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 mid 30slate 30sprewar yearssecond world war years

Similar in style to Warner Bros.  American Vitaphone short subjects, and to those from other studios like Paramount, Pathé here in the UK produced many shorts as support featurettes for the cinema circuits. Filmed basically with a couple of camera set-ups, and minimal sets and props, these quaint vignettes of music-hall and variety acts of the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s amuse rather than entertain us today.

From jugglers, acrobats. novelty acts (whistling canaries anyone?), tap and ballet dancers, child accordionists, beefy baritones and weedy tenors, the Pathé archives do sometimes contain major performers, however. Peter Dawson sings on a few of them, Sir Henry Wood conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Arthur Askey makes us smile.

Strike Force Entertainment have collected many of these acts on DVD sets. Five volumes, as far as I am aware: Variety Acts and Turns Of the Mid-30’s, Variety Acts and Turns Of the Late-30’s,Variety Acts and Turns Of the Pre-War Years, Variety Acts and Turns Of the Second World War and Variety Acts and Turns Of the Post-War Years.

There aren’t many details as to what is on each of these sets, and chapters contain many acts bundled together, so I have scanned through the DVDs and propose to list the acts on them. At least there will be somewhere on the Internet with full details of these fascinating, archaic, creaky – and fun – Pathé shorts.

for starters:

mid 30s


SNA6718 (198 minutes)

RELEASED 29 Oct 2012

Chapter 1

1: “BEAUTIES Of 1937” Cabaret act

2: Arthur Askey song: “The Moth”

3: Anita Martell : juggler

4: Anita, Charles and Jack (Art In the Rough) acrobats

5: Billy Merson (“Caesar” sketch) comedian

6: Bernardi song: “The Sun Shines Brighter”

7: Philip Thorburn & His Music

8: Harry Baker Brown (Blindfolded man) novelty act

9: Clempson & Valerie: Rumba (dance team)

10: Bird Circus act


Chapter 2

11: Bryn Gywnne (baritone) song:  “Leaning On the Gate”

12: Leslie Henson “Interview”

13: Albert Sandler trio

14: Clifford Stanton (impressions)

15: The 3 Blue Notes (male trio) song: “Dinah”/”Japanese Sandman”

16: Nellie Bowman  and cast: scene from “Busman’s Honeymoon” (play excerpt)

17: Little Irene Price “The Fleet’s In Port Again” song (very nearly)

18: Cecil Johnston (broadcaster) “Banquet” sketch

19: Danny Lipton & His 4 Girlfriends (dance routine)

20: Bob and Alf Pearson song: “Does Your Mother Come from Ireland?”

21: Carroll & Howe (comedy act) (poor man’s Burns and Allen)

Chapter 3

22: Bennett & Williams (comedy duo)

23: Collinson & Dean (comedy duo)

24: Billy Gerhardi & His Band

25: Bert Weston (comedian)

26: Billy Merson & His Band

Chapter 4

27: Mantovani & His Trio “Kashmiri Love Song”

28: Lance Fairfax (baritone) song: “Walk Down the Road”

29: Matte (balancing act)

30: Mauricette (female Australian singer/whistler) song: “Flight Of Swallow” (No threat to Jeanette MacDonald)

31: Norman Alan song: “Sergeant of the Line”

32: The 4 Astaires (dancers)

33: Al & Bob Harvey: singing duo song:  “The Girl With the Dimples”

34: Gypsy Nina: playing “The Waltz of the Gypsies”

35: Joe Daniels & His Hot-Shots “Some Of These Days”

36: Man with X-ray Eyes (novelty)

37: The 3 Bulvonas (balancing act)

38: Three In Harmony (female trio):  songs: “Dinah”/”I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby”

Chapter 5

39: Sutherland Felce (comedian/magic act)

40: Navarre (Impressions)

41: Dorothy Holbrook & Her Hussars (female orchestra)

42: Doreen (xylophonist)

43: Estelle & Leroy (dancers)

44: Frank Wignall (baritone) song: “Ben the Bosun”

45: Musaire (theremin): “Birdsongs at Eventide”

46: Patrick Colbert (Bass) song: “Deep Waters”

47: Romany Mandolin Band

48: Wheeler & Wilson (comedy duo)

49: Ellen Cower & Partner (acrobatics)

Chapter 6

50: The Tin Pan Alley trio songs: “MacDonald, MacNab and Mackay”/”Horsey, Horsey”

51: The Van Strattens (rope tricks)

52: The 3 Admirals “Riding Academy”

53: Hal Yates (piano) “The World Is Waiting For the Sunrise”/”When the Mighty Organ Played O Promise Me”

54: Ronald Frankau (comedian) songs: “Don’t Tell My Mother I’m Half Of a Horse In a Panto”/”One Of a Crowd, At a Guinea a Day”

55: Vesta (xylophonist)

56: Ted Andrews & The Girlfriend “Stardust”/”You Can’t Stop Me From Dreaming”

57: Robert Wilson song: “I Met An Angel” (“There Is a Lady Sweet and Fair”)

58: Charles Ancaster (juggler)

59: Chester Tuniz (bottle playing)

60: Don Galvan” song:  “Little Lady Make-Believe”


61: Bird Tricks/Howard De Courcey (magician)

62: Earl Carroll & His Radio Band “Swing & Sway”

63: “Ridgeways Joys” (from The Players Theatre) traditional revue acts

64: Tod Slaughter (excerpts from his greatest roles)

65: Viennese Singing Sisters “Memories of Chopin”

66: Wilson Hallett (child impersonator)

67: Rene Pougnet & Clive Richardson (piano duo)

68: Bert Weston (comedy sketch)

69: Betty & Freddy Roberts (dancers)

70: Billy Milton song:  “Time To Go”

71: “Frivolities De France” (from the Prince Of Wales Theatre) revue excerpts: compere Naunton Wayne

late 30sV


SNA6719 (198 minutes)

RELEASED 29 Oct 2012

Chapter 1 (1938)

1:  (1 – 8: Pathe Radio Music Hall: Jack Watson: compere) Harry Parry Sextet “You Are My Lucky Star”

2: Stanelli (comedian/violin)

3: Carroll Gibbons (piano) “It’s Only You”/”The Way That”

4: Dennis Noble (baritone) “London River”

5: Robb Wilton (comedian)

6: Teddy Brown (xylophonist)

7: Mr & Mrs Robinson Cleaver (organists)

8: Cyril Fletcher (comedian)

9: Al & Bob Harvey (comedy and song) “Whoops, We Go Again”

10: Anna May (Max?) (bells) “Annie Laurie”/”Auld Lang Syne”

11: Daphne De Witt (dancer)

12: Rebla (juggler)

Chapter 2

13: Male Quartet “The Bells Of Saint Marys”

14: Dare & Yates (balancing act)

15: Classics On Glass (glass musical instruments)

16: Port Talbot (Cyril Jenkins: “Shylock” excerpt)

17: Sir Henry Wood/BBC Symphony Orchestra: “Serenade To Music” (Vaughan Williams)

18: The Danny Lipton Trio (dancers) “Running Wild”

19: The Radio Revellers: “Tavern In the Town” (updated)

20: Moreton & Kaye (piano duo)

21: The Dancettes (dancers)

22: Billy Mayerl & His Claviers (piano orchestra)

23: Billy Rey (comedy juggler/impersonations)

24: Bloom & Bloom (balancing act)

25: Bernard Clifton (baritone) song: “So Little and So Much To Do”

Chapter 3

26: Leslie Holmes & Leslie Sarony (comedy duo) song: “I’m a Little Prairie Flower”

27: Di Vito & His Ladies Band: Hungarian song

28: London – Joe Loss Wedding (newsreel)

29: Gracie Fields opens disabled mens’ handicrafts fair: Smethwick- (newsreel)

30: George Formby as a jockey at Northolt (newsreel)

31: Gracie Fields at Chorley (newsreel) song: “Sing As We Go” (‘live’)

32: Roland Peachy & His Quartette (music) “La Rosita”

33: The Three Admirals (song): “Don’t Send My Daddy To Dartmoor”

34: George Sander Ford (song): “Why Have You Stolen My Heart?”

35: Edmund Norton  (taxi driver) (tenor)(song): “I Have So Little To Give” (how true!)

36: Skyrobatics (acrobatics)

37: Lillian Southcote (muscles)

38: Rudy Starita (vibraphone)

39: Ronald Frankau (comedy and song): “Shakespeare Had a Naughty Mind”

Chapter 4

40: Leslie Jeffries (violin) medley: the Miserere Duet from Il Trovatore, The Waltz from Faust, Star of Eve from Tannhauser and La Donna e Mobile from Rigoletto

41: The Marlow (?) Trio (acrobatic dancers)

42: The Larson Brothers (accordionists)

43: Leslie Weston (comedy patter)

44: Les Silvers (juggling/acrobatics)

45: Martin Taubman (theremin)

46: Felix Mendelssohn & His Band (with Paula Green) “I Double Dare You”

47: Rex Eaton (impersonations)

48: Raymond Newell (song): “With My Head Upon the Heather”

49: “Queen Mary” (Cunard liner) Dance Orchestra “The Fleet’s In Port Again”/”It Looks Like Rain In Cherry Blossom Lane”

50: Al & Bob Harvey (comedy and song)

51: London: The Boy Players (boys choir) “It Was a Lover & His Lass”

Chapter 5

52: Bob & Alf Pearson (song): “The Pride Of Tipperary”

53: Frank Slater/Arthur Riscoe (artist paints comedian)

54: Burton Brown (piano) “Wedding of the Painted Doll”

55: Alfredo Thomassini (sp?) (baritone): (song): “The Old Black Mare”

56: Anna Marita (ballet )

57: Norman Evans (imersonations)

58: Pablo (magician)

59: Paddy Drew (artist)

60: Robert Ashley (baritone) (song): “Deep Dream River”

61: Myra  & Eileen (rollerskaters)

62: Noni (musical clown)

Chapter 6

63: Peter Dawson (baritone) (song): “Who’s Riding Old Kettledrum Now?”

64: Harold, Percy & Elsie Davis (acrobatice) (newsreel)

65: Barbara Wood (cabaret dancer) “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’”

66: Baby Catherine (?) (accordionist) some baby – ouch! Painful and overlong

67: Dennis Noble (baritone) (song): “When the Guards Go Marching By”

68: Elsa Stenning (song): “Love’s Just a Duet”

69: Ernest Dillon (trampoline)

70: Gerald Nodin (baritone) (song): My Road Calls Me”

71: Howard de Courcy (magician)

72: Jimmy Kelly (boy singer) songs): “Vienna Mine”/”When My Dreamboat Comes Home”

73: Jack Warman (comedian)

74: Ike Hatch (from Kentucky Minstrels):  (song medley): “Lawd You Made the Night Too Long”/”Rhythm’s OK In Harlem”

Chapter 7

75: The Juggling Pearsons (juggling)

76: Harry Cahn (mental marvel – blackboard writing)

77: Eddie Peabody (musical impressions)

78: The Donna Sisters (tap dance/acrobatics)

79: The Canary Choir (bird act)

80: Australian Budgie Act (newsreel)

81: Arthur Askey (song): “I Wish I Were a Tiny Bird”


About siriami

old enough to know better!

2 responses to “VARIETY ACTS AND TURNS FROM the UK branch of Pathe

  1. Gwyneth ⋅

    Are these dvd’s I can buy? The only reason I ask is because Danny Lipton the Tap Dancer mentioned I think on number 52 on one of these lists was my Uncle he also managed the original four aces a singing group four of whom died in the war. The 1950’s Four aces were formed by the son of one of the original band.

    • siriami

      Sorry about the delay in replying – but, yes, these DVDs can be bought – I got mine from Bear in mind, that they are just short films, meant as supports for films in cinemas, and as such, they can be a bit repetitive if you view a lot of them at the one time. But there are some hidden gems, maybe your Uncle’s is one of these?

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