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Monday, 17 June 2013

Youthful visitors

Tuesday, June 17th., Cadogan Square, London.

Elsa Lanchester and Harold Scott came to lunch yesterday. She had a most charming dress, home-made. She said she had made it out of dusters, and I believe she had. Very young. A lovely complexion, wonderful shock of copper hair; a rather queerly blunted nose. Harold staggered her and Dorothy by arriving in a hat. He never wears hats, but had apparently decided to learn to dress. Both deeply interested in their cabaret schemes. Discussing it among themselves and with Dorothy. Largely ignoring me, though no conscious rudeness. Youthful severity on other, older, people. I offered to pay for some chairs and tables for their cabaret, but they were not at all keen on them, apparently preferring the audience to sit on the floor (so, I am unlikely to be in one of their audiences!). However, they took them. I should say that these people are bound to do something good. They are full of original inventiveness and of distinction.

Elsa by Doris Claire Zinkeisen dated 1925
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester (1902-1986) was born into an unconventional a family in Lewisham, London.
She had a great desire to become a classical dancer and to that end at age 10 her mother enrolled her at the famed Isadora Duncan's Bellevue School in Paris in 1912. But the uncertainties of WW1 brought her home after only two years. Next to dance, she loved the music halls of the period, so in 1920 she debuted in a music hall act as an Egyptian dancer. About the same time she founded the Children's Theater in Soho, London and taught there for several years. She made her stage debut in 1922 in the West End play "Thirty Minutes in a Street". In 1924 she and her partner, Harold Scott, opened a London nightclub called the Cave of Harmony. They performed one-act plays by Pirandello and Chekhov and sang cabaret songs. The spot was frequented by literati like Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells and also James Whale, working in London theatre and soon to be directing on Broadway. She closed her nightclub in 1928 as her film career began in earnest. Perhaps not beautiful in the more conventional sense, Lanchester was certainly pretty as a young woman with a turned-up nose that gave her a pert, impish expression, all the more striking with her large, expressive dark eyes and full lips. She had a lithe figure that she carried with the assuredness of her dancing background. Her voice was bright and distinctive, and had a delightful rush and trill that had an almost Scottish burr quality.

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