Many years ago we did a production of a play titled "Fanny, the Frivolous Flapper. It's about a detective who has to ferret out the jewel thief who is operating out of the fashion house. He ends up in drag in the fashion show which is a good opportunity for a costume committee with a sense of humor and lots of feathers and sequins.
The only real issue - and it's a big one - is you need a good music director. The score included in the script from Samuel French , has a bare-bones accompaniment. You really need somebody who can either elaborate a LOT on the piano - or can score for a couple more pieces my fella scored for a sax, clainet, violin, and drums.
Give it a look. It's been a lot of years - but as I recall it was a big success The people of San Francisco had taken her to heart; nothing seemed likely to turn the tide of appro- bation for a long time to come. To Mary Ann Crabtree, observing, listening, deduct- ing, one must suppose such news held many a discouragement.
But out of this debacle certain relieving factors presented themselves. Simultaneous with Mrs. Sinclair's rise, other women made their influence felt. The San Francisco theatri- cal scene became a kind of feminine heyday and the highest rewards now went to actresses in the Metropolitan company; Matilda Heron, Laura Keene, Catherine Sinclair.
EDWARD FRANKLIN ALBEE
Moreover the vogue for child stars continued unabated in this land pre- dominantly male. Children were still a novelty in the min- ing camps. Not far from Grass Valley, at Camptonville, miners had come from miles around to see a child who was not even an actress. She had only to become a manager. Lotta, in a sense, had al- ready been trained by Lola Montez. Few of the other child stars were trained.
Whether she would have decided the mat- ter at once is doubtful, for she was always cautious, hesitant in making decisions. But when she discovered that she was to have another child there was no possibility of 17 immediate action. Spring passed. In the summer of a boy, John Ashworth, was born to her. By this time her hus- band returned from a long prospecting trip. He had been over the mountains, had seen new, unusually rich claims. The ir- resistible picture persuaded Mrs. Crabtree once more.
Lotta Crabtree: Gold Rush Fairy Star by Lois Harris, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®
In California, the golden, there was always a belief in sudden riches. Crass Valley had been somewhat civilized, if not altogether law- abiding" but in Rabbit Creek murder was as frequent as were its provoca- tions, usually quarrels over money. Hardier characters reached the ground first and John Crabtree found nothing. That summer there was an intense drought, with hardly any water for washing gold. It was far easier, Crabtree dis- covered, to spend his time in saloons, or rambling away on vague mysterious missions than to prospect.
He selected from the rough elements of camp life what pleased him most and decisively pursued his wants; chiefly these were hours of leisure. When winter descended Mary Ann had no other course than to open another boardinghouse, this time under far greater hardships. She had decided to visit Australia and wanted to take little Lotta with her. Such a proposal Mrs. Crabtree of course answered with a passionate, sharp "No! A barnstormer with plenty of tricks in his carpetbag had arrived at the camp before Lola Montez.
This man, Mart Taylor, was something of a musician, dancer and versifier. He opened a saloon next to which he built a crude theatre. Music abundantly filled both places. During the afternoons, when business in the saloon was slack, he conducted a dancing school for children , Lotta and Taylor became fast friends. He not only taught the child new dance steps but provided her with a place to exhibit them before the miners.
Crabtree, with an immediate opportunity before her, made the most of Lotta's increasing reputation when she refused Lola's request to take the child to Australia. Lotta was al- most eight, but she looked six; she would have proved a '. In Taylor's theatre, then, Lotta Crabtree became a nightly attraction. Dressed in a green tail-coat, knee breeches, tall hat and brogans, she danced an Irish jig. Her laughter, added to an uncommon vitality, made her seem an ab- surd midget who danced for the sheer joy of it. When she appeared on the crude stage lighted by candles even Taylor's talents were forgotten.
Pausing only to change costumes, she would reappear amid a storm of applause in a simple white dress and sing some plaintive ballad that shook the house with emotion. Money was tossed upon the stage in such pro- fusion that soon a small fortune sparkled at her feet. She now had more money in her possession than at any other time since her arrival in California.
The next move seemed obvi- ous i a tour of the mines. He engaged a fiddler; he himself could play the guitar and Mrs. Crabtree had, during her husband's long absences, learned to play that quaint instrument known as the triangle. Lotta was taught a further number of ballads and pretty songs. The repertoire, the company itself, was now complete. Taylor had a happy faculty for improvisation. He was a tall man, a singer with the appearance of a genuine troubadour, piercing black eyes, long hair, oriental cast of countenance and graceful figure.
On a morning in late spring, , he led 20 the troupe forth. They traveled by wagon, Mrs. Crabtree holding young Ashworth in her arms, Lotta sitting beside her. In the cabin which they had left were some loaves of fresh bread, a kettle of beans, a note which informed Crabtree of their departure. For their destination Taylor had selected Quincy and as they struck rugged mountain trails the wagon had to be abandoned for mules. These animals, gayly decorat- ed with red, blue and yellow tassels, were tied one behind the other since they were obliged to proceed in single file, Lotta was allowed a mount to herself, being considered even at that age an accomplished equestrienne.
Often she slept in the saddle at night when the company hastened to reach camp in time for a performance. His tall troubadour figure would have assured them an audience anywhere, but with Lotta' s appearance they wore assured a riotous success. For the most part they played in saloons where makeshift stages were set up on saw- horses. Stuffed into bottles arranged along the outer edge, candles served as footlights. In strange places, confronted by an audience of men whom she had never seen before, Lotta t 21 was timid, and seldom wished to perform until her mother had spent an hour or more coaxing, wheedling and telling her fun- ny stories.
And even when the moment came, she nearly al- ways had to be given a little push to get her on the stage. Once there, however, she danced her Irish jig with perfect abandon, placing her hands in the pockets of her long-tailed suit, rollicking about with an air which her mother consid- ered somewhat rowdy. At the conclusion of each performance she came out in her angelic character, attired in the white dress with puffed sleeves, hair smoothly combed, face scrubbed clean, and sang her ballad or sentimental song.
This was the signal for a rain of nuggets which afterwards Mrs. Crab- tree collected in a basket, scraping every fragment of dust from the boards to augment her store of treasure. At Shasta they encountered a band of minstrels, including one Joe Taylor, who described the meeting in his autobiography: Joe Taylor , Barnstormer , published in New York, s ;i While traveling with Backus ' Minstrels in or '57," wrote Taylor, "we were in Shasta, when Lotta, who was traveling with Mart Taylor, met us; and Mrs.
Crabtree asked us if we would be pleased to have Lotta go on, and sing Topsy's song. Knowing Mrs. Crabtree very well, I ask- ed if Lotta would black up. From this time Lotta sprang into prominence. She was an amiable, lovely and. Most of her early California plays were written especially for her, sensational, sentimental melodramas centering around a hero- ine, who, though a ragged waif among drunk-crazed miners, regenerates them -- with the ever pleas- ing coincidence that they find gold and become fabulously wealthy.
Crabtree and her children were forced to lie prone on the floor of their room as bullets burst through the canvas walls. A fusillade of shots from the opposite side of the hotel showed that a brawl was in progress and that their lives were in danger. But Mrs. Crabtree remained cool. It was of prime importance that Lotta be kept in good spirits. There were hard journeys before them; many a minor decorum must be pre- served if she would uphold the dignity considered essential to her station.
If she questioned the wisdom of her course, or exposed herself and Lotta to Innumerable perils, the an- swers always came in positive form -- in nuggets and money and gold dust. Lotta, singing her ballads with greater charm, dancing with greater vivacity, romping with greater abandon, had now become an institution of the camps. Crabtree was about to have another child.
Lotta was packed off to Eureka, nearer at hand, where she stayed with the family of James Ryan Talbot, a pioneer. Crabtree's sojourn is not definitely known; but her third child, a boy whom she named George, was born among strangers , either at Weaverville or some neighboring village. As soon as her health would permit she hurried to Eureka, stayed a time with the Ryans, then embarked on a schooner for San Francisco in the spring of ' It had grown to bold proportions. There were more elaborate build- ings, longer wharves; life was hurried and formidable.
Vio- lence had become its legend, the theatre its arena. In the smaller gambling halls and saloons one clash after another had occurred. Despite the Vigilance Committee, lawlessness was still rampant; San Francisco was embroiled in an emotional and civic chaos bordering on war- fare.
Theatrical warfare continued, more subdued perhaps, but no less bitter. Sinclair, than whom none had seemed more firmly entrenched, had lost her position by attempt- ing to produce opera when the public emphatically showed it wanted drama. Nor was her retirement accomplished without 24 a public quarrel, over some costumes, that was continued In the newspapers and even on the stage of the Metropolitan be- fore an almost empty house.
It was this circumstance which started the rise of Laura Keene. The only theatrical figures who had held their ground were Tom Maguire and Mrs. The former, morosely self-satisfied, went about in silence, contemplating the suc- cess of his new minstrels at San Francisco Hall. Judah continued to play her old woman's parts before responsive, eager audiences. Laura Keene was producing Shakespeare, lesser tragedies and melodrama.
There was certainly no place in this much altered theatre for Lotta Crabtree. Her mother might easily have retired for a time into some quieter existence. She still possessed a considerable fortune as the result of the summer's tour, but some obscure necessity which she alone knew prompted her to make a new start.
She followed Laura Keene ' s formula; plays were in demand there- fore Lotta should be schooled in legitimate drama. Besides being gifted with the capacity for mimicry, Mrs. Crabtree had a shrewd dramatic sense. Perhaps she had observed such qualities In her child. Somehow she made an entry for Lotta into an unknown theatrical company. The repertoire of course was far removed from that of Laura Keene, consisting mostly of old and much played farces.
But since provincial audi- ences had enjoyed the child's dancing she reasoned they would readily be amused by seeing her perform adult roles. Crabtree, Lotta and the baby George started with the troupe on a tour of the Valley of the Moon. As the boat moved slowly up the creek, winding among low flats and marshes, Mrs. Crabtree sat with George in her arms and listened without comment to the talk of the players. She was an odd figure in their midst, a "muse of domesticity; but the same zeal that motivated them flashed in her pensive gaze as she glanced at Lotta.
Remembering the sad story of Edwin Booth, who had been stranded in midwinter at Nevada City, the company were apprehensive as to what lay before them. At the worst, how- ever, they would not have to improvise a stage. The village of Petaluma boasted a small theatre in the second story of a frame building. It was equipped with boxes and even a par- quette. Here, at the age of nine, Lotta made her first dramatic attempt, playing Gertrude in A Loan of a Lover.
This comedy was still a favorite in New York after twenty years of repetition. The action was stilted, the ending forced, but Lotta' s vigorous personality redeemed it somewhat. She pur- sued Spuyk, the hero, much as any child might pursue an 26 escaped pet; and when she was alone on the stage she incon- gruously danced a jig. In the next play, The Dumb Belle, she portrayed another absurd part. Crabtree had picked up bits of stagecraft here and there from observation of the actors whom she met and with whom she mingled. She possessed a sense of theatre, knowing instinctively what would make people laugh.
In The Dumb Belle , although Lotta had only to carry a bottle on the stage, place it on a table and retire, Mrs.
Crabtree taught her child such an elaborate pantomime that the simple incident became an act. Her suc- cess was instantaneous. The audience roared with laughter, showered the stage with money. John Rankin Towse, who seems to have been skeptical of Lotta's ability as an actress, wrote in his Sixty Years of the Theatre , by way of reminiscence: "Of no importance in herself, a theatrical will- o'-the-wisp, she Lotta was yet a striking il- lustration --as were Maggie Mitchell, Minnie Palmer, and others of their type -- of the slen- der professional capital with which popularity and fortune may be won before the footlights in a degenerate age.
She was an attractive little creature with a pretty, saucy face, a fairy figure, and wonderful agility. She attracted the attention of some the- atrical agent on the lookout for a novelty, was diligently and successfully paragraphed, brought East, and introduced as a prodigy of humor and pathos.
Stage Actress Beauties – Looking at some Damiana Bitters Advertising Trade Cards
She was a bright and piquant morsel, prankish, audacious, with a pleasant aroma of 27 girlish innocence about her, and she 'caught on. She appeared in many parts and played them all in exactly the same way. She never developed or suggested any real dramatic force or adaptability. Her Marchioness was an amusing figure in its dirt and rags and childish make-believe, but was in- formed by no vestige of the Dickens spirit, while the so-called pathos of her Little Nell was the emptiest and dreariest of affectation. But she had splendid press notices, as if she were a luminary of purest ray serene.
Modern press criticism has a good deal to answer for. Towse speaks did not appear until many years after her Petaluma debut. Crabtree drove hard bargains for Lotta and enforced them. After the first performance of The Dumb Belle one of the old- er actresses insisted that she be given the role, but Mrs. Crabtree would not allow the substitution. Lotta 1 s drawing power was such that no one dared press the matter further.
Traveling about Sonoma County the company made good profits. Lotta had made an entrance into legitimate theatri- cals, her mother felt. The stages on which she played were orthodox; audiences were regularly seated in rows instead of crowding haphazardly around some makeshift affair of sawhorses and tables.
By late summer hopes for Lotta' s future had 28 considerably risen, only to sink again when she returned to San Francisco. Maguire had fought his silent way to suprem- acy. He cast his support on the side of minstrelsy. The music of banjo, with a byplay of negro character, which had begun in gambling halls and saloons, now held forth at the San Francisco Hall.
The whole town was humming darky airs. One robust minstrel had been given a pair of gold-tipped bones. Theirs was entertainment of a many-sided nature, often wild or plaintive, but always amplified by vigorous dancing. Crabtree, although she must have been frightened, ap- proached Maguire. But he was absorbed in his minstrels; he would have none of Lotta.
Weeks of searching for a sponsor yielded only the same kind of terse refusal. There was noth- ing left then save the lesser places of amusement. In some subtle fashion Mrs. Crabtree managed to find engagements in various auction halls near the bay. Once more it became necessary for Lotta to sing and dance. Perched high above the crowd on a table, or up-ended barrel, her small red head bobbed to the natter of swiftly moving feet.
The engage- ments were slight, insubstantial and brief. Others more de- sirous, but of doubtful propriety, were obtained at the Bella 29 Union, the most notorious gaming establishment in the city, scene of several shootings and innumerable rows since the days of ' Crabtree brought Lotta. The acts were momentary, breathless; at their conclusion the child was snatched away before the atmosphere of the place could leave its impression. With passionate protectiveness, an equally passionate yearning for success, Mrs. Crabtree night after night accomplished wonders in keeping Lotta to herself, yet always before the public.
She bargained for engagements, received their rewards, and constantly added to a store of treasure. And Lotta herself accomplished something approaching the miraculous when she pleased those blase patrons of the Bella Union, who would tolerate no entertainer that was not spirited, vivacious, tireless. The way was being prepared for greater conquests. On November 20, about the time Lola Montez sailed for the East, Lotta rose from obscurity to ap- pear in a mixed bill at the American Theatre which was then under management of the Chapmans.
There followed a round of songs and dances; then "La Petite Lotta," as she was announced on the posters, performed a song and dance act. There was something significant and trium- phant in this first performance at a legitimate San Francisco playhouse. The night previous a man had been fatally shot there. On the stage Lotta had braved peril, in a sense, and had gathered to her small self a measure of critical approba- tion. But now a new anxiety confronted Mrs. Lotta is doing her banjo soliloquies in 'Chicago.
Lotta is St. Louis' favorite star. She has played to more money than any artist who ever appeared in that city. Lotta played to houses as large as the Arch would hold during her late Philadelphia engagement. The banjo is mighty and must prevail. We expect to see Lotta next as Juliet, in the balcony scene, picking the in- dispensable banjo, and keeping tune to the music of Romeo's beguiling voice.
Lotta opens at Pike's on Mon- day the 16th. Lotta, the indescribable, is playing Andy Blake and the Governor's Wife in Pittsburg to overflowing houses. Lotta, the 'Marchioness,' is in Cleveland. But there was no immediate prospect for Lotta. To make matters more difficult Crabtree reap- peared, having finally discovered the whereabouts of his fam- ily, Mary Ann, thinking he meant to kidnap Lotta, secreted her child in the Presidio.
Meantime spring advanced. Something had to be done. When Mrs.
Crabtree' s sister Charlotte ap- peared in San Francisco the problem was partially solved. Leaving the two boys, Ashworth and George, in her charge, Mary Ann once more made an alliance with Mart Taylor, who had gained repute as a poet. He still wore his long black hair in romantic fashion; he had published a volume of songs; he was popular with the miners. Crabtree played a minor role. Announced as Miss Arabella, she impersonated various notables within and without the profession, displaying a 3ense of humor that was often biting and dry as dust. Tay- lor called his company the Metropolitan, They set out in the spring of , traveling up the Sacramento Valley by stage- coach.
Although the journey was invested with gaiety, it could not be made without incurring the risk of danger. High- waymen were frequent since all stages carried boxes laden with money. And if the company was not held up, they had the even less pleasing prospect of being coldly received. Too many troupes had traveled in the mountains, some of medi- ocre calibre. The miners refused plays like The Lady of Lyons , considering them outworn. They too had become criti- cal; and when their ire was aroused by actors not to their taste, they frequently used force or firearms in evicting them.
Crabtree had not lived in vain at Grass Valley and Rabbit Creek. She was quick to adapt herself to a changed condition, a different mood. Her ceaseless efforts kept Lotta at a high pitch, the child herself becoming aware of the temper of people and place, and adapting her own moods to it. Now she less frequently appeared in white cambric dress to sing a sentimental song. Somewhere along the route from Sacramento to Placerville, Taylor had found a negro danc- er whose skill was known throughout the country. He taught Lotta a robust, complex soft-shoe dance.
Moreover the Taylor troupe had spent a night or two with the Backus Minstrels. In brief, to borrow a phrase from modern slang, she "went to town" whenever she had the opportunity, and slight opportunity she needed. For this reason, perhaps, she met a ready response even at the more frequented camps from which unfortunate troupers had been routed with bullets flying at their heels. Her songs or ballads came to life because she was adept at mimicry. Likewise she made an act of picking up her rewards at the end of a performance. Crabtree, young looking, attractive, but not so young in years, was taxed to the utmost, making costumes, coaching the child, playing the triangle.
In the higher Sierra they traveled by horseback and there was little relax- ation for Mary Ann, who had not the knack of sleeping in the saddle which Lotta had long since acquired. There was danger in this mode of travel also. Frequently trees snapped and 34 fell across their path; boulders, loosened by continual min- ing operations, would often roll down some mountain side, perilously close to them. Once Lotta remembered seeing a lone rider, far ahead, plunge into eternity at the bottom of an abyss. Through summer and fall they followed little used trails, until it began to snow; then dropped down into the lower regions.
When it became impractical to travel further , because of heavy rains, slush, bitter cold, they returned triumphantly to San Francisco. The tour had prospered them. Crabtree felt secure both in mind and pocketbook, antici- pating yet other successes in the city. Lotta had achieved a certain polish in her performances.
Since minstrelsy was still well to the front, it appeared logical to Mrs. Crabtree ' s prim, tidy mind that Maguire, a veritable patron of minstrelsy, should be interested in acquiring fresh talent. But Maguire was definitely not interested. At the moment his gambler's in- stinct either slumbered or preoccupied itself solely with the better known minstrels.
He spoke disparagingly of Lotta' s accomplishments, if indeed he spoke at all. Then Crabtree, following a gallant precedent set by the father of the Bate- raan children who had shot a too severe critic, stalked out in- to the Square with a small revolver, lay in wait for Maguire 35 and wounded him in the arm. The encounter was negligible. Maguire, hardly feeling his assailant's bullet, sauntered away with his customary imperturbable calm. But no one can yet tell whether he held a grudge or dismissed the matter en- tirely, since Maguire showed no open resentment and afterward formed an association with Lotta, which, however, was more formal than friendly.
It was a cracker-box theatre, entered through a barroom, surrounded by junk shops, clothing houses, a few dives of indeterminate character. The Gaieties was upstairs, long and narrow, witfi overhanging galleries around three sides, a small stage lit by candles, a few tables in front where actors sat awaiting their cues. The patronage consisted mainly of miners down from the mountains. The actors were amateurs, broken down professionals, circus performers.
The manager was Rowena Granice, After the play Brigham Young , a melodrama which be- came farcical before it was finished, Lotta came on, singing Shells of the Ocean: "One summer eve, with pensive thought, I wandered on the sea-beat shore, Where oft, in heedless infant sport, I gathered shells in days before. Troupers of the Gold Coast. At last she became frightened and fled. A brawl was starting, Mrs.
Crabtree, taking Lotta by the hand, made a hasty retreat. There were proba- bly similar retreats before the brief engagement ended; but through Rowena Granice Lotta obtained another engagement at the Forrest Theatre, Sacramento, where in she appeared in a burletta. Crabtree once more chartered her course into the interior -- this time southward through the San Joaquin Valley.
Potter, who, according to one contemporary "had built more theatres and opened more theatres than any man in the Union or out of it. Who the companions of Mrs. Crabtree were, where they stopped, whether they were successful, is not known. One may hazard a guess that they traveled as far as Mariposa, among brown and copper colored hills and black oaks. They may have paused to play at Mormon Bar or at Hornitos, the wildest of all the southern camps. Sonora may have been a 37 haven as winter set in, with rains flooding the roads and rivers dangerously overflowing their banks.
It is equally probable that Mrs. Crabtree suffered acute discouragement, but she never lost heart. Inevitably they returned to San Fran- cisco. Variety, the forerunner of vaudeville, had come into being; was overwhelmingly popular. Tom Maguire had built the Eureka Minstrel Hall; Rowena Granice had brought a minstrel and variety troupe to the Union Theatre; even the Bella Union had displaced its characteristic gambling for a fling at variety; and there was a diminutive stage at the Willows for the same purpose.
At last came that long expected chance for Lotta. Her entire career up to this point suggests variety; all of her versatile capabilities now fitted, like the piece of a pattern, into the current scheme and settled for all time her future. In spite of the pretentious roles which she later assumed, Lotta remained essentially a variety actress. Overnight she became "La Petite. A public which demanded diversity found it in ample portions in her small person, sturdy, yet delicate and full of quaint rowdyism.
In her voice, which had now acquired a clear soprano range, there was a suggestion of smothered fire that often seemed to belie the frivolous words of minstrel ballads. One of the strolling players whom the Grabtrees had encountered in the mountains had taught Lotta to strum the banjo. She drew from this in- strument a deep resonance characteristic of the art of plan- tation negroes, with the many-throated rhythm belonging to their songs. She had dozens of banjo numbers with jigs, songs and pantomime.
She acted in the afterpieces and became a headliner among such personalities as Billy Birch, Johnny de Angelis, Ben Cotton and others whose names have survived the period in which they lived. As their fame spread in San Francisco a constantly windening field opened before these minstrels.
Led by Jake Wallace. Although Wallace was an expert with the banjo, he possessed a lazy genial temperament; before long Lotta sur- passed him at his own game. Crabtree, making an issue of necessity as she thought, still played the triangle, oc- casionally essayed her satirical impersonations, or sang. The troupe had its own coach. An outrider went in advance to an- nounce their presence and secure them billings. He wore a. Early in '63 they made their way over almost impass- able roads to Sacramento where they played for a time with Biscaccianti.
Then, since houses were only fair, they resumed the journey northward. At Iowa Hill they encountered strong Union sentiment, but in southern Oregon audiences hissed when patriotic airs were sung. Lotta, who knew little about Civil War issues, declared herself loyal to the North and refused to change her act at Wallace's advice. He was taking no chances with a mob whose sudden fury might at any moment rise against them.
Lotta was now sixteen. Portraits show her in hoop-skirts, stiff round hats turned up in back and adorned with minature feathers. Although she continued Rourke, Constance. The Worrell sisters, whose father had been a circus manager, and who were theatrically well connected, had risen to prominence at Gilbert's Theatre. Frequently Lotta played at this theatre also, sometimes having engagements at the Willows and Gilbert's the same night. The acts were highly competitive, with advantages on both sides. The Worrells were three against one, but they were not so pretty and graceful as Lotta.
However they did have histrionic powers which gained them a considerable following. Lotta, on the other hand, was isolated from the people in her own profession. She possessed fine looks, a slender figure, piquant airs. She was named "Lotta, the un- approachable, 11 and she had her following.
Some nights the Worrells topped the bill; other nights it was Lotta. At length, however, Miss Lotta emerged victorious from this bit- ter warfare. Her routine was hard, but she had a momentum of her own, a characteristic energy which bore her towards stardom. Just as stubbornly Mrs. Crabtree drew her away from 42 theatrical gatherings in the greenroom which most actors had found a liberal school , backstage, where in the larger the- atres there was always to be found a convivial interchange. Since her temper and. She ful- filled her own destiny before the public by giving rein to every supressed emotion, and that perhaps is Lotta Crabtree ' s secret of popularity.
Like Lola Montez, whom she is said to have emulated, she cane arrayed in legend. Maguire had engaged her for a fabulous sum to play Mazeppa. She was another of those free spirits who found in the West a proper background in which to display her unconventionality. Somewhere, proba- bly in Texas, Menken had learned fine horsemanship.
During her stay in San Francisco, by an odd quirk of circumstance, she made the acquaintance of Lotta. It is believed that the poet Stoddard Introduced them, for he knew Adah, admired Lotta' s dancing, and was tolerated by Mrs. Crabtree, who usu- ally repelled people with a touch of Bohemian character. Menken possessed a fondness for young people. Quite con- spicuously she chose Lotta for her companion and since Lotta' s mother made no objection, they became friends.
Together they went horseback riding out to the Cliff House, promenaded along its balconies where they could obtain an excellent view of 43 the sea lions, or watched the carriage races, or raced them- selves, on horses, along the hard packed stretch of beach. Lotta was now an expert horsewoman, although she had never at- tempted such equestrian feats as her older companion. But that she admired Adah, or at least some dramatic element represented in her glamorous person, there can be no dovxbt.
Although Lotta was almost seventeen, the press as yet had scarcely praised her; she was considered "a clover juvenile. Crabtree had made another of those difficult choices; she would take Lotta to Now York. True, her knowl- edge of the eastern theatre was limited to hearsay. Lotta had been singing and dancing for nearly ten years; no matter what the situation was in other parts of the country, it could not be worse for Lotta, she reasoned, than California.
In spite of the rich rewards she earned there, the child had not received a real "break", she felt. And besides she had thriftily hoarded her golden treasure; there would be plenty 44 of money with which to buy their way into the theatrical capital. About this time Crabtree turned up again. He now joined, the small entourage which accompanied Lotta's exodus in the spring of ' The two boys, however, were left in California.
All at once it appeared that every established favorite was deserting the gold coast: Booth, Menken, the Worrells — even Maguire ' s minstrels one after another drift- ed away, most of them headed for New York. Maguire' s theatre night after night was almost empty. His few magnificent of- ferings, including the Keans and Edwin Forrest, fell flat.
He glowered morosely, stalked back and forth in a not always silent disapproval of everybody from the leading actors to the call boy. Forrest was ill after his long bitter contest with Catherine Sinclair. Now, finally, we glimpse Lola, lifted and set down on a circular platform, moved but not moving. Another descending chandelier signals a medium close-up of Lola, colored by a blue filter the first of three such shots and looking startled, nervous, trapped. The ringmaster invites intimate questions, at two bits a throw, but he rejects them as irrelevant or answers them himself.
Does she prefer love or money? Ophuls loves Lola, and whatever the real Lola was, his Lola is not a whore, not even a courtesan, to use the softer term granted mistresses of the court. True, she will get a palace from her Bavarian king, but the film depicts theirs as a genuine love match. Elsewhere, sex is a means of escape or an escapade in pleasure. Money does not change hands.
At this point, even we in the bleachers are exhorted by the ringmaster to pay for our pleasure. Ophuls had nothing against whores; he treats them with humor and respect in La ronde and Le plaisir. He was, however, impatient with soulless capitalism, as in his early Dutch film Comedy of Money, in which a singing ringmaster explicates corruption in the market. By , Ophuls had endured his own experience with ballyhoo in Hollywood, and it is tempting to see Lola as a fragile artiste at the mercy of the machinations of callous producers. Ophuls is deeper than that, though. If Lola in the New World is bound by the constraints of a three-ring circus, how did she fare in the old one?
This question brings us to the second movement and the first flashback, representing the end of her liaison with Franz Liszt. Our initial introduction to an earlier Lola finds her as placid with ennui as she is in the circus. Ophuls, however, imagines them as artistic competitors, with separate coaches so that she can escape at will. Cut to the inn, as servants move her baggage, enacting the whirlwind that Lola claims is her life but has yet to enact. After Lola bids Liszt good-bye, her coach heads for the horizon.
In this episode, Ophuls tries something that was not acceptable to audiences at the time but that seems effective and postmodern now. Lola at sixteen is played by Carol thirty-four not as a girl but as her mature self dressed as a girl—in line with the way memory actually works. In , audiences howled in disbelief when Lola answered the question about her age, and so her line was wiped off the soundtrack. Ophuls underscores her predicament with a sublime tracking shot as she walks from her sleeping quarters to find her mother dancing, and then to the bow, where she looks at the stars.
The first part is set in the circus, where Lola is obliged to reenact her catastrophic marriage. No wonder her life is whirling in her head. And the film is whirling too, as the camera helps create three concentric circles: Lola on her round platform rotates to the left; the outer platform that surrounds her rotates to the right; the camera moves to the left. Truth is again channeled in contrary directions too. After the escape Lola bites the hand that fed her , we return again to the tent, where Lola, in a tutu and backed by a corps of male dancers with coins for heads, re-creates her training as a dancer—in ballet, no less.
The action is interrupted by the crucial transitional passage, in which the doctor confronts the owner of the Mammoth Circus, a stogie-chomping, white-faced clown who dons his jacket to talk business. The doctor warns that the climax of her act is insanely dangerous. From now on, the film will unfold on three alternating levels: circus commerce and lies , flashbacks love and truth , and backstage mortality and calculation. In the conclusion to part four, Lola rises in a high headdress from belowground, once again a transported statue. Installed on a conveyor belt, she re-creates apocryphal stories or outright fictions, including nude bathing for a sultan.