Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.
Kitty Keys sings her heart out in this remarkable film of the Anchor Cabaret in 1926. “No. 6” in the Pathé film company’s “London Clubs and Cabaret” series, this footage of a typical “working man’s cabaret” included two queer acts. The camp and made-up George Young and Jack Esmonde perform a “prancing” dance routine – “they have their bit of fun too,” a caption observes. They are followed by almost a minute’s footage of a shameless drag act, introduced by the knowingly ironic intertitle “we’d never seen or heard the ‘Dancing Lesson’ sung quite like Kitty Keys sang it.” Amidst a smiling and laughing crowd that includes families and workingmen of all ages, Kitty dances and sings. Pulling a powder puff out of her décolletage, she vanishes amidst a white cloud in using it to the utmost comic effect.
Click through the photo to watch the full film.