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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   Charles Ricketts Re-dresses The Mikado


Of the making of this film, Peter Parker writes:

"In 1926 Rupert D'Oyly Carte decided to have The Mikado Re-dressed with new costumes. He chose to use Charles Ricketts to make new designs. Ricketts was trained at Dartington as was Bridget D'Oyly Carte and they knew each other. Ricketts was an ARA and getting well known in the arts world. In order to promote the new costumes, Pathe made this film as part of a series used by cinemas under the generic title of Gaumont Mirror. I gather it was a sort of weekly change update on social matters rather like the newsreels.

"D'Oyly Carte were not responsible for releasing the film. True, Rupert had to have given permission for the filming, but what they took I am sure was entirely of their own choosing. These things were done in a rush (what's new) and it is possible to pin the date of filming down to within a week or so. It was shot on the stage of the Princes Theatre London in the second week of September 1926. Then they had to have it on their cinema release circuits in front of the opening night on 20th September 1926. This haste may explain the mis-spelling of 'D'Oyley' in the opening credits in the version on YouTube.

"The original film was shot without sound. My attempts to add sound like the version now on YouTube did not work well enough to show anyone. Congratulations to whomsoever did this. Incidentally I understand that the original 35mm copies were coloured using a stencil process rather than each frame being individually painted. The stencil process enabled multiple copies to be made more easily.

"I have traced only four copies of the original 35mm film: two at The British Film Institute, one owned by Mahala Menzies, Elsie Griffin's daughter plus Mahala's and my copy which I found among my father's effects when he died in 1960 which must have come from the D'Oyly Carte offices. Subsequentally Pathe have shown the film and made it more generally available. There were very minor differences between each copy of the 35mm films in the opening credits and closing logos as recall. The BFI copies do not include the frames showing the cast and I assume that these were the copies which were actually used in the cinemas, Rupert not wanting his name to appear wrongly spelt. Mahala's copy was slightly different from mine in that it had the Pathe logo of a girl in a hammock at the start.

"Incidentally this is not the oldest film of The Mikado. There was some sort of moving picture film made by and featuring George Thorne in 1906 or thereabouts. I have never traced any copy and I only know of its existence by way of legal injunctions taken out by Helen D'Oyly Carte against a cinema and the Eastbourne Pier Company to forbid its being shown. I have copies of the injunctions involved. This was at the time of the disputes with Thorne. I understand that this performance involved sound as well probably on a disc but no copies have so far come to light."

Notes:
1. Peter's father, Stanley H. Parker, held a number of posts with both the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and the Savoy Theatre Ltd., as well as being Rupert and Bridget D'Oyly Carte's private secretary between 1913 and 1960.
2. This version of the film was uploaded to YouTube by "Captain Fitzbattleaxe." The final frame of the video shows the pre-1926 costumes.

Star The 1926 Souvenir Brochure and production photographs.


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