14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Top of the Bill,
This review is from: Old Time Variety (Hardcover)
"Old Time Variety: an Illustrated History" written in 2011 by Richard Anthony Baker is a delightful companion book to his 2005 "British Music Hall: an Illustrated History." Mr Baker's "Variety" covers the period of popular performance in the UK that followed "Music Hall." Reading Baker's smartly-crafted reminiscences about the famous (Gracie Fields, The Crazy Gang, Doris & Elsie Waters, Robb Wilton, George Formby, Tessie O'Shea, Max Miller, Will Hay, Max Wall and Old Mother Riley) and the less-remembered---about a hundred of them---kept me up well past bedtime two night in a row. And if some of the variety stars are unfamiliar to you, you feel you know them a bit after you've read Baker's descriptions of their acts and his gossipy reports of their eccentric behaviors---most of which are amusing, some poignant, a few naughty, none snide or cruel. It seems Richard Anthony Baker has interviewed everyone who trod the boards of British variety theatres because, according to the dust cover, he wrote and produced BBC radio programs for 30 years and currently writes columns for British publications including Stage, Call Boy and Music Hall Studies. Chances are no other "insider" is going to offer you such rare tidbits about the personal lives of so many variety performers or their stage, radio, television and film successes. The book is well-designed, easy to read, and each biographical entry is introduced with a "facts" block (real name, birth & death dates and places, spouses and children---even how much money they left in their wills! In short, I loved this book!
Carry On Baker!
co-author: Vaudeville, Old & New: an Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America (2007) and The Porridge Sisters Mysteries (2010 & 2011). Co-Founder of the American Vaudeville Museum.