often brings along her daughter, who is a replica of what her mother was at that age.

Another lovely and gracious figure that was the idol of the public – a girl who set a fashion and burst in upon London at the Shaftesbury Theatre. At the never-to-be-forgotten first night of “The Belle of New York” Edna May was the talk of the town. She retired on her marriage, but she still goes frequently to the theatre and she still gets her round of applause. Nobody can remember “The Belle of New York” without remembering Edna May. This was a star who really burst into greatness overnight. Before “The Belle of New York” was produced nobody had heard of her. Next day she was Lon don’s greatest sensation. To-day you would know her at a glance.

One of the most magnetic personalities on the stage for many years became famous at the Palace Theatre. Teddie Gerrard was the embodiment of all that was daring. They even wrote her a song called “Naughty Naughty One Gerrard.” People went mad about her. There wasn’t so much talk about sex appeal in those days, otherwise she would have been im mediately coupled with it.

Teddie is another one who has retired. She has a nice little place in Surrey, with a charming house and quite a bit of ground. She has a villa in Capri and she lives surrounded by beautiful things, and she likes nothing better than to get old friends around her and to remember old times. Nor has she lost one fraction of her great attraction – she is still as compelling as ever.

THE name of Teddie Gerrard recalls that blonde 1 beauty, Gina Palerme. She was a great contrast to Teddie but she was a very beautiful woman. After her days at the Palace she put on a musical show at the Duke of York’s Theatre. So large was the company and so many were there in the chorus that they had not enough dressing rooms, and the chorus had to cross the roof of the theatre on a specially made wooden gangway and dress in two of the rooms comprising the flat which stands at the top of the Duke of York’s Theatre. Gina Palerme lives in Paris to-day.

Olive May, that dark, attractive dancer and soubrette, married into the peerage. She is a regular first-nighter and you will see her pictures under her married name in all the smart papers.

Elsie Janis, one of the really great stars, left the stage when “Mother” Janis died and went into the directing and writing side of the pictures. She is as clever at that as she was on the stage. A year or two ago she surprised all her friends by getting married. She still lives at Phillipse Manor at Tarrytown, New York. This is one of the oldest houses in America. It was built by a Captain Phillips, an officer in the British army, and for some time during the American War of Independence was the Headquarters of George Washington. Elsie adores her beautiful home and divides her time between it and the studios.

Two unforgettable stars whom one frequently sees on the public side of the footlights are Lily Elsie and Joe Coyne. Those who saw it will never forget the first night of “The Merry Widow.” Both of them, of course, were famous before then, but from then on they were on top of the world. Lily Elsie left the stage but has returned now and again to give us a sight of that elegant beauty of hers and it is to be devoutly hoped that she will come back again. She goes to all the shows and people lock around her.

JOE COYNE, one of the most youthful of our actors, must lever be allowed to retire. He is as quick and agile to-day as he was in the days of the “Widow.” He is always walking – he lives at a West End Hotel, and you can see him speeding round and round the Park with the carriage and gait of a boy of 17. Most days you can catch a glimpse of him in one of the most popular West End cafes. He will be eating ice cream, and lots of it. He is one of the great youths of the stage.

Another gracious and beautiful figure with a sweet face and a gentle manner still goes to all theatres. Occasionally she makes appearances on the screen, but you will always find her smiling, happy and proud, surrounded by flowers, in a box to watch her husband Seymour Hicks when he produces a new play. Ellaline Terriss, probably the sweetest natured woman that ever walked the British stage. Still everybody’s sweetheart.

These names spring to the memory. There are many more still living happily and still remembered by those who used to see them. For the public does not forget.

Going a little further back the name of Rosie Boote springs to one’s mind. This famous Gaiety Girl has never lost her love for the theatre. The Marchioness of Headfort to-day, and looking every inch a Marchioness, she is a regular first-nighter.

The beautiful Mary Anderson, one of the loveliest actresses ever seen upon the stage, now lives in happy retirement in very suitable surroundings in the lovely village of Broadway.

Mrs. Kendal, one of the really great names of the English stage, is now Dame Madge Kendal, retired many years, but she still takes the greatest interest in the welfare of her profession. She is always to the fore in any work of charity or in any movement that will alleviate the lot of the chorus girls or the people in the humbler walks of stage life.

Under the joint management of Mr. and Mrs. Kendal scores of great actors and actresses graduated. She and her husband ruled them with a rod of iron, but they made them work and they taught them their business.


LOVELIES OF THE LONG-AGO: Five famous stage beauties of the early part of this century. From the top are Ada Reeve, Gabrielle Ray, Pauline Chase, Gertie Millar and Mabel Love


ELSIE JANIS AND MRS. JANIS: The great Palace star (left) with her manager-mother – from an early photograph. Since the death of Mrs. Janis, Elsie, who is American, has been directing and writing for films.


STARS OF THE PAST: Five more stage beauties of earlier days, from contemporary postcard photographs. From the top are Edna May, Teddie Gerrard, Olive May, Lily Elsie and Ellaline Terriss


The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News – Friday 21st September 1934

An interesting article but given the publication date the author is incorrect about Miss Ray as she had divorced in 1914.


April 12, 2022 Posted by | Actress, Biography, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Was The “Gaiety” – Liverpool Echo – Thursday 24th November 1949



 This Was The “Gaiety” Girls And Glamour


So the famous Gaiety Theatre, in the Strand, is to be reopened. Shades of stage-door johnnies; supper at Romano’s – now no more – and Rules (behind the Adelphi, where Cochran ran two years with “Bless the Bride” and followed it with the less successful “Tough at the Top,” and which still remains pretty much the same); of champagne drunk from a chorus girl’s slipper – and it did happen; and the glamour girls who smiled, sang or danced their way into jewels, wealth and the peerage. Thus, at what the young reporter would call the psychological moment, comes “Gaiety, Theatre of Enchantment” (W. H. Allen, 20s), by that grand historian of the stage. W. Macqueen Pope, himself a figure in many theatrical enterprises through the years.

John Hollingshead, who founded the Gaiety, may be just a name, but the matinees he started became world-famous, and he made the theatre part of London’s gaiety itself. George Edwardes, who first joined him later took over, fathered the Gaiety Girl, is still remembered as a fabulous figure surrounded by beauties whose curves and smiles decorated millions of picture postcards, and made some men feel far too young. What oldster doesn’t remember Gertie Millar (later a countess), Marie Studholme (my own young dream), Margaret Bannerman, Belle Bilton, Rosie Boote (who became a marchioness), Camille Clifford, Constance Collier, Ada Reeve, Evie Green, Lily Elsie, Ellaline Terriss, Isobel Elsom, Gaby Deslys (said to have “dethroned” a king), Mabel Love, Kate Vaughan, Nellie Farren, Sylvia Storey (another countess), Edna May, Gabrielle Ray, Gladys Cooper, Phyllis and Zena Dare – even schoolboys collected their pictures.

Pope has stories of them all and of the great actors and comedians, the managers, the authors and composers. Stars have their moments now, but their glamour is mostly on celluloid and bobby-soxers and hysterical young women get their clothes torn to get near their favourites (mostly women) when they “appear in flesh.” Compared with these ebullitions the stage-door johnnies were just odd men on a desert island. This is a grand book – 500 pages of stage cavalcade, with 100 pictures (and how queer some of the fashions look).

Liverpool Echo – Thursday 24th November 1949


October 7, 2018 Posted by | Actress, Biography, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, The Gaiety Theatre, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Our Nights Were Gay” – W. Macqueen-Pope – Britannia and Eve – 1st February 1952

“Our Nights Were Gay”

W. Macqueen-Pope

On that first night of The Orchid a little wisp of sun kissed thistledown floated on to the stage, all demure in a gown of Quaker grey and announced that she was “the Minister’s Private Secretary.” She had a thin little pipe of a voice – but distinct diction, as they all had – but that did not matter. For she danced, and how she danced, it was a summer wind across a cornfield – a strip of gossamer floating on a zephyr. And up would go a long, slim leg in a high kick and every man’s heart throbbed. She had a halo of real golden hair which surmounted the prettiest face possible – a girl cupid’s face right off a magazine cover or a chocolate box – and her name was Gabrielle Ray. She became the most photographed actress which even the Gaiety had known … and many of those old photographs are treasured to-day.

Gabrielle Ray knew her singing limitations. She always complained when given a song with three or four verses. She knew that however well she learned it, all but the first verse and chorus would be cut. It always was. But what of that? It was the dance and the beauty that mattered. And when, in pink pyjamas, she announced that she was a lovely little lady to adore – young men nearly got crushed to death at the stage door – just to see her …

Britannia and Eve – Friday, 1st February 1952



January 2, 2017 Posted by | Actress, Biography, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, The Orchid, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ladies Kindly Remove your Hats

Movie Theatre Etiquette

Getting Over The Difficulty – 1908

Macqueen-Pope [1] wrote “Mr George Alexander would respectfully request those ladies who frequent the St. James’s Theatre intent on viewing the performance to recollect the similar purpose in those who sit behind them. If therefore every large hat were left in the Cloak Room (for which there is no charge) the lady so doing would confer a great benefit on her immediate neighbour”. This is from the programme of “The Tree of Knowledge” produced at the St. James in 1897.

Mr Alexander’s appeal often fell on stony ground and the majority of women did not comply with his respectful request. However, this may not have been a simple refusal to comply. It must be remembered that a woman’s coiffure then was something a woman of today would be amazed. Hair was worn long and piled on top of the head in an ornate style, often reinforced by extra curls, known as “switches”. It had an artificial foundation on which it was piled, which served two purposes; one to support the hair and the other to form something through which hatpins could be run, so as to keep the hat secure. And, as hats were quite large, this was no light matter. The hatpins which secured the hat were long and dangerous items. Removing them was easy enough but putting them in again was more difficult and required time, room and a large mirror, because it had to be “just so”; if hurried she ran the risk of wounding herself with a misplaced pin. It must also be remembered that a hat was not purchased in isolation but with a specific dress in mind to create the perfect appearance.


[1] Maqueen-Pope, W, (1947) “Carriages at Eleven, The Story of the Edwardian  Theatre ” Hutchinson & Co; London. (p. 50 – 51)

August 10, 2013 Posted by | Actress, Social History | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gabrielle Ray

Gabrielle Ray



Macqueen-Pope, W. (1947) “Carridges at Eleven – The story of the Edwardian Theatre”, Hutchinson & Co. Ltd; London. (p 32)

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Actress, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daly’s Theatre

Daly's Theatre

Macqueen-Pope, W. (1947) “Carridges at Eleven – The story of the Edwardian Theatre”, Hutchinson & Co. Ltd; London.

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Actress, Daly's Theatre, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gaiety Theatre

The Gaiety Theatre


The Gaiety Theatre before it was blitzed during the war.

Macqueen-Pope, W. (1949) “Gaiety – Theatre of Enchantment”, W. H.  Allen, London. (p 460)  

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Actress, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, The Gaiety Theatre, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Orchid

Gabrielle Ray as "Thisbe" in "The Orchid" 1903

Macqueen-Pope, W. (1949) “Gaiety – Theatre of Enchantment”, W. H.  Allen, London. (p 381)  

Macqueen-Pope on The Orchid

March 23, 2013 Posted by | Actress, Gabrielle Ray, Social History, The Orchid, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Macqueen-Pope on The Orchid

Walter James MacQueen-Pope (11th April 1888 – 27th June 1960) was an English theatre historian and publicist. From a theatrical family which could be traced back to contemporaries of Shakespeare he was in management for the first part of his career, but switched to publicity, in which field he became well-known. He was a prolific writer of books about the theatre, and in particular its more glamorous aspects.

Macqueen-Pope wrote of “The Orchid”[i];

What would the show be like? The Toreador had broken the succession of Girls, and this time the name was floral. It was The Orchid. The programme had all the old names on it, but there was one new one. Well, the stars were born at the Gaiety. Perhaps the theatre’s rebirth would see the birth of a new star as well. It did.

There was Gertie Millar, a leading lady now, and justly so. There was Marie Studholme, there was Connie Ediss, there was Lionel Mac-kinder, Fred Wright,Robert Nainby, Arthur Hatherton (made up to exactly resemble Joe Chamberlain, orchid, eyeglass, sharp nose and all), there was Hilda Jacobsen, Olive May, Kitty Mason, and all the rest. And there was ‘The Hon. Guy Scrymgeour’ in the elegant person of George Grossmith (in brown morning coat and topper), and a quaint little gardener named Meakin, who was Edmund Payne. It was all for our delight. But the new name on the programme was attached to the character of ‘Thisbe,’ described as ‘The Minister’s Private Secretary,’ and the new name proclaimed itself to be Gabrielle Ray. These were before the days of the publicity agent and we knew nothing about her. It was said that she had been one of the girls with the Guv’nor’s touring companies, which were the glasshouses where the stars were raised. The Minister, by the way, was Arthur Hatherton, a Gaiety regular, who was ‘The Minister of Commerce.’ No such rank in the Cabinet, of course, but what did we care? He told us that he was pushful, pushful, oh, so very pushful, and that he pursued the pathway of a pushful perseverance. As he also informed us that his fortune was based on a new kind of screw which fastened by the way you pushed it in, we had no doubt in spotting his prototype. If we had, his make-up proclaimed it. For these were the days whenJoe Chamberlain was beginning the cry of ‘Tariff Reform,’ when you either worshippedJoe or reviled him. But we were also agog to see this pushful Minister’s Private Secretary. And then, she burst upon us. She came into our sight, a demure figure in a Quaker grey gown, with a white lace collar and an accordion pleated skirt. A grey confection of a picture hat rested on her glorious golden head, and her face, which was prettier than any we had ever seen on a chocolate box, had large and sparkling blue eyes. In a tiny voice she told us

“I am the Minister’s Private Secretary Always exceedingly circumspect and wary If he should order iced champagne Surely nobody can complain Of the Minister’s charming private secretary.”

And then—she danced. Danced? It was not dancing. It was a piece of silvery thistledown floating in a sunbeam. She did not touch the stage with her dainty feet, she was blown by the breeze, hither and thither. She was grace, she was allure, she was another Gaiety incarna­tion. And then she kicked. Up went her leg, up went her little shoe far above that golden head, without any visible effort, just as the wind might blow a spray of apple blossom or honeysuckle. And her kick knocked us for six, we acclaimed with all our power. There was a new star in the new Gaiety. Seldom has anyone fresh so completely danced into prominence. In the space of a few days her face was to be everywhere, to gaze at us from magazines, from photographers, from the innumerable picture postcards which we bought so eagerly, stuck in our albums and sent to our friends. Young men and girls competed to see who could get the most postcards of Gabrielle Ray—and it was a breathless hunt— for they poured forth daily, or so it seemed.

In the second act Gabrielle Ray danced to us again. She wore a wine-coloured ballet dress. Later on, in the second edition, she wore pink pyjamas. Oh, the thrill. Women did not wear pyjamas then, many men were still true to nightshirts, but Gabs wore the simplest and daintiest pink silk pyjamas, and looked so appealing as she sang;

“I’m a Pink Pyjama Girl, all pink and rosy I’m a lovely little lady to adore If you’re a pink pyjama girlie you’re all righty And you’ll never wear a nighty any more.”

We could not have agreed with her more.

Later Macqueen-Pope would write [ii];

That brilliant cast all scored, but there was one name on the programme which, as the audience read it, had an unfamiliar sound: “Thisbe (private secretary to Mr. Chesterton)…..Miss Gabrielle Ray.”

Chesterton was Harry Grattan, made up exactly like Joseph Chamberlain, orchid, eyeglass and all (and there were no complaints) who, as Minister of Commerce (no such post existed) sang of being “Pushful, pushful, I’m so very pushful.” But who was this girl who was to play his secretary? Another of “the Guv’nor’s” finds?

The audience was not long kept in suspense. On to the stage came a little slim figure in a simple Quakerish dress, an accordion-pleated skirt and a big hat. Her face was as pretty as any that had ever been dreamed of to adorn a painter’s canvas as a Cupid, or a most expensive box of chocolates. This loveliness, adorned with two large innocent blue eyes, was itself framed within a mist of burnished golden hair. It was an entrancing vision, and the house gave a gasp of admiration.

Gabrielle sang in a slightly thin and shepherd’s pipe of a voice a little ditty to the effect that she was the Minister’s lady secretary, playing a sort of good attendant fairy, and explained her very discreet duties. And then she danced—if dancing is an adequate word. A sunlit piece of thistledown on a soft summer breeze was not more light and graceful. She scarcely seemed to touch the .stage—and then of a sudden, up went the long slim leg right over her head without the slightest effort or trouble.

A new Gaiety star was born when Gabrielle Ray appeared. At once the shops were full of her in picture postcard form. In this photographic competition with the others, Marie Studholme, Ellaline Terriss, Edna May, the Sisters Dare and the rest, it is probable that she even took the lead, for she was eminently photogenic and incredibly lovely. If plain truth must be told, neither her singing or her acting were her strong points: but who cared when she could dance as she did and look as she did? And when she appeared in pink pyjamas and danced in them, every young man’s head was awhirl.

The Orchid was a success. George Edwardes was smiling and happy. He had won again. The Gaiety was the Gaiety, and there was a run of 559 performances. There had been no break in the lure of the Gaiety, and the allure of the Girls was stronger than ever.


[i] Macqueen-Pope, W. (1947) “Carriages at Eleven – The story of the Edwardian Theatre”, Hutchinson & Co. Ltd; London. (p 111 – 112)

[ii] Macqueen-Pope, W. (1949) “Gaiety – Theatre of Enchantment”, W. H.  Allen, London. (p 390)

August 8, 2011 Posted by | Actress, Biography, Gabrielle Ray, Index, Social History, The Orchid, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments