Carrie Moore Part 1

Australian musical comedy star, Carrie Moore was born Caroline Ellen Moore in Geelong Victoria in 1882. She was the daughter of Robert Moore and Mary Wyatt and had several siblings. Amongst them were Eva, Lily and Ivy who all had theatrical careers.

JC Williamson spotted Carrie at an early age. She started working for him when she was twelve. Her first notable performance was in the 1895 pantomime, Djin Djin. During its Melbourne run she was often seen walking up Bourke Street on her way to the theatre with a music satchel in one hand and her schoolbooks in the other. Such was the life of a young girl mixing school and the theatre.

The pantomime featured the talents of the Royal Comic Opera Company. The stars of the company were the elite musical comedy performers of the era. Flora Graupner and Florence Young were two of the many big names who appeared in Djin Djin.

Carrie’s part was small. She appeared with another young girl called Ivy Scott. The pair sang a duet, 'I won’t play in your backyard.’ It was well received by audience and critics. After the show played in Melbourne, Carrie and the rest of the cast travelled the country, eventually arriving in Sydney for Easter. The Sydney reviews singled the duet out for special mention saying

These little ladies knocked endways the work of the average serio-comic.

The JC Williamson company obviously had seen potential in young Carrie Moore. In 1897, at fifteen, Carrie replaced Alice Leamar in a week long revival of The Gay Parisienne in Sydney. The critics were kind to Carrie in her role as 'The Slavey’ . The Referee in Sydney said that she ‘worked hard and consistently and on the whole did very good work.’

That December she appeared in the annual pantomime, Babes in the Wood. She played one of the babes and had little to do but go to sleep and look pretty. 

It was clear that somebody at Williamsons thought that Carrie had talent. The kind reviews and frequent notices indicated that she had been earmarked for a long career at an early age.

In 1898 Carrie performed several times with the Royal Comic Opera Company. In one notable performance she appeared as a ‘very pretty Casilda’ in The Gondoliers. The cast included two major stars of the Australian theatre, George Lauri and Howard Vernon.

The Referee commended her as one of many who had performed ‘good work’. Her name was mentioned directly after that of George Lauri, a compliment for a young performer.

From this time the young actress began appearing regularly with the Royal Comic Opera Company, In 1899 she played ‘Patatout’ in The Old Guard. Later that year she preformed in the first Australian production of Robin Hood, It was a lavish spectacle typical of the era. Carrie appeared with a stellar cast which included Howard Vernon, Florence Perry and Pat Bathurst. Carrie played Maid Marion.

In 1900 Carrie appeared in Florodora and this was followed the next year by a performance in San Troy. Her parts were supporting ones, but she attracted the attention of audiences and experienced managers. So much so, that in 1903 she was asked to travel to London to appear for George Edwardes.

Edwardes was a notable English producer/manager. He was responsible for musical comedy hits such as The Shop Girl, The Geisha, and A Country Girl. Soon after Carrie’s arrival in London, Edwardes cast her in The Girl From Keys where she replaced Letty Lind.

Carrie must have been successful in her first London appearance as many more followed. In 1904 she appeared in The Cingalee at Daly’s Theatre. The Cingalee was produced by George Edwardes and starred amongst others, Sybil Arundale and Isabel Jay. Carrie played ‘Naitooma’, one of four girls on a plantation. Once again it was a supporting role, but in a major London production. Carrie played at Daly’s for ten months. After that she appeared in the pantomime, Aladdin, in Liverpool, for Robert Courtneidge. Courtneidge was another influential London producer. However it was her next performance in London that made her a star.

Performing under Robert Courtneidge’s management, Carrie took a role in The Dairymaids. She played Peggy, (a dairymaid) and one of five Sandow Girls. The first performance was on April 14th 1906 at London’s Apollo Theatre. Carrie’s appearance as a draped Sandow Girl caused a sensation. She sang a song called 'The Sandow Girl’ which included the line ‘So lithe and slim in every limb’ and reviewers in England more than agreed with that sentiment.

Miss Carrie Moore…is a very pretty and ingratiating young lady

with black hair and bright eyes, white teeth and nimble feet. In the

draperies of the Sandow girl…she is quite a model of classic grace,

and her movements…are absolutely beyond praise in their lissomness

and their display of beautiful feminine muscularity.

An article in Photobits in July 1906, suggested that Carrie was ‘a keen believer in the corsetless style of costume.’ A rather daring admission for a young lady of the day, It described her as an outdoor, athletic girl who rode a bicycle, played tennis and cricket. She was quoted

I think that we symmentrian (sic) girls should be looked upon

as a sort of practical illustration of a great and natural theory that

the feminine human form can even in the Twentieth Century look

quite pleasant and up to date without the help of a squeeze in trellis work surrounding

the middle of the body and rending it to the proportions of an eggcup.

Although this agreed with the Sandow philosophy, and was obviously a publicity piece, it showed Carrie to be rather daring. She was portrayed as a modern girl with a great figure. Carrie’s graceful movements on stage were often commented upon later in her career.

Carrie was noticed in The Dairymaids, primarily because of her physical attractiveness. She was often cast as the principal boy in pantomime for the same reason. At 24, Carrie was a beautiful girl with sex appeal. The praise of her figure by the reviewers is similar to that given to Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s. Carrie's open and honest appraisal of the perils of corsetry also echoed Marilyn’s candour.

Carrie’s picture as the Sandow girl was frequently used in Australian magazines as late as 1917. It was a potent image for the time.

By 1907 Carrie Moore a young Australian girl had carved a successful niche for herself in the London theatre world. She was getting favourable reviews and work in major theatre productions. She was an Australian success story. It was time for her to take that story home.

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  Carrie Moore Part 2

References