The Two Mollies

The Two Mollies

Mollie Shannon was a Ginner-Mawer and was mentioned in Irene Mawer’s speech made at the 21st birthday celebration party in 1937.  Mollie Leuw was also a Ginner-Mawer and her name was mentioned next to that of Mollie Shannon:

‘Among the Ginner Mawers who have gone on to do stage work we are proud to number Leslie French, Renee Gadd and Elinor Shan.  Mollie Shannon, Mollie Leuw and Avice Spitta are playing in the West End at present.’  (The Link, October 1937, pp.20-23)

The names being next to each other is both confusing and curious and has caused me a lot of grief!  I was going to write about the women individually, but with my limited search options and time constraints, I am a bit stuck in my attempts to differentiate between them.

The information that I have is taken from two websites: ‘Theatricalia’ and ‘IMDb’.

When I saw the two women’s names in the Ginner-Mawer newsletter, it did cross my mind that Mollie Leuw might have married Mollie Shannon’s brother, thereby becoming Mollie Shannon as well.  And, indeed, it seems that this may have happened, though I am not really sure.

To confuse things even more, web references on the same sites sometimes spell ‘Mollie’ as ‘Molly’, and to add to the mix, I think that when Mollie Leuw was born, she was Christened ‘Mary’ – Mary Olive Leuw, and took the stage name Mollie Looe due to constant mis-spelling of her surname, and on at least one occasion she called herself Mary Shannon (not a typo – Mary, not Mollie)…

Irene Mawer’s speech from 1937 stated that both Mollies had been playing in the West End.

Theatricalia states that Mollie Shannon was born Mollie Eileen Shannon. She had a brother, Guy Shannon, who married the other Mollie (source uses Molly with a ‘y’) Leuw.  That would technically make Mollie Leuw into Mollie Shannon as well!

But sticking with the ‘real’ Mollie Shannon (Mollie Eileen Shannon)… she appeared in plays including the role of Lady Muriel in Victoria Regina; the role of Diana Rivers in Jane Eyre; the role of Lady Hope Martineau in Evensong, and Second Old Woman in Fenia.

The production of ‘Evensong’ was probably by Edward Knoblock at the Queen’s Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in London (now called the Sondheim Theatre).  And in 1937, at the time of the speech, Mollie Eileen Shannon was playing the role of Diana Rivers in what seems to be a play of the novel Jane Eyre.  The information on the web is a bit confusing as it reads ‘This is a production of the play Jane Eyre (by Helen Jerome) by Cyril Phillips.’  I presume this might mean it was a Cyril Phillips adaptation of the Helen Jerome adaptation of the Charlotte Bronte novel!  In its run (1936-1937), it played at a range of locations including the Queen’s Theatre (Shaftesbury Avenue – now the Sondheim Theatre), and the Aldwych Theatre, both of which are in the West End theatre district of London.  But this doesn’t fit, as Theatricalia states the run was 1936-37, yet gives Moly Eileen Shannon’s year of birth as 1931.  Something wrong somewhere – wrong person, or just a typo?  (I’m plumping for typo.)

This next section is copied directly from the Theatricalia website as it fits perfectly with what I would want to say about Mollie Looe (Leuw) and it spells her name with a ‘y’:

“Born Mary Olive Leuw in Walthamstow, Essex, she was known as Molly throughout her life.  Her paternal grandfather had come to London as a child with his family from North Holland, and her other grandparents were born in London.  As a child, she took leading roles in several charity performances, organised by her father, in aid of invalided servicemen.

Molly studied drama & dance at the Guildhall School of Music, then at the Ginner-Mawer School, London, in 1924–1927 and later married Guy Howard Shannon in 1930; they had a son & divorced in 1938.  In the 1930s she adopted the stage name Looe, because ‘Leuw’ had been often misspelled. In the Second World War, she was in the Ambulance Service in London, then resigned to join the Land Army.

In 1947, she played Madame Elvira in the television play, “… and Talking of Tightropes” by Caryl Brahams & S. J. Simon.”  She also used the name Mary Shannon, qv, in a performance of “Anastasia” in 1958.

Roles of Molly with a ‘y’ as recorded in Theatricalia, and who is I believe to be  Mollie Leuw/Looe:

The Dowager Empress of Russia in Anastasia

Mrs Borrow/Dora in Exercise ‘Bowler’

Louisa Estonia in Jane Eyre

The Dancing Girl

Love Chase

All for Love

The Fair Maid of the West

Conversion of St Paul

Malvern Festival

Gertrude in For Services Rendered

Henrietta Moulton-Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street

The Apple Cart

The Apple Cart

The Princess Royal in The Apple Cart

Theatricalia gives the relevant dates as:

Born 16 June 1906

Died 28 May 1992

The photo with this blog post is the one shown on Theatricalia of Molly/Mollie Leuw/Looe.

The IMDb website holds the record under the name of Mollie Looe., being born on 16 June 1906, in Walthamstow, and died on 28 May 1992 in Chinnor, Oxfordshire.  IMDB states that Mollie Looe trained at Ginner-Mawer 1924-1927.

IMDb lists film work, as opposed to stage performances, and have her listed as appearing in Thunder Rock (1946), …and Talking of Tightropes in 1947 and Hangman’s Wharf (1950).

All in all, a very confusing entry and one that I have already spent too much time on, so I will stop here and delve no further (though I am tempted as I did see there was an entry for one of the women on Ancestry but when I went back the next day to look in more depth, I couldn’t re-find the information!)

Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

Janet Fizz Curtis is trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement and is now writing a book about the life of Irene Mawer.

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