Vienna (Wien), Austria
|Death: ||Feb. 21, 1959|
Greater London, England
Austrian-born actress and singer. Popular in
England and Australia as the Prince in the pantomime, Cinderella, produced at the Grand Theatre and Opera House, Croydon, South London, Christmas, 1897.
"The Messenger Boy", a musical play, by James T. Tanner and Alfred Murray, the Gaiety Theatre, 1900.
"The Man from Mexico", comedy.
"I came to Australia for the first time in ‘95." Then she continued her chat, and the interviewer gleaned a few facts which will be new to at least some. If they point nothing else they show the courage and ability which have combined to lift "little G.P.," on the presentation of that "first chance," into her present idolised position in the hearts of the people.
‘95 saw Grace Palotta in London - desiring to go on the stage - as many have desired - but without the knowledge of any English. Mr. Williamson wanted a girl with a foreign accent for a part in that popular thing, "The Gaiety Girl." "That's where little ‘G.P.' came in," said Grace Palotta.l "I knew no English - when someone asked me my name I answered ‘Yes.' That and ‘No' were the only words of the language that I knew. I had to learn my parts by heart, and when I came to Australia in ‘95 I could speak very little. The Australians still remember me as the girl who sang ‘When you can't afford a hansom take a ‘bus.'
"Like the life? I think life on the stage is simply lovely. If anybody wants to know what to do to enjoy life to the full I say, ‘Go on the stage, be a success'" - here Miss Palotta leaned over and repeated with delightful emphasis - "be a success - and tour the world under Hugh J. Ward."
"Ah! Yes," said the interviewer as there rose a vision of the failure of the stage, "but how many can do that?"
"Look you!" The words came tumblingly, eagerly rounded, delightfully, with that suggestion of accent as Miss Palotta again leaned over. "I believe it is given to a great many to be successful if they only know it. A whole lot of people are quite satisfied to sit down and take life as it comes without making any struggle, any effort. Why, do you know that I don't believe anybody realises that I am speaking in a tongue that is not my own. Look at the obstacles that were in my way. I knew no one and had to learn the language. When I was with Mr. George Edwardes I could hardly speak two sentences. I got my start with that little French part in the ‘Gaiety Girl.' Before going to London I had never been on the stage, and all my experience since has been before English audiences."
Miss Palotta continued a charming chat, not strictly confined to any definite subject. Her apology for this was as charming as her manner. "A thousand thoughts come to me. It is in the blood. You know I have French, Hungarian, Italian, and Austrian blood in my veins, and it does not run smoothly, consequently I do not speak deliberately or think an hour before I say one sentence. As I speak to you a thousand thoughts come into my mind, and I must say them or else I forget them."
Then she rippled on about the wonderful trip through the East, and she told how they had carried 16 plays in their repertoire, and had made records upon records owing to the completeness of the managerial arrangements and the ability of the performers. Never once during these presentations in different countries has the prompter's voice, notwithstanding the claims of carrying 16 plays in working order in the head, been heard. At every place the success has been wonderful - "marvellous" - says Grace Palotta. Of Calcutta especially will she tell you, and how the crowd there was the greatest thing that had ever been in Calcutta in regard to theatrical crowds.
Continuing the chat Miss Palotta describes the glorious delight experienced in China - the land of the mysterious and the charm of age. She likes China better than India - India is rather dirty, - and here she breaks off into a little description of the burning burials of Bombay, where on the one hand there is the most fashionable promenade, and side by side with it on the other are these cemeteries. The Parsee burial ground, again, is attended to by the vultures, while the Mahommedans, she thinks decently bury their dead.
Coming back from this excursion she says, "let me see now; where were we?"
"Just leaving China," replied the interviewer.
"Oh! I wish we were," was the retort.
China fairly captured her imagination. The people, their lives, their manners, their habits, those lovely rides - what a memory! From Hongkong and Singapore down to Saigon! And of Saigon she relates a little incident which is an unconscious indication of one of the secrets of her success. "At Saigon there is a lovely opera house subsidised by the Government - French - for a large part of the year. Mr. Ward, when he discovered that the theatre would be available, promptly arranged to give a play, as the steamer would be there for a night. The performance was a consist chiefly of vaudeville dances and songs. The population, of course, being chiefly French, appreciated this greatly. Now comes in Grace Palotta." "I asked one of the officers of the boat to translate for me. ‘Oh! Listen to the band,' and this I learnt off for the evening performance, and oh! weren't the people delighted. You can imagine the enthusiasm," she said engagingly, "when I started to sing the chorus in French. And, by the way, I had a little Indian ayah with me - such a treat she was - and when she heard me begin to sing this over in French before the performance she said in her peculiar little English, ‘But, Missie, how will the conductor be able to play that in French for you?"
But did you learn that song off just a few hours before singing it?
"Oh, yes! You see, being on the stage is like a continual school, and you must become very quick to pick up things. I did know a little French before, you know."
Passing on, then, from India the interesting conversation continues, and she describes the journey through Batavia and contiguous places, and comes at last to Brooma, in Western Australia. "This was just lovely. The audience was a packed one of pearlers, and they gave us a lovely welcome." Through Australia the triumphal progress is simply current history, and need not be touched upon here.
Speaking of her personal career Miss Palotta says this is the fourth time she has visited Australia. The audiences have all been uniformly large and enthusiastic, and naturally she was glad to be back amongst the warm-hearted people with whom she was such a favourite.
Conversation drifted at last towards the Australian people as containing the elements going towards the making of successful actors. Our charming visitor's opinion is that they have been remarkably successful, and she explains it by, "They have the temperament; they are full of life and go, have the ability, are brought up in a climate that makes them happy and joyous, and so are bound to be successful."
But bearing in mind that happy initial reference to the vast utility of airships, the interviewer expresses his disinclination to further detain the happy actress. Prettily considering, "Now, what else can I say?" Miss Palotta at last concluded with a genuine appreciation of Oscar Asche as a very successful Australian actor. He was now in Australia rendering Shakespearean drama, and his success had been very wonderful. "I saw "The Taming of the Shrew,'" said Grace Palotta, "at a matinee performance, and I enjoyed it immensely."
But time is inexorable. A friend is calling at the door, and Juno Joyce, of "the Bachelor's Honeymoon," passes away, casting behind her from the door one of those brilliant smiles of hers familiar to all who have admired her on the stage in her various happy roles.
~ Otago Witness [New Zealand], 15 Sep 1909, pg. 69
Note: Interred in London, but the cemetery is unknown.
Created by: Linda Applegate Brown
Record added: May 27, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 70478730