Frederick Mouillot

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Frederick Mouillot (1864-1911)[1] was a British born actor-manager and playwright.

Biography

Born Frederick Charles Arthur Mouillot in Suffolk Street, Dublin on 31st May 1864 to a family which had a French aristocratic pedigree, he began his career working for touring stock companies. His first professional appearance was at the Princess’s Theatre, Glasgow as a utility player and by 1883 he was appearing in name roles, e.g. in Lady Jane Grey (Rowe) at the New Royal Theatre in Bristol.

In 1885, at the age of twenty-one, he formed a theatrical company with Mr. H.H. Morell and purchased the Theatre Royal, Bournemouth, which had opened in 1882. Continuing to act, he now became a manager as well and during the 1890s the Morell and Mouillot business expanded dramatically.

In this period he met Gertrude Emily Davison (1867-1961), who joined his company and would become his second wife on 2nd April 1895 at St. Stephen’s, Shepherd’s Bush, west London. She was to become a well-known actress, manager and playwright in her own right under the name Gertrude Mouillot.

By 27th July 1897, when they opened the Queen’s Opera House at Crouch End, north London with the popular "Japanese operetta" The Geisha, the Morell and Mouillot Company owned 18 theatres, and by 1906 Mouillot was listed in the Green Room Book as the proprietor or managing director of even more theatres and music halls. Part of their success was attributed to them touring the same acts around their many theatres. The performers were offered a smaller wage than they would have earned for appearing at just one theatre, but they had guaranteed work for months at a time. On top of this, Mouillot was also involved in businesses in Australia, South America and South Africa.

In 1908, when the Electric Theatres company was founded in London by Joseph Jay Bamberger, Mouillot became one of the early directors of the British company and remained one till his death in 1911, overseeing its South African activities among other responsibilities.

As a playwright, he was part author, with his friend the judge and playwright Edward Abbott Parry (1863–1943)[2], of What the Butler Saw (1905), What’s the Matter with London? (??) and The Captain of the School (1910).

He unexpectantly died of a heart attack on 5th August 1911.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Frederick Mouillot and his visiting company were first introduced to Cape Town audiences in April, 1902, by local impresario Frank de Jong, the repertoire including a production of The Belle of New York (Morton) and a variety show they seem to have given the broad title of The World's Entertainment. The Mouillot Company was also referred to at times as the Mouillot-De Jong Company, and they next started a season of musical comedy and light opera at the Opera House, Cape Town, in December of 1902, running into 1903. The plays they did included Falka, Gentleman Joe, Bluebell in Fairyland, The Belle of New York and La Poupee. The company also presented a few plays featuring Leonard Rayne (In the Ranks, My Sweetheart, The Eternal City, Sherlock Holmes, The Liars and Trilby).

In 1909 the British Electric Theatres company expanded overseas by initiating the establishment of permanent cinemas in South Africa through Natal Electric Theatres Ltd., which opened the first Electric Theatre in South Africa in Durban on 29 July 1909. Mouillot went on to run the South African theatre chain and the company eventually had at least five bioscopes (or cinemas) in South Africa, including a Theatre de Luxe in Cape Town, and a dedicated cinema in Durban for "Coloured People Only" (primarily Indians).

Unfortunately badly advised short-term policies (such as the importing of films worn out through use on the English circuit), and possibly the death of Mouillot in 1911, led to the particular company’s demise by 1911.

Sources

Gertrude Mouillot biography, The Palace Theatre Club website[3]

D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.

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