Bertie Solomon (b. Johannesburg, **/**/1894 - d. **/**/1971) was an actress and dancer.
Bertie Solomon is thought to have been Bertha Alice Solomon, the daughter of Johannesburg stockbroker and racing enthusiast Mannie Solomon and his wife, Emily Mary Birdwell. As a young girl she received dancing lessons from Flora Fairbairn and is known to have taken part in Miss Fairbairn’s Children’s Dance at the Drill Hall in June 1912. Following that she contributed to many fundraising events, from the S.P.C.A. to the Belgian Fund.
In 1917 she and her younger sister, (Ethel) Phyllis Solomon appeared in the show S’Nice at the Empire Palace, which also featured the likes of Hilda Attenboro, H.J. Hamlin and Cecil Kellaway. This was followed by the pantomime Dick Whittington and his Cat at His Majesty’s Theatre (1917), with Dan Thomas, Frank Harrison, Grafton Williams, Horace Green and Thomas Pauncefort and, in 1918, The Pink Lady, again with Pauncefort and Williams, as well as Elise Hamilton and Vivien Talleur. During these years she was also a staunch member of The Masqueraders, a small musical ensemble that at one stage included Billy Matthews.
Early in 1918, H. Lisle Lucoque came out from England to direct the first film version of King Solomon’s Mines for African Film Productions and cast her in the role of Foulata, the maiden who is selected to be sacrificed, but is rescued by Captain John Good (Ray Brown), Allan Quatermain (Albert Lawrence) and Sir Henry Curtis (H.J. Hamlin). In addition, Phyllis Solomon was featured as the leader of the dance troupe at the intended sacrifice. While the film was in production, S.A. Pictorial still called her Bertie Solomon, but in subsequent records she is frequently referred to as Bertie Gordon.
The following year Lucoque produced Allan Quatermain, also for AFP, and then returned to England. There he directed Lorna Doone (1920) and Castles in Spain (1920), both starring Bertie Gordon, who presumably was invited to join him at Lucoque-Taylor Productions. There is no information just why and when she changed her surname. Normally this would indicate that she was now married, but there is no evidence of that. In Lorna Doone she acted with Dennis Wyndham, another South African-born actor, while in Castles in Spain she appeared with Hayford Hobbs, who was to come to South Africa to act in Leander De Cordova’s Swallow (1922). These appear to have been her only films in England.
At some stage she returned to South Africa and in 1923 she and singer Hilda Neale often appeared together on stages in Cape Town and Johannesburg, with Variety commenting that “Hilda Neale and Bertie Gordon put over a pretty and effective act. Miss Neale has a rich contralto voice and Miss Gordon is one of the daintiest dancers seen on the Tivoli stage for some time.” This was advertised as Titivating Tit-Bits of Tutankhamen’s Time. Also in 1923, she appeared in in a benefit concert for the Hope Convalescent Home for Children. The advert in the Rand Daily Mail referred to a ballet called The Life of a Leaf, “with Miss Bertha Solomon as The Leaf.” Finally, towards the end of the year she had a role in the musical Veronique, which was staged at His Majesty’s Theatre.
In 1929, Bertie Solomon (not Gordon) married Eric Bertram Bell in Durban. He was an electrical engineer and worked for South African General Electric Co. He sometimes travelled to the General Electric offices in the United States and at times his wife accompanied him. There is no evidence that she did any stage or film work after her marriage. (FO)
Rand Daily Mail, 23 October 1914
Rand Daily Mail, 4 July 1923
Stage & Cinema, 28 July 1917
Stage & Cinema, 23 November 1919
Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm (1982)
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