Clement-Jones family - Person Sheet
Clement-Jones family - Person Sheet
NameJames “Owen Hall” DAVIS, 10509
FatherHyman DAVIS , 10508
MotherIsabella , 10510
Notes for James “Owen Hall” DAVIS
Owen Hall (10 April 1853 – 9 April 1907) was the pen name of the Irish-born 19th and early 20th century theatre writer and theatre critic James Davis when writing for the stage. He wrote the librettos for several very successful musical comedies, including Florodora, A Gaiety Girl, The Geisha and A Greek Slave.


Life and career

Davis was born in Dublin, Ireland, in a Jewish family, the son of Hyman Davis, a photographer, and his wife Isabella. He was educated at University College, London, where he took the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1869. One of Hall's sisters, Julia Frankau, was a successful novelist, under the name of "Frank Danby", and the mother of the author Gilbert Frankau and the actor Ronald Frankau, who appeared in London in A Country Girl (1914 revival), The Gay Princess (1931) and a long run of 1930s and 1940s revues. Another sister, Eliza Davis Aria was a writer, journalist and long-time lover of Henry Irving.

]Early career


The Geisha vocal score
After devoting some years to the practice of law as a solicitor (1874-86), Davis abandoned it in favour of journalism.[1] The Davis family became friends with Oscar Wilde and his family, but Davis later became a harsh critic of Wilde.[2] He published and edited a society newspaper, "The Bat" (1885-87), and assistant editor of Galignani's Messenger in Paris (1888-90). Davis became interested in politics and ran against Dundalk in the election of 1890.[3]
The change of career from critic to librettist came after he wrote a particularly caustic review of a George Edwardes production. The producer challenged Davis to try to do better. The result was A Gaiety Girl (1893). Hall's satirical book included lines that jabbed in the style of an upmarket gossip columnist.[4] The smart society back-chat was very popular with audiences and has a claim to being the first true musical comedy. A Gaiety Girl was followed by An Artist's Model (1895). Hall's book kept the snappy dialogue of the previous work, but twinned it with a romantic plot, tacked in at the last minute when Edwardes hired the prima donna Marie Tempest, and a role was quickly written in for her. This lucky chance set up the formula for a series of successes by Hall at Daly's Theatre.[5]

An Artist's Model was succeeded by The Geisha (1896), which became the biggest international hit in musical theatre history, playing for 760 performances in its original London run and enjoying extensive international runs. The next stop for Hall, Harry Greenbank, and Sidney Jones was perhaps their finest work, A Greek Slave (1898). Despite Hall's success and high salary from Edwardes, he was always in financial trouble because of his gambling and extravagant entertaining of his friends; he declared bankruptcy at the age of 29.[5] The pseudonym "Owen Hall" was an ironic nod ('owing all') towards his extensive debts. Another of his pseudonyms was "Payne Nunn". His sister Eliza Davis Aria wrote, "As a lawyer he gave advice freely to his friends; as a racehorse owner he indulged his prodigal proclivities in the world of hangers-on; during his editorial and play-writing epochs he was lavish in his hospitality. ... [He] voiced his belief that he 'had enjoyed every experience except death and solvency.'"[1]


Hall wrote a musical Florodora (1899), for producer Tom Davis, which was set to music by the successful songwriter, Leslie Stuart, and became an unprecedented international hit. Hall wrote two more musicals for Davis: The Silver Slipper (1901) with Stuart, and the unsuccessful The Medal and the Maid (1903), with Jones. For Edwardes, he also wrote perhaps the most delightful of all his libretti, The Girl from Kays (1902), and The Little Cherub (1906).[5]

Hall's non-theatrical writings included a successful novel, The Track of a Storm (1896), a mystery, Jetsam (1897), and Hernando (1902). After 1899, Hall also edited a weekly paper, "The Phoenix."

He died in Harrogate, England, one day short of his 54th birthday.
Last Modified 27 Aug 2012Created 26 Jan 2020 using Reunion for Macintosh