Marie Lloyd: The Queen of Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more

21 Dec

During the peak of the Victorian Era Music Hall, the turn of the century that is, one of the most famous and sought after performers was the inimitable Marie Lloyd.

She wasn’t just famous as a singer, she had a notoriety. Moral watchdog groups would regularly go into a ruffled, squawking stir over her and once when she attempted to go the states she was denied entry for reasons of moral turpitude.

Was she burlesque in some way? Not at all. She was a singer. She sang songs with no curse words, just little ditties. It was what she DID with them that made music hall audiences go crazy and the upright victorian puritans to flummox and spew red smoke out their ears.

Her trademark style involved little vocal ticks, little winks, little hand movements and swishes of her skirt that could make just about any harmless line into the most suggestive sexual innuendo imaginable.

“She’d never had her ticket punched before” (wink wink)

“He and i stuffed our rugs into the van (wink) (something we’ve done quite a few times before…)”

Now i appreciate these very old recordings are hard to appreciate. However, there was a BBC drama all about her and this next bit is a performance from the show which gives you an idea:

She really was a superstar of the circuit. However this didn’t stop her from striking with the lower eschalon of musicians during the Great Music Hall Strike of 1907.

“We (the stars) can dictate our own terms. We are fighting not for ourselves, but for the poorer members of the profession, earning thirty shillings to £3 a week. For this they have to do double turns, and now matinées have been added as well. These poor things have been compelled to submit to unfair terms of employment, and I mean to back up the federation in whatever steps are taken.”
—Marie Lloyd, on the Music Hall War
She was married 3 tumultuous times with the last being the worst. Her third husband turned into a heavy drinker and beat her. She took to drinking heavily to escape and by the time she finally left him in 1920 her voice and health had deteriorated. During her last performance in October 1922 she staggered about the stage, although the audience laughed uproariously, thinking it was all part of the act. She died 3 days later.
I include part 1 of the 80 minute long BBC drama about her. If you like it, the rest is up on YouTube. The video below will lead you to it.
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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