Saturday, February 05, 2011

Sepia Saturday : A Vicarious Brush With The Ordinary


Ernest George Harcourt Williams (1880-1957) was a British actor and producer famous for his interpretations of Shakespeare. He first appeared on stage in 1900 as a member of the Frank Benson Theatre Company and later in his career he became a producer at the London Old Vic Theatre. Towards the end of his life he made himself quite a name as a film actor appearing in films such as the 1944 Olivier version of Henry V, Brighton Rock, Roman Holiday and Around The World in 80 Days.


But my vicarious brush with Harcourt Williams occurred many years earlier and came via Edith Synyer's friend, Nellie. Nellie was on holiday in Cheadle, just south of Manchester. One day Nellie took a trip into the city to the Queen's Theatre to see Harcourt Williams in Romeo and Juliet and was obviously so impressed with his performance that she bought a picture postcard of him and sent it to Edith.

It is not the most exciting story in the world : it is quite ordinary. But the real beauty of old postcards and old photographs is the insight they give us into the ordinary : an ordinary which is so often hidden by the glare of all those important historical events.

See the ordinary made extraordinary in Sepia Saturday posts from all over the world by following the links on the Sepia Saturday Blog.


31 comments:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I don't know what will take the place of the first-hand accounts in the future, since people don't send postcards and letters like they used to. Blog posts?

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  2. Oh I don't know. That didn't seem so ordinary to me. What a fun postcard with him in his Romeo costume. I'm sure she was excited to buy it after seeing him perform!

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  3. Alan - what's the date of the postcard? The image of the king looks like a cross between Edward VII and George V. Can't determine precisely which it is. The nose is too aquiline for either.

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  4. CB : 2 March 1905 - so that will have been Teddy : perhaps he had a nose job.

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  5. What a glorious costume! That didn't come from Moss Bros!

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  6. And doesn't he just look as though he was meant for the stage.

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  7. Interesting. He has something of the look of Alan Davies about him.

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  8. He seems very unordinary to me! What rock star he'd be today!

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  9. With my first glance at the photo I thought he might be some type of actor and sure enogh. Beautiful handwriting on the back of the card too, obviously done with fountain pen. (A lost art) He is very striking and the costume! Well, well, well!

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  10. I think I will send a post card this week in hopes it will turn up in someone's blog (or whatever they have by then) 100 years from now.

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  11. Great 'squared circle' postmark on the back of the postcard. Some of these can be quite collectable, although alas I have no idea which ones.

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  12. Fantastic costume, isn't it? And what a nice postcard - the stamp, postmark and handwriting are wonderful. I like Karen's idea. Think I'll send one too.

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  13. What a striking, handsome young Romeo he made! I can quite understand Nellie's heart palpitations.

    I have long believed that it is the ordinary in life which gives us the most joy.

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  14. I've just read the address on the postcard. The climbing centre to which the boys belong is just around the corner and the (long gone) 'baths' where I learned to swim was in the next street. What a small world!

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  15. He really reminds me of Oscar Wilde. So brooding.

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  16. Your vicarious brushes with ANYthing are usually fascinating, Alan. This one was as well. It is the minutiae of everyday lives (the weather, the little excursions, etc.) that are of such interest to us since we like to feel a kinship with their day-to-day experience.
    I recognized the name Harcourt Williams (must check the Imdb to see from where I do know him for sure).

    Kat

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  17. Ah yes this is fun to read. You have a knack of getting me to go down memory lane with your stuff. This one sent me to my fasciation of the movie 'Around the World in 80 Days'. I think I shall look to see if I can find a version and watch it again.

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  18. He Kept a Tight Hold Of His Heart, As All Romeos Should!

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  19. Now this fellow is not an actor. He's an ACTOR! I now need to get out my copy of Roman Holiday and look for him. The search is on!

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  20. I think that is quite delightful actaully. thakn you for sharing it with us. Love the old photo adn to learn more about this chap.

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  22. 2Hmm my nickname is Nellie. Quite the dapper lad wasn't he.

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  26. Often, with old postcards, the messages are more interesting than the photograph. This one gives us the best of both. I love to hear how people didn't make it to a certain destination, 'on account of the weather'.

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  27. The photo makes up a thousand words of story. I really find it amazing how he was dressed for his role. I didn't know I needed to beef up my blog with exciting and adventure but I will try harder. Enjoy stopping in when I can.

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  28. I wish I could introduce him to "Gilda Gray" from my post of a couple of weeks ago. They would get along famously!
    Barbara

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  29. Lovely post, when we look back it is the day to day, ordinary stuff that gives colour and detail to life back then.

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  30. Anonymous12:43 AM

    Very interested to read this blog, the gentleman in question is my great grandad. The nose runs in the family and it is something I have inherited!

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