24 March 2011

Gertie Millar

Gertie Millar was born in Bradford, Yorkshire (UK), in 1878. She grew up to be tall, thin and attractive with dark hair and large limpid eyes. She was also tough, determined and ambitious. Her stage career began as a singer and dancer in the many music halls of Yorkshire. Later, she moved to London where she was soon topping variety bills, earning substantial sums and attracting much attention.

In 1901, George Edwardes (the famous theatre manager and originator of the British musical comedy, who, the previous year, had lost his star, Marie Tempest, after a disagreement over a costume) recruited Gertie Millar to be the leading lady in his productions at the Gaiety Theatre. Her first starring role was in The Toreador.

Her next show was Our Miss Gibbs that opened at the Gaiety on January 23, 1902. Its strong cast included George Grossmith jr., Robert Hale, Edmund Payne, Denise Orme, Jean Aylwin, Gladys Homfrey and Kitty Mason, but Gertie Millar was, without doubt, the star and made her the best known musical comedy performer in the country. The music was written, in collaboration with Ivan Caryll, by Lionel John Alexander Monckton (1861-1924), an Oxford University educated lawyer turned composer who married Gertie Millar. The hit song of the show was ‘Moonstruck’, a song Monkton had written especially for his wife.

He was to write the music for nearly all her following successes. On October 26, 1903, in the presence of  His Majesty King Edward VI and Queen Alexandra, the new Gaiety opened with the premiere of the musical comedy The Orchid . The show ran for 559 performances.

Success after success followed during the next decade. In 1910, Gertie Millar starred in one of the most best-loved Gaiety musical comedies, The Quaker Girl. Her co-star was Joseph Coyne (1867-1941) the American actor who had created a sensation with Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow (1907). His ‘Dancing Lesson’ with Gertie Millar repeated the enormous success of the ‘Merry Widow Waltz’ he had performed in the previous show. The Quaker Girl ran for 536 performances.

In 1914 the world was much changed – war waged, people’s tastes had irrevocably changed and they were now flocking to the comfort of the new cinema palaces for their escapism, Gertie Millar’s husband was in poor health and had ceased composing and, in 1915, George Edwardes (for whom she had worked for over fourteen years) died. For a while, Gertie Millar performed occasionally in the variety theatres where her career had begun. In 1918, she made her final appearance at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, the city where she had been born.

In 1924, her husband died. Some time afterwards, Gertie Millar married William  Humble Ward, the second Earl of Dudley (1867-1932). Before the war, he had been the governor-general of Australia. On June 6, 1920, his first wife had been drowned in a swimming accident at their estate in Ireland. Gertie Millar, the working-class girl from Yorkshire who grew up to be one of the best loved stars and most photographed women of the Edwardian era, had become Lady Dudley.   

Gertie Millar, Lady Dudley, died in Chiddingford, England, on April 24, 1952.

Text: Collectors Post


  1. Gertie Millar isn't an actress that I collect except for "The Quaker Girl" the cards are loverly andthe Play Pictorial did an excellent piece with several pictures from the production.


  2. I find Gertie Millar cute :)
    Thanks for the link!


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