Edwardian era actress Lily Elsie
Lily Elsie was the most photographed actress, singer and model during the Edwardian era. On the stage Elsie seemed mysteriously beautiful with her perfect Grecian profile, enormous blue eyes, and hauntingly sad smile. Lily Elsie was not very fond of her profession, as in life she was shy, and took breaks for several years. Childless, she was not happy in marriage, and her husband did not welcome her work on the stage. Lily Elsie wore dresses by a well-known fashion designer Lucy Duff, who saved from the “Titanic” in the infamous “boat of millionaires.” After the resounding success of her costumes in the operetta “The Merry Widow”, all paid tribute to the beauty of Lily Elsie. Her outfits and hats were copied and sold in the majority of the London department stores. She was loved for her looks, dresses and taste. Lily Elsie was so popular, and thousands of cards with her picture had huge circulations. Lily herself did not consider herself beautiful and, according to the recollections of her friends, “Lily Elsie was always shy and unsure of herself. She considered herself too thin, not too showy, with too low voice.”
Lily Elsie was born on April 8, 1886 in the Armley district of Leeds, United Kingdom. Her mother, Charlotte Elizabeth Hodder (1864 – 1922) was a dressmaker. In 1891, when her daughter was 5 years old, she married a theater employee William Thomas Cotton, and Elsie became Cotton. The family moved to Manchester. Elsie’s musical and artistic abilities were noticed at an early age, and she became a child actress in music halls and variety shows. She was given the stage nickname “Little Elsie”. Despite this, according to the memoirs, she was very shy and remained shy even as an adult.
Around 1895-96, Lily Elsie began to perform in concerts of a pantomime theater. In 1896, she played the role of Princess in the “Thousand and One Nights” staged at the Royal Theatre in Manchester. Later, at Christmas of 1896-97 she was given a leading role in the play “Little Red Riding Hood”, staged in the same theater. Her first appearance in London was held on Christmas Day 1898 in the role of Ariel, the spirit of the air, in the play “King of the Klondike.”
The greatest success came to Elsie through her leading role in the operetta “The Merry Widow”. At this time, Elsie began working with major theatrical impresario of that time George Edwards.
After the “Merry Widow” Elsie appeared in 16 productions, including the English version of the highly successful operetta “Dollar Princess” (1909) and “The Count of Luxembourg” (1911).
Elsie has ceased to act in the play “The Count of Luxembourg” since she married John Ian Bullough; 1885-1936), the son of a very wealthy textile magnate.
Unfortunately, the marriage proved unsuccessful. Lily Elsie began to ache. During her further stay on the stage she underwent several operations, then started anemia. According to some reports, she could not have children. In connection with strained relations with her husband, who began to drink heavily. Childless, they have been married for almost 20 years, then still divorced.
Elsie returned to the stage in 1916 and 1917. She starred in the comedy by Louis Parker “Mavourneen” (1916) and the role of Pamela in the eponymous play, which was staged in 1917.
In 1928-29, when she was 42-43 years old, she played in the play “The Truth Game”. Stage life of Lily Elsie ended.
In 1930, she finally divorced her husband, with whom no longer lived the last years (6 years after the divorce Yang Balloch died).
Lily Elsie, died Dec. 16, 1962 in the same hospital of St. Andrew, according to records from Heart failure/bronchopneumonia. She was 76 years old.
Edwardian era actress Lily Elsie