Pam’s Pictorama Post: I consider today’s item a real treasure. I found it while trolling idly on the internet and snatched it up. As objects go, it is splendid, a cast metal with some heft to it, about eight inches high. The cat’s expression is great, with an almost but not quite winking eye – a wicked look. His lashing tail, curled precisely around his feet. There is a tiny ring at the base of his collar and I wonder if a small ribbon or something was originally adorning him. There are traces of red on his face and the base and there is something inscribed on the back of his neck I cannot make out. (See below.) The seams on his casting are evident – he was after all inexpensively made. Kitty is perched on a pedestal which is inscribed, Charley’s Aunt 100th Performance Chicago Hooley’s Theater Wednesday July 25th 1894. I do wonder what sort of jolly world Chicago 1894 must have been if you were lucky enough to go to the 100th performance of this play and receive this great cat statuette? My mind boggles at such riches.
Having said that, I am not entirely sure Charley’s Aunt would be my cuppa tea. However, it clearly has fans. Written by Brandon Thomas, it opened in England in 1892 and it has enjoyed a phenomenal run that first stretched across the Atlantic to Broadway, made its way across this country in theaters, was then snatched up first for a 1915 silent film (rumored anyway, I couldn’t find a trace of it), an extant 1925 film version starring Syd Chaplin, followed by a 1930 early sound and 1941 (Milton Berle in this one) films. Then came musical adaptations and several made-for-television movies proffered through the late 1970’s. (And I am sparing you the litany of foreign versions, numerous in Germany, even one in Egyptian.)
To this day Charley’s Aunt continues to be revived (think dinner theater in suburban NJ) and one review said that continuously, somewhere in the world, it is always playing. Quite simply, as far as I can tell it appears to be an early cross dressing farce which has something to do with men in dresses trying to get engaged and having issues with chaperones.
The playwright, Brandon Thomas, hailed from Liverpool originally, born in 1848. He started his professional life in commerce and as an occasional journalist. His real ambition was acting and he realized it, eventually becoming sought after as a character actor. He wrote more than a dozen plays, none with the record breaking appeal of Charley’s Aunt however. He continued acting, mostly in comedy until his death in 1914.
Kim had heard of the play; I had not. He attached it to Oscar Wilde, which was an accurate impulse as they were contemporaries and Charley’s Aunt launched with The Importance of Being Ernest in London and the two are often thought of as a piece. Most notably, I have absolutely no idea why this play is so winningly represented by this grinning feline, both on poster (shown above) and my recently acquired statue. Frankly 100 performances doesn’t seem quite worthy of such outstanding recognition, not to say I am not extremely pleased that it did.