2 June 2010
I stopped collecting autographs when, at 21 years old, I asked Olivier to sign a book which I'd been given for my 21st birthday. I reckoned that was the last autograph I needed.
But how could I refuse when I was offered a unique collection of signatures by Eileen Shand, a 90 year old lady whose sister Phyllis had worked at The Old Rep in the 1930's. Eileen's father had been a music hall magician at the turn of the century and had started to collect autographs. Eileen had read about the fledgling BSC and wrote to me to ask if I'd like to come and meet her. We became great friends for the three years before she died. And the book?
Page one is signed Ellen Terry, Bradford 1904. There's also a signature from Irving 1919, but when I checked the date I sadly realised it wasn't Henry, but his brother. Turning over the pages you arrive at Charles Chaplin, W.C.Fields, Dan Leno - and on one page alone there's George Bernard Shaw, Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwick and Sir Barry Jackson. Later on you find Morcambe and Wise, Larry Olivier (the only time I've seen him sign his name as Larry)...and Simon Rattle...! And on several pages the leading comedians and actors of their day have drawn paintings and cartoons(the vicar drawn by W.C.Fields is my favourite).
I showed the book to Paul Scofield and Simon Callow who were brilliantly able to point out all the names I didn't recognise - and Paul was able to say "that's the box office manager at Stratford!".
It's one of the countless treats that's come from being associated with The Old Rep, Sir Barry's wonderful theatre.
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