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An Article on the Film "Murder at the Windmill."

From the 1949 magazine 'Film and Art Reel.' No 1. Vol 6

Film and Art Reel Cover Girl Glamourous Jill Anstey who has been chosen to play the second lead in the new film "Murder at the Windmill."Maybe you are one of the many millions who have queued to buy a ticket for the Windmill, to pass into the welcoming heart of this small intimate theatre and gain your entertainment from shapely girls and snappy songs occasionally interspersed with nude tableaux. Or perhaps you have only passed its unimposing entrance tucked away in Soho. Then again, you may be one of those to whom the Windmill is only a name.

Right - Film and Art Reel Cover Girl Glamourous Jill Anstey who has been chosen to play the second lead in the new film "Murder at the Windmill."

But. which ever way it is, the Windmill is certainly known to you, for of all the theatres in London its publicity has spread the farthest afield. It is spotlighted again with the news that for the first time film cameras will go inside the theatre to record shots for a new thriller Murder at the Windmill."

It may be that you disapprove the type of entertainment the Windmill provides, but nevertheless this little theatre must be recognised for its proud history, the excellent care shown to its artistes, and for the number of now-famed personalities who started their career at the Windmill. This list Includes Jean Kent, Chamian Innes, Julia Bretton, Peter Waring, Jimmy Edwards, Beryl Orde, Erie Barker, Afrique, Richard Murdoch, Peart Hackney and Michael Howard.

It was therefore not surprising that when the present owner Vivian Van Damm was approached regarding the new film he stipulated that someone who started their career at his theatre must play the leading role. The choice has rested on 22 year old Diana Decker, with the second lead going to Jill Anstey who joined the theatre as an usherette, and after a few months was given an opportunity of a stage career.

Tonight and Every NightAlthough "Murder at the Windmill" will be the first film to show scenes inside the theatre, it will not he the first time the Windmill has been concerned with films. During the war Columbia made 'Tonight and Every Night," starring Rita Hayworth, which was inspired by the Windmill's famous motto "We Never Closed."

Left - Vivian Van Damm's book 'Tonight and Every Night' which was first published by Stanley Paul, London in 1952. The book tells the story of the Windmill Theatre in its heyday, with a Foreword by Emile Littler.

The Windmill gained its motto because it was the only theatre to remain open throughout the whole of the war. On the week of September 7, 1940, there were forty-two theatres running in the West End, and by September 15, 1940, there was exactly one, the Windmill. Lesley Storm wrote a novel " Heart of a City," extolling the heroism of the youngsters (their average age was seventeen) who worked on when bombs were falling and then slept nights in their dressing rooms because they could not get home. In addition, she wrote a play of the same name which was presented in New York.

The original owner of the Windmill was Mrs. Laura Henderson, and when on February 4,1932, she inaugurated a new type of entertainment - Non-Stop Variety - Vivian Van Damm was at that time her general manager. In the early thirties the advent of the "talkies" caused a slump in the variety world, and Mrs. Henderson's idea was to give employment to members of the hard bit variety profession.

This article is from the 1949 magazine 'Film and Art Reel, and states: 'Have you been to the Windmill Theatre? Yes... She's a Windmill Girl. Barnsley bown Windmill Girl, Doris Deal in "Our Flying Start," from a Vivian Van Damm production.'Slammed by the critics and ignored by the public the theatre lost money and failed to pay its way for nearly four years, and during this period Mrs. Laura Henderson lost £20,000. It was not until Vivian Van Damm himself took over production in 1936 that the Windmill began to make a profit and become a recognised centre of entertainment.

Mrs. Laura Henderson died aged 82, on November 29, 1944, but she lived to see her beloved Windmill become one of London's most successful theatres.

Right - This article is from the 1949 magazine 'Film and Art Reel, and states: 'Have you been to the Windmill Theatre? Yes... She's a Windmill Girl. Barnsley bown Windmill Girl, Doris Deal in "Our Flying Start," from a Vivian Van Damm production.'

On her death, Mrs. Henderson left the Windmill to Vivian Van Damm - this, however, made no difference to the general policy of type of show presented - they were essentially his creation.

To-day the Windmill is open from 12.15 p.m. to 10.45 p.m. with a complete change of production every six weeks. There are 120 on the permanent staff, approximately 70 of whom are artistes in a theatre that seats only 320.

The Windmill is noted for the beauty and freshness of its girls. They start very young (some of them are only fifteen) with a minimum wage of £10 per week, which can rise according to ability and length of service to £30 per week.

All girls who apply for an audition are interviewed by assistant producer Anne Mitelle (who started way back in 1932 as secretary to Mr. Van Damm, and is now also a director) and if they have the necessary qualifications - personality, figure, talent and beauty - she arranges for them to be seen by Vivian Van Damm, who makes the final decision as to their engagement. Many girls are seen daily but the percentage of successful candidates with the necessary Windmill qualifications is small. Those engaged are taught dancing, singing, elocution and deportment, in addition they are groomed by the best West End hairdressing and beauty establishments. They also receive the finest medical and dental treatment, all at the expense of the theatre.

Employed 52 weeks in the year generally working for three consecutive productions (eighteen weeks) - they then have a show off, three-and-a-half weeks of which are holiday, on the remaining two-and-a-half weeks they rehearse from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. They are fully paid both for holiday and rehearsal. There are six shows a day, but the girls only work every other day (there being two complete troupes of girls) for the first three-and-a-half weeks of each production and then rehearse on alternate days for the remainder of the production.

The future of the Windmill Girl is entirely in her own hands: many leave to get married, others graduate to stardom. For the past twelve years, no principal singer or dancer has been engaged by the theatre, they have all graduated from the ranks of the chorus.

From the 1949 magazine 'Film and Art Reel.' No 1. Vol 6 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.

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