This is another entry for an ongoing dictionary of women who worked in musical theatre in the 1930s in the UK. It is an evolving document – for more please get in touch via Twitter.
Anne Croft (b. Hull 1896 – d. 1944)
Croft was an actor, producer and director: her career raises intriguing questions about the relationship between twice nightly variety and musical theatre, that at the very least, is far more complicated than you might think.
John was an actor turned theatrical producer of muscial theatre active in London in the 1930s, establishing the company Rita John Productions to carry out her business. Little surviving information can be found – it seems likely she was working with a stage name; which makes finding further information very difficult.
As an actor, she had performed in a range of regional tours like The Breadwinner (1931) and The Judgement of Dr. Johnson (1932), and George Bernard Shaw’s The Applecart (1930). She obviously switched into producing with The Pride of the Regiment (1932), and produced the Cambridge Festival Season in 1932. Far more survives to document her second musical, Jolly Roger. Her production at the Savoy Theatre resulted in an extensive legal dispute between music hall comedian George Robey and Equity. He had refused to join Equity, so the union threatened a mass walkout. Many of the cast didn’t want to do that, one chorus member praised John, reporting ‘she paid the chorus even more than she actually need do’ (Stage, 02/03/1933, 13). Coverage of the production noted the unusual status of a woman producer in this early period. The Stage noted the musical ‘had a big cast, and a solitary unaided woman was running the show’ (02/03/1933, 13). The musical was written by Scobie Mackenzie and V. C. Clinton Baddeley, music by Walter Leigh, lyrics by V. C. Clinton-Baddeley, with choregraphy by Hedley Briggs. The production toured after its West End run closed, going to suburban venues like The Grand, Croydon and Wimbledon and King’s Hammersmith. Astonishingly the musical was recorded. She went on to produce an apparently shockingly vulgar revue Yours Sincerely at Daly’s Theatre (1934), which also toured regionally before opening in the West End.
The Pride of the Regiment
Manchester: Stage 16/02/1933, 2; London 09/03/33, 12
Stage 22/02/1934, 10
The only images that are in any way connected to Johns are those of George Robey, who for the sake of her show – she was forced to share production credits with.