Gabrielle Ray, Christmas Witch, 1907
Apparently, I needed a break. So I took one. “Am taking one” I should say, ’cause I haven’t finished being broken, or breaking, or taking a break, or whatever. But I wanted to start the new year (NB to any non-pagans out there, the real new year has already started) with a pretty witch xmas card of the delightful Gabrielle Ray (1883–1973), “one of the most photographed women in the world” (according to Wikipedia).
Ray performed at leading West End venues, becoming famous across Europe for her youthful beauty and her skill as a dancer. As the bio. on this site explains, “She had a graceful fluidity coupled with an acrobatic prowess that made her dancing nothing less than sensational.” In 1907, Ray played “Frou Frou” in George Edwardes’ adaptation of The Merry Widow, which ran for 778 performances at Daly’s Theatre. Ray’s dance number, complete with handstands and high kicks, performed on a table at Maxim’s held head high by four men, was a show stopper. Probably a heart-stopper too.
This photo is slightly earlier: it is one of a series of photos of Ray as “So-Hie” in the “Chinese” comic opera, See-See at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, 20 June 1906. The photograph has been altered by the Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd of London, probably in 1907, for issue in its Rotary Photographic Series. You can see others in this series, and find lots of information about Ray, here.
Sadly, as Ray’s career waned “a damaging combination of depression and alchoholism brought about a total breakdown in health”; in 1936 she suffered a total nervous breakdown which led to her remaining institutionalized in a mental hospital for nearly forty years! What an end for a woman with so much going for her.
And with this terrible warning before all of us I hope you’ll forgive me for continuing my break a little longer. I will start posting regularly towards the end of (my) summer. Adieu.