March 7 is the birthday of British music hall female impersonator Malcolm Scott (1879-1929). I recently heard from one of Robert Falcon Scott’s offspring who complained about my erroneous claim that Malcolm was the Antarctic explorer’s brother. It turns out that he’s not (I’ve forgotten where I got the bogus story), but I sure do wish it had been true. It would have made a great movie.
Malcolm Scott was the son of a Bloomsbury solicitor. Orphaned at age 14, he was sent to a farm in Canada, then worked at other odd jobs, before returning to England and breaking into the theatre. By 1903 he was playing the halls, billed as “The Woman Who Knows”. Scott’s repertoire included comedic numbers based on Salome, Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine Parr, Nell Gwynne, Boadicea, and a Gibson Girl. He toured American vaudeville in 1909 and 1916, and also performed in South Africa and Australia in addition to the U.K.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, including music hall drag performers like Malcolm Scott, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.