J. Langley Levy

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(b. Liverpool, 25/05/1870 – d. Johannesburg, 11/05/1945). Journalist, editor, drama critic, screen writer. Born in Liverpool, Joseph Langley Levy originally studied art and was apprenticed to a London company that made stained glass. After he wrote a series of articles on the Jews of Liverpool for the Liverpool Review in 1899, he became a sub-editor at that newspaper and in 1902 was appointed its editor. In 1903 he went on an extensive tour, which included South Africa, and then returned to the Liverpool Review. In 1905 he joined the staff of the Daily Express and became its art and drama critic as well as that of the Evening Standard. In 1910 George Kingswell recruited him to become the editor of The Sunday Times in Johannesburg, a post in which he remained until his retirement in 1942.

During his stewardship The Sunday Times grew to a great national newspaper and became one of the most influential publications in the country. Despite his duties as editor, he found time to continue his work as a critic. He had an abiding interest in the theatre and was a committed supporter of amateur groups. He reviewed plays and wrote on the theatre under the pseudonym Gadabout, reviewed books as J.L.L. and discussed gramophone records as Gramanola. In addition he wrote numerous humorous articles as The Cherub, a nom de plume he had used before in England. In every way, he was a major figure on the city’s cultural scene. Langley Levy Street in Montgomery Park, Johannesburg is named after him.

In England he had written a number of now forgotten novels, while in South Africa he also turned his hand to writing plays, resulting in The Man Who Went to the Front (with Leonard Rayne), Ta, Ta, Darling (with R. Ward Jackson), a potted version of Hamlet written for the Johannesburg War Market (1917) and his mock version of East Lynne entitled East Lynne in Three Pots, which was presented by the Johannesburg Repertory Players (1931). Like his colleague F. Horace Rose at the Natal Witness, he also took an interest in films and wrote The Trek (1914) for the African Films Trust (1914), followed by The Illicit Liquor Seller (Lorimer Johnston/1916) and And then --- (Dick Cruikshanks & Joseph Albrecht) 1917) for African Film Productions. He even had a small part in Cruikshanks’s The Symbol of Sacrifice (1918), playing a shopkeeper at Rorke’s Drift.

In 1897 he had married Mabel Rushton, who may have been a theatrical designer. She was most likely born in 1874 and died in 1942, a few weeks after her husband had retired. The couple had four children, three daughters and a son. Doris Langley Moore (1902-1989) became a distinguished fashion historian and was the founder of the Museum of Costume (now the Fashion Museum) in Bath. She wrote on a wide variety of subjects and was an acknowledged expert on Lord Byron. In addition she was costume designer for Katharine Hepburn on The African Queen (1951) and also worked on Freud (1962), both directed by John Huston. In 1928, her book “The Technique of the Love Affair” (by A Gentlewoman) caused something of a stir and this was followed by “The bride’s book, or Young housewife’s companion” (by Two Ladies of England/1932) and “The pleasure of your company: a text-book of hospitality” (1936), both written with her older sister, June Langley Moore. They and a third sister, Mabel Alicia McAllister, all settled in England. A son, Jack Langley Levy, died in 1933. (FO)


The Forum, 7 March 1942

Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume III

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

Mervis, Joel - The fourth estate: a newspaper story



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