Lil Hawthorne : From Footlights to Footnote

A top of the hat today to vaudeville/ music hall/ panto performer Lil Hawthorne (1877-1926). Hawthorne was a big-ish star in her day; audiences of her time would be nonplussed to learn that in the 21st century she’d be best remembered as a footnote in a true crime story!

Originally from Nashville Hawthorne originally began performing as a teenager with her sisters Lola and Nellie. The Hawthorne Sisters performed throughout the 1890s, conquering audiences in the vaudeville hubs of Boston and New York before crossing the pond and making a hit in the major music halls of London as well.

“A True Story of Two Waifs”!

By the end of the decade, Lil’s sisters retired to get married. Lil carried on in the U.K. and became popular on British stages as a solo. Testaments to her success linger. Her visage graces the cover of sheet music of songs she was associated with, such as “Don’t Cry, Little Girl”, “Whose Little Girl Are You?” and “I’ll be Your Sweetheart”, and she made Gramophone records of tunes like “Lucy Lu”, “Mamie May” and “Sweet Rosie’ O’Grady”. Considered a great beauty in her day, she also starred in a 1900 film called Kitty Mahone. She also starred as Principal Boy in regional pantomimes like Puss in Boots and Sleeping Beauty. From 1899, her husband/ agent was John Edward (“J.E.”) Nash, who also a writer and actor in his own right.

Undoubtedly because they were both American expats working in British music hall, Hawthorne formed a close friendship with Cora Turner a.k.a Belle Elmore. When Turner went missing in 1910 under mysterious circumstances, it was the influence of Hawthorne and Nash that caused Scotland Yard to pursue the matter. This is the “true crime” case we mentioned at the top of the post. You can read more about the matter here. The trial in 1911 interrupted Hawthorne’s career for several months. She passed away in 1926 at the young age of 49.

To find out more about vaudeville and stars like Lil Hawthorneconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous