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Encyclopedia > Windmill Theatre

The Windmill Theatre, later the Windmill Club, was a famous West End theatre in Great Windmill Street, London. Great Windmill Street took its name from an actual windmill that stood there from the reign of King Charles II until the late 18th century. In 1910 a cinema, the Palais de Luxe, opened on the site. It stood on the corner of a block of buildings that included the Apollo and Lyric theatres, where Archer Street joined Great Windmill Street, just off Shaftesbury Avenue. The Palais de Luxe was one of the first places where early silent films were shown. However as larger cinemas were opened in the West End, business slowed and the Palais de Luxe was forced to close. // West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre in London, or sometimes more specifically for shows staged in the large theatres of Londons Theatreland . Along with New Yorks Broadway Theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of theatre in the... This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... Charles II (29 May 1630 – 6 February 1685) was the King of England, King of Scots, and King of Ireland from 30 January 1649 (de jure) or 29 May 1660 (de facto) until his death. ... Entrance February 2005 This article is about the London theatre. ... The Lyric Theatre is a theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue London, the heart of the West End. ... Shaftesbury Avenue is a major London street, named after Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, that runs in a north-easterly direction from Piccadilly Circus to New Oxford Street, crossing Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus. ...

Contents

Mrs. Henderson Presents

In 1931, Laura Henderson bought the Palais de Luxe building and hired Howard Jones, an architect, to remodel the interior to a tiny, one-tier theatre. It was renamed as The Windmill. It opened on June 22, 1931, as a playhouse with a new play by Michael Barrington called Inquest. Its run as a theatre was short as it was not profitable and it soon returned to screening films, such as The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich. Henderson hired a new theatre manager, Vivian van Damm, who came up with the idea of producing the Revudeville — a programme of continuous, non-stop variety that ran from 2.30pm until 11pm. They began to put on shows with singers, dancers, showgirls and specialty numbers. The first Revuedeville act opened on February 3, 1932, featuring 18 unknown acts. However, the Windmill was still sustaining a loss. The theatre had lost £20,000 in the first few years of its opening. Van Damm introduced shows that featured singing, dancing, sketches and comics and glamorous nude females on stage, inspired by the Folies Bergères and Moulin Rouge in Paris. This coup was made possible by exploiting a loophole in obscenity laws that forbade the display of nudity in theatres: since the authorities could not credibly hold nude statues to be morally objectionable, the theatre presented its nudes — the legendary "Windmill girls" — in motionless poses as living statues or tableaux vivants. Van Damm produced a series of nude tableaux vivants based around themes such as Annie Oakley, Mermaids, Red Indians and Britannia. The Windmill's shows became a huge commercial success. Piccadilly and Pavilion theatres copied the format and ran non-stop shows too which took its toll on the Windmill's ticket sales. Laura Henderson (1864-1944) rose to prominence in the 1930s when, as a wealthy and eccentric widow, she founded the Windmill Theatre in Londons Great Windmill Street in partnership with Vivian van Damm, and they went on to turn it into a British institution, famed for its pioneering... June 22 is the 173rd day of the year (174th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 192 days remaining. ... 1931 (MCMXXXI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link is to a full 1931 calendar). ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Vivian van Damm (1895-1960) was a prominent London theatre impressario from 1932 until 1960, managing the Windmill Theatre in Londons Great Windmill Street, which was a British institution, famed for its pioneering tableaux vivants of motionless female nudity and for the myth of having never closed during the... A variety show is a show with a variety of acts, often including music and comedy skits, especially on television. ... February 3 is the 34th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... Year 1932 (MCMXXXII) was a leap year starting on Friday (the link will take you to a full 1932 calendar). ... Costume, c. ... For other uses, see Moulin Rouge (disambiguation). ... City flag City coat of arms Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur (Latin: Tossed by the waves, she does not sink) Paris Eiffel tower as seen from the esplanade du Trocadéro. ... Obscenity in Latin obscenus, meaning foul, repulsive, detestable, (possibly derived from ob caenum, literally from filth). The term is most often used in a legal context to describe expressions (words, images, actions) that offend the prevalent sexual morality of the time. ... A living statue at EPCOT. The term living statue is often used to refer to a type of mime artist who poses like a statue or mannequin, usually with realistic statue-like makeup, sometimes for hours at a time. ... Tableau vivant, Folies Bergères c. ...


"We Never Closed"

The theatre's famous motto "We Never Closed" (often humorously modified to "We Never Clothed") was a reference to the fact that the theatre was never closed, apart from the compulsory closure that affected all theatres for 12 days (September 4–16) in 1939. The Windmill remained open throughout the Second World War, entertaining Londoners right through the The Blitz. The showgirls, cast members and crew moved into the safety of the theatre's two underground floors during some of the worst air attacks of the Blitz, from September 7, 1940 to May 11, 1941. A motto (from Italian) is a phrase or a short list of words meant formally to describe the general motivation or intention of an entity, social group, or organization. ... Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km into the air. ... Heinkel He 111 German bomber over the Surrey Docks, Southwark, London (German propaganda photomontage). ... September 7 is the 250th day of the year (251st in leap years). ... 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1940 calendar). ... May 11 is the 131st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (132nd in leap years). ... For the movie, see 1941 (film). ...


Many of the Windmill's patrons were families and troops as well as celebrities who came as Henderson's guests. These high society guests included Princesses Helena Victoria and Marie Louise (the daughter and granddaughter of Queen Victoria). The theatre ran into the occasional problem with male patrons, but theatre security guards were always on the lookout for improper behaviour. One of the more comical off-stage acts was the spectacle of the "Windmill Steeplechase" where, at the end of a show, patrons from the back rows would make a dash over the top of the seats to grab the front rows. Victoria Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria) (24 May 1819–22 January 1901) was a Queen of the United Kingdom, reigning from 20 June 1837 until her death. ...


The Windmill was home to many famous variety artists including Freddie Eldrett and numerous famous comedians and actors had their first real success there, including Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Barry Cryer. A number of the most celebrated photographic pin-up models of the 1950s and early 1960s also did a stint as "Windmill Girls", including Pamela Green and June Palmer. Freddie Eldrett was a British Actor and Director who started his career at the Windmill Theatre in London, where at just 18 years old he was one of the youngest entertainers to perform there. ... Jimmy Edwards (23 March 1920 – 7 July 1988 was a British radio and television comedy actor, best known as Pa Glum in Take It From Here and as the headmaster Professor James Edwards in Whack-O. Born James Keith ONeill in Barnes, London, Edwards served in the Royal Air... Biography published in 1978 (1983 paperback reprint shown) Anthony John Hancock, best known as Tony Hancock (May 12, 1924 – June 24, 1968) was a major figure in British television and radio comedy in the 1950s and 1960s. ... Sir Harry Donald Secombe CBE (8 September 1921–11 April 2001) was a Welsh entertainer, a noted fine tenor singing voice and a talent for comedy. ... Richard Henry Peter Sellers, CBE (8 September 1925 – 24 July 1980) was an English comedian, actor, and performer, who came to prominence on the BBC radio series The Goon Show and later became a film star. ... Barry Cryer (born March 23, 1935 in Leeds, Yorkshire, UK) is a writer and comedian. ... Pamela Green (born 1932-03-28) rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s as a Brtish glamour model and actress. ... June Palmer June Palmer June Palmer, also known as June Power, (1 August 1940 – 6 January 2004) was possibly the most famous Harrison Marks model in the 1960s, featuring in his publications Kamera and Solo. ...


End of an era

When Henderson died in 1944, at age 82, she left the Windmill to Van Damm, who continued with the legacy of their work. Van Damm ran the theatre until his death in December 1960. He left the theatre to his daughter, Sheila van Damm. She struggled to keep it going but by this time, London's Soho neighborhood had become a seedier place. The Soho neighborhood of the 1930s and 1940s was a respectable place filled with shops and family restaurants. The Windmill officially closed on October 31, 1964 as it was unable to compete with the low-end strip joints and massage parlors. The last Revudeville show was seen in 1964. Sheila van Damm, (1922-1987) was a leading British woman competitor in motor racing and rallying in the 1950s and 1960s. ... Soho is an area of central Londons West End, in the borough of the City of Westminster. ... October 31 is the 304th day of the year (305th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 61 days remaining. ... 1964 (MCMLXIV) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (the link is to a full 1964 calendar). ...


The theatre then changed hands, became a cinema and casino, and was for a time a private club. In February 1974, the venue was bought by nightclub and erotica entrepreneur, Paul Raymond. Raymond made it a home for nude shows "a la Revuedeville but without the comic element." For a time in the 1980s, Raymond re-introduced burlesque when he renamed the Windmill La Vie en Rose. Today, an erotic lap-dancing club occupies the building that once housed the Windmill Theatre. Paul Raymond is the alias of Geoffrey Anthony Quinn, who was born on 15th November 1925 in Liverpool, England and raised by his mother in Glossop. ... Photograph of Sally Rand, 1934. ...


Film depictions

There have been four films made about or featuring The Windmill. In 1945 Tonight and Every Night starring Rita Hayworth was made in technicolour, based on a Broadway Stage play called Heart of the City by Leslie Storm. Although the Theatre in the film is called "The Music Box" it is clearly a thinly-disguised Windmill — American GIs in war-torn London, the theatre is hit by bombs in the Blitz. The film does not feature a Vivian Van Damm character — so he hated it. However the Theatre is run by May Tolliver played by Florence Bates — who could be construed as being Mrs Henderson — no wonder Van Damm hated it so. Oddly there is not the slightest hint in this film that the theatre featured nudes. Tonight and Every Night was a 1945 musical starring Rita Hayworth and Lee Bowman. ... Rita Hayworth (October 17, 1918 – May 14, 1987), was an American actress of Spanish and Irish descent who reached fame during the 1940s as the eras leading sex symbol. ... The Heart of the City how it was before re-devolpment The Heart of the City is a major re-development site in Sheffield, England. ... Laura Henderson (1864-1944) rose to prominence in the 1930s when, as a wealthy and eccentric widow, she founded the Windmill Theatre in Londons Great Windmill Street in partnership with Vivian van Damm, and they went on to turn it into a British institution, famed for its pioneering...


The second movie was Murder at the Windmill — a 1949 low-budget exploitation movie which was little more than an excuse to feature the Windmill boys and girls performing intercut with a very weak plot about the murder of a man in the front row. Van Damm auditioned to play himself in the movie but was considered "too wooden" for the part. Marked early appearances for Diana Decker, Jon Pertwee and Jimmy Edwards (whose act is by far the best thing in the film). It was the first movie for Producer Danny Angel who was married to one of Van Damm's daughters. John Devon Roland Pertwee (7 July 1919 – 20 May 1996), better known as Jon Pertwee, was an English actor. ... Jimmy Edwards (23 March 1920 – 7 July 1988 was a British radio and television comedy actor, best known as Pa Glum in Take It From Here and as the headmaster Professor James Edwards in Whack-O. Born James Keith ONeill in Barnes, London, Edwards served in the Royal Air...


The third movie was even more exploitative. Secrets of a Windmill Girl was the first outing for Pauline Collins, Martin Jarvis and Dana Gillespie. Pauline Collins (born September 3, 1940) is a British actress working extensively in movies and television. ... Martin Jarvis (born August 4, 1941 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England) is an English actor. ... Dahlia Gillespie (1949- ) is a British actress and singer. ...


Lastly, a 2005 "dramedy" film about the theatre, starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, called Mrs. Henderson Presents was critically acclaimed but was not a strong commercial success. Dame Judith Olivia Dench, CH, DBE (born 9 December 1934), usually known as Dame Judi Dench, is an Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, three-time BAFTA, and six-time Laurence Olivier Award-winning English actress. ... Robert William Bob Hoskins Jr. ... Filmposter. ...


External links

  • Photos of the Windmill Girls on stage
  • Programmes, articles, photographs
  • Detailed history
  • Memories of the Windmill

  Results from FactBites:
 
Windmill Theatre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (383 words)
The creation of the autocratic impresario Vivian van Damm, the Windmill in its heyday (the 1930s and 40s) was essentially a non-stop revue theatre inspired by the Folies Bergères in Paris.
This coup was made possible by exploiting a loophole in the obscenity laws that forbade the display of nudity in theatres: since the authorities could not credibly hold nude statues to be morally objectionable, the theatre presented its nudes – the legendary 'Windmill girls' – in absolutely motionless poses as living statues or tableaux vivants.
Previously a small cinema (the 'Palais de Luxe'), the Windmill Theatre was acquired by Mrs Laura Henderson in 1931 and opened as a 'straight' playhouse (with Inquest), but the venture was not a success.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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