Did you know that men have been dressing up as apes for the entertainment of the public since 1801?
This is the first and only book ever to bring forth from the backstage darkness of the Regency theatre, through the gaslit Victorian era, to modern times ‘a wilderness of monkeys’ including Wieland, Klischnigg, Martini, Conquest, Lauri, Martinetti, Kotaky, Shentini, Dubois and a host of others who donned monkey costumes to entertain the public.
The first play to feature an ape as a character was La Perouse, a work that became standard in the repertoire of the theatres of the day. In 1825, the French dancer Mazurier became the sensation of Paris and London playing the lead in the ballet Jocko ou le Singe du Brésil. These two stage works made such an impression that an entire sub-genre of drama arose and held sway for 100 years and beyond, leading to modern times with King Kong and The Planet of the Apes on screen.
Inside these covers you will find the stories of performers who specialised in playing dramatic ape roles – men like the ill-fated Parsloe who fell from stardom in London to die a lonely death in America, the irascible almost legless Hervio Nano, Teasdale who turned to God after stabbing his wife, and the simpleton potboy who was transformed into Monsieur Gouffe and made a fortune attracting the bon ton of London.
Within these pages you will find some of the oddest, most unfortunate, ill-requited, luckless, and doomed performers who ever chose to tread the boards – the artistes known as ‘man-monkeys’.
HARVEY LEACH, who was born with a lack of proper legs, achieved fame under the name of HERVIO NANO the Gnome Fly. He was of a pugnacious disposition and was no stranger to the law courts. On his death his body was dissected by an eminent surgeon.
CHARLES LAURI who was known as 'The Garrick of Animal Impersonators' and was a star throughout Europe before succumbing to bankruptcy and an early death. Here he is shown as an ape character which he played for 300 performances in Paris during 1883 and 1884.
CHARLES-FRANCOIS MAZURIER took all Paris and London by storm when he appeared as Jocko the Brazilian Monkey in 1825. He died three years later at the early age of twenty-nine.
Although he spent only six weeks in London, he set a trend for actors to perform as apes for 100 years.
MAN-MONKEYS: From Regency Pantomime to King Kong
Paperback234 pages 65 illustrations
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In the 1930s, Hollywood took to gorilla movies in a big way. Principal man-monkey was CHARLES GEMORA (left) who appeared in 30 of them between 1928 and 1958.
The current film industry still has a major interest in ape films with the long-running franchise Planet of the Apes. The doyen of 21st century man-monkeys is Andy Serkis (above as Caesar) who performs as a totally authentic ape via the magic of computer generated imagery.