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31 December 2011

Bertram Wallis

Tall and handsome Bertram Wallis (1874 - 1952) was a renowned English actor and singer. He was a glamorous matinée idol in popular plays and musical comedies in the early 20th century. Between the two wars he also appeared in several films.

Bertram Wallis
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., nr. 11642-0. Photo: Foulsham & Barnfield, Ltd., London.

Rare Talent
Bertram Wallis was a huge man who stood more than 2 meters tall. He was born in 1874 in London. He won a scholarship to study voice at the Royal Academy of Music, and his first professional engagements were in George Alexander's production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It (1896) and in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (1898). In the early years of the 20th century, Wallis had his first successes on the musical stage, including in A Country Girl. He had the rare talent of being able to sing beautifully and also act superbly. He then travelled to New York to play in several Broadway productions, including A Madcap Princess (1904), Princess Beggar (1907), and Miss Hook of Holland (1907-1908).

Bertram Wallis
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 2387 E. Photo: Foulsham & Banfield. Publicity still for the play The King of Caledonia (1908).

Glamorous Matinée Idol
Bertram Wallis returned to London and established his career in the operetta King of Cadonia (1908) at the Prince of Wales theatre in the West End. From this point on, he reigned as one of the Edwardian age’s most glamorous matinée idols and one of its biggest male postcard-sellers. He starred in a number of successful London musicals, often with Isabel Jay or José Collins, including Dear Little Denmark (1909), The Balkan Princess (1910), The Count of Luxembourg (1911), The Happy Day (1916), the hit revue Zig Zag! (1917), A Southern Maid (1920), Madame Pompadour (1923), Blue Eyes (1928), and So This is Love (1929). In 1911, Wallis temporarily left the musical stage to appear in a non-musical melodrama, Beau Brocade at the Globe Theatre, for which he won good notices. Between 1917 and 1945 Bertram Wallis also appeared in eight films: The Cost of a Kiss (1917, Adrian Brunel), Victory and Peace (1918, Herbert Brenon), The Wandering Jew (1933, Maurice Elvey) starring Conrad Veidt, the short film A Dream of Love (1938, James A. FitzPatrick), Chips (1938, Edward Godal), A People Eternal (1939, Maurice Elvey, Henry Lynn) again starring Conrad Veidt, The Shipbuilders (1944, John Baxter) with Clive Brook, and Twilight Hour (1945, Paul L. Stein). After the Second World War Bertram Wallis retired and he died aged 78 in 1952 at his home in Kent.

Bertram Wallis, Grace Lane
British postcard by Rotary Photo, E.C., no. 11642-D. Photo: Foulsham & Hanfield, Ltd., London. Publicity still for the play Beau Brocade (1911) with Bertram Wallis as Beau Brocade and Grace Lane as Lady Patience Gascoyne.

Sources: David Slattery-Christy, Anything But Merry!: The Life and Times of Lily Elsie; Wikipedia; Richard Traubner, Operetta: A Theatrical History, and IMDb.

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