Thursday, 9 August 2018

Who was Clara Beadle?

After yesterday's struggles with a new modem/router, I am back in business with a romantic story and a few mysteries. It all began with watching on Talking Pictures TV The Night has Eyes, a 1942 thriller based on a novel by Alan Kennington (and the research for him proved interesting, too - some dates should appear on IMDb soon). One of the leads was played by (Anne) Tucker McGuire, who I remembered as an authentic voice from the States amid the Canadians and British actors doing their best in radio productions of American plays and novels of the 1940s and '50s. (Bessie Love was another such and her story is also interesting.)  British Actors' Equity, like the Musicians' Union, was very hot in those post-war days in protecting the interests of their members. Immigrants taking British actors jobs were not welcome.

Tucker McGuire was lucky in coming to Britain before the war when interchange across the Atlantic was clearly as free as it is now. She arrived in 1936 as part of an all-American cast of a show which had been doing great business on Broadway since opening in January of the previous year, Three  Men on a Horse. Mystery number one is how she landed a key rôle since I can trace no record of big theatre experience. Clearly someone putting together the London cast (the original continued to run on Broadway) had spotted her talent and took a chance. The romance came towards the end of the run, as told by Michael Bott:

The story goes that, for whatever reason, she had become very disillusioned and was wanting to quit the show and the profession and return to the States. Indeed, she had written a letter of resignation to the management requesting termination of her contract. Part of the reason for her wanting to leave, it seems, was that she wasn't getting the laughs and response she expected from the English audience and had assumed it was her fault and she was no good. The afternoon she was intending to hand over her letter, it was a poorly attended matinee performance - however, although the audience seemed pretty dead as usual, one individual seemed to be enjoying her performance particularly and the laughter of one man could be heard from the back of the stalls responding, it seemed, to everything she did. Despite this very slightly reassuring event, Tucker was resolved and after the show, she made her way to the manager's office to hand in her letter of resignation. There, in the office with the manager, was none other than Noel Coward. It turned out it had been Noel Coward's laughter that had been heard and now, here he was in the office, singing her praises to the theatre manager. Needles to say, the letter remained in her hand, Tucker remained in the show for the rest of the run - her confidence restored. Now the thing is, had Tucker returned to America at that time, she would not have met and married the British actor Tom Macaulay. Tom Macaulay's full name was Chambré Thomas MacAulay Booth - and if you've been paying attention, you'll recognise the latter surname from above. Yes, our good friend Janie Booth (also an actress/writer) is the daughter of Tucker McGuire and Tom Macaulay.

Mystery number two concerns Miss McGuire's travelling companion, as revealed by the Board of Trade shipping lists held by the National Archives and available on-line exclusively through Ancestry UK. Clara Beadle was also bound for Wyndhams theatre where Three Men on a Horse was to be put on. But there is no trace of her in the programme as listed in J P Wearing's analysis of 1930s West End productions. The other female lead was played by Claire Carleton, who had several US stage and a couple of screen appearances behind her. There is no record of Miss Carleton arriving by ship in Britain and the first regular transatlantic flights were a few years in the future. So it is tempting to conclude that Miss Carleton was travelling under the name of Beadle, especially as the ages match. Curiously, there is no Ancestry record of a Clara Beadle being born in the USA around 1913, but there is one in Yorkshire for that year - and I could find nothing further about her in the Ancestry database. Could there have been a Transatlantic adoption? I suppose we will never know.

Another little mystery was solved in researching this piece. It seems the unusual forename Tucker was handed down from an ancestor on her mother's side. St George Tucker was one of the movers and shakers of the American Revolution and later contributed to the jurisprudence of the young US.

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