[Percy Nash, British cinema pioneer.] Eight Typed Letters Signed to theatre historian W. J. Macqueen-Pope, with personal reminiscences. With carbons of two replies, and typescript of reminiscences titled ‘The Tragic Comedians / Laughter and Tears’.

Percy Nash (1869-1958), British film producer and director, key figure in the creation of Elstree Studios [W. J. Macqueen-Pope, theatre historian]
Publication details: 
Nash’s eight TLsS from between 4 July 1949 and 10 October 1951; all on letterheads of 2 Bristol Court West, Marine Parade, Brighton. Macqueen-Pope’s carbons from 1949 and 1951. ‘The Tragic Comedians’ undated.
SKU: 24189

Nash made around 70 films between 1912 and 1927, and was a key figure in the creation of Elstree Studios. His career as a film maker was effectively ended following the screening of his 1921 film 'How Kitchener was betrayed'. See Bernard Ince, ' “For the Love of the Art”: The Life and Work of Percy Nash, Film Producer and Director of the Silent Era’, ‘Film History’, September 2007. See also Macqueen-Pope’s entry in the Oxford DNB. The collection of eleven items is in fair overall condition, with minor creasing and aging to some items. Nash’s eight letters are all signed ‘Percy Nash’, and the first (and longest) has a long postscript in autograph. The eight total 9pp: four in 4to and five in 12mo. All are addressed to ‘My dear Popie’. (The two men are clearly well acquainted - to one letter Nash adds the autograph note ‘Come & see us soon!!!’.) The first letter contains personal information about the 1897 murder of the actor William Terris outside the Adelphi. ‘I was producing a Panto for Charles Denton at the time at the Parkhurst Theatre, and I was short of a Chorister, Denton phoned to say that he would have one for me the following morning. I called next day at Maiden Lane and he told me that he had a man but as he had a “Wall” eye he sent him away. It was Prince. [Terris’s murderer] E Dagnall (Daggie) was a member of the Adelphi Co at that time and he told me that Prince was a small part merchant who was spasmodically engaged there. He considered himself badly treated by the Management.’ He concludes in the same vein. Letter of 3 August 1950 begins: ‘I am under the impression that I am the last living “Acting” (Not ‘Walk on’) member of Irvings Lyceum Theatre Company.’ After describing a visit to Irving’s centenary service at St Martin’s in the Fields he adds, ‘I am sure that I am the only one left connected with his Stage Management. Lionel Belmore, who was with me at the time, migrated to America, and, I am informed, passed on, a year or two ago.’ On 9 November 1950 he writes intriguingly: ‘Re the G. B. Shaw incident you will be surprised at the undignified pranks that they got up to in the film at the behest of the little Scotchman.’ Letter of 14 December 1950 describes ‘a long queue waiting to book and a slip of a girl solo to do the work [...] I am often in touch with Emily Norton (Freds sister) and she says she is very hard up, perhaps this revival will healp. Jack Gladwin called in on Tuesday and I showed him the great “Write up” of Chue in “Everybodys”.’ On 24 June 1951 he praises Popie’s new book ‘Ghosts and Greasepaint’: ‘Every word and picture takes me back through my whole life, from the ‘Fly posting’ inside cover of Drink which we used to call “Lets av some more?” to the index pages. I saw Warner first at the Princess in it and I signed the pledge. / My word! as I turn the pages over I see pictures of the “Gone befores” and I feel strangely lonely, but when I pass over (and it can’t be long now) I shall tell them all what a Champion they left behind them to keep their memory green.’ The last letter, 10 October 1951, concerns a radio broadcast featuring Popie: ‘What a glorious night you must have had last Sunday. I listened in to the first part and it all seemed to go so slick and the applause was never allowed to “peter” out. I was connected in one way or the other, with The Nellie Farren, H.I. and Ellen Terry similar shows and they were nothing like I.N’s.’ The carbons of two of Popie’s replies are both unsigned. Each 1p, 4to. The first, 5 July 1949, discusses of the Terris murder. The second is a response to Nash’s last letter. The final item is a typescript of reminiscences, titled ‘The Tragic Comedians / Laughter and Tears.’ 2pp, 4to. Whether this is by Popie or Nash or another party is unclear. There is one autograph emendation. Observations on George Formby (‘I have been present at a performance when the audience were screaming with merriment at him during his “Turn” and he was compelled to turn his back on them to conceal his terrible cough which eventually closed his career.’), George Bastow, Melville Gideon, Leslie Stuart, and a final long passage on Dan Leno (‘The greatest tragedy of all, was, to my thinking, that every Panto first night at the Lane, Two boxes were reserved for the members of his TWO families. The Boxes were placed one over the other on the same side of the Theatre, so that they never knew each other were there, or even that they existed. This fact used to worry Sir Augustus Harris, and after him Arthur Collins lest they should make the discovery, but they never did, what a time of anguish it must have been for Dan’).