Verna Felton, a brief introduction

This week in my research I found out all about Verna Felton, whose name is found on three of the five Empress Theatre posters. Sidenote: the Empress showed mainly live stage productions in the 1920's, and I found it interesting that all of the plays at the Empress had previously been shown elsewhere as films - and the films were adapted from even older original plays. This funny flip-flopping of stories between plays and films is indicative of the tumultuous nature of film entering the entertainment scene from the early 1910's to the 30's, when it became much more established.

Verna Felton may not be a household name today, but many may recognize her voice: in the 30's, 40's, and 50's she voiced a number of mother or grandmother-like Disney characters, including the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (1950), the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (1951), and a host of strong, kindly, or authoritative feminine roles. 

The earliest record of Verna Felton, a 1901 sheet music book for a musical comedy. She is 11 years old in the photo above! from New York Public Library Digital Collections. 

Photo from Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library Digital Collections. From the play "Polly with a Past" in which Verna starred. Taken around 1925, so this is very nearly what she would have looked like when performing in Vancouver in 1927

From the 1925 article in the Edmonton Metropolitan Theatre programme below, it gives us a clue to Verna Felton's stage performances. The review is absolutely positive, describing Verna as "a young lady, who by her quaint idiosyncracies and genuine feminine qualities, greatly endeared herself to the Monday evening's audience" in the play Sis Hopkins. They also say "A less accomplished player in the part would have been ridiculous, but Miss Felton came away with flying colours."

Verna was an understated comedian with an unbeatable deadpan expression. In looking at all the photos of her throughout her life there seems to be a light in her eyes that never changes. 

Image courtesy Internet Movie Database

Image courtesy Internet Movie Database

Since Verna was in her 60's when she starting television, she played on a huge variety of shows, always as a character actress, rarely in anything beyond a supporting role. Yet she inhabited these roles fully, filling the screen with well-placed humour. 

In the video below, an appearance by Verna on the Ray Bolger Show, she is almost 70 years old, yet stomps and spins as well as her younger dance partner! Note she introduces the clip with an invitation to go back to the 1920's, the same era the Empress posters are from. Be sure to wait for her reappearance at 1:40 into the clip.