C. Hayden Coffin

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C. Hayden Coffin portrait

Charles Hayden Coffin (22 April 1862 – 8 December 1935) was an English actor and singer known for his performances in many famous Edwardian musical comedies, particularly those produced by George Edwardes.

Hayden Coffin in The Geisha

Hayden achieved fame as Harry Sherwood in the Dorothy (1886), which became the longest-running piece of musical theatre in history up to that time; other similar roles followed. In 1893, he joined the company of George Edwardes and starred in a series of extraordinarily successful musical comedies, including A Gaiety Girl (1893), An Artist's Model (1895), The Geisha (1896), A Greek Slave (1898), San Toy (1899), A Country Girl (1903), Veronique (1904), The Girl Behind the Counter (1906), Tom Jones (1907) and The Quaker Girl (1910).

In his later years, Coffin found success in Shakespearean roles such as Feste in Twelfth Night (1912), and in musicals, a few films and other works, such as the classic comedy The School for Scandal (1929).

Life and career[edit]

Coffin was born in Manchester. His parents were from Maine in the U.S., and his father was a dentist. Coffin passed the preliminary examinations to enter the College of Surgeons, but decided instead to become an actor. In 1883, he performed at St. George's Hall in London as Tom Gilroy in H. J. Byron's "Partners for Life"[1] and as Vivid in "Monsieur Jacques"[2]

Coffin in Dorothy

Coffin made his professional debut as John Smith in Edward Solomon and Sydney Grundy's Pocahontas (1885). He then played Coriolon in Lily of Leoville by Ivan Caryll.[3] Coffin rose to fame as Harry Sherwood in Alfred Cellier and B. C. Stephenson's record-setting hit Dorothy (1886), in which he introduced the popular song, "Queen of My Heart." Coffin's good looks and powerful voice made him one of the most popular stage baritones of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[4] Early in his career, he also had successes with the same team's Doris (1889), Solomon and Henry Pottinger Stephens' The Red Hussar (1889, as Sir Harry Leighton), F. C. Burnand's adaptation of Edmond Audran's La Cigale (1890), and Captain Therese (1890), among others. He spent the 1892–93 season in New York City co-starring in several productions with soprano Lillian Russell. He also starred in a number of pantomimes.

Coffin returned to London in 1893 to star in a series of hit Edwardian musical comedies produced by George Edwardes and composed by Sidney Jones and then Lionel Monckton. His roles in these included Charles Goldfield in A Gaiety Girl (1893), Rudolph Blair in An Artist's Model (1895), Reginald Fairfax in The Geisha (1896), Diomed in A Greek Slave (1898), Captain Bobby Preston in San Toy (1899), Geoffrey Challoner in A Country Girl (1903) and Harry Vereker in The Cingalee (1904). He also starred in Veronique (1904), as Charlie Chetwynd in The Girl Behind the Counter (1906) and in the title role in Tom Jones (1907). Coffin had a brief London run and tour in Two Merry Monarchs (1910) as Prince Charmis and then played Captain Charteris in another hit, The Quaker Girl (1910).

Drawing of Coffin in A Country Girl
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In his later years, Coffin turned to serious drama, including Shakespearean roles, such as Feste in Twelfth Night at the Savoy Theatre in 1912.[5] He also made occasional appearances in musicals such as Young England (1916) and As You Were (1918).[6] He made several films until 1930, including It's Always the Woman (1916), and also continued touring through the 1920s. In 1929, he played Sir Harry Bumper in The School for Scandal at the Kingsway Theatre,[7] repeating the role in the 1930 film adaptation.[8]

Coffin was first engaged to the songwriter Hope Temple but married actress Adeline de Leuw, whose first husband was the composer Alberto Randegger. Coffin died in London at the age of 73.

Recordings[edit]

Coffin made a small number of records for the Gramophone Company, as follows:[9]

  • 4-2834 When travelling days are over Young England (Hubert Bath) c. 1916, 10", coupled on E35. (speed 81)
  • 2-4385 Young Fresh England Young England (Hubert Bath) in ensemble, 10", coupled on E 35.
  • 02714 Who sings of England? Young England (G. H. Clutsam), 1916–17, 12", coupled on D200.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Era, 13 January 1883
  2. ^ The Era, 23 June 1883
  3. ^ Lily of Leoville at the Guide to Musical Theatre, accessed 29 October 2009
  4. ^ Profile at the Musicals101 website
  5. ^ Coffin, p. 274
  6. ^ Listing in The Play Pictorial database
  7. ^ Play Pictorial 1930–1939 at the University of Kent, accessed 6 January 2009
  8. ^ "The School For Scandal", TV Guide, accessed 30 June 2014
  9. ^ Bennett, J. R. Voices of the Past: Vol. I A Catalogue of vocal recordings from the English Catalogue of The Gramophone Company, etc. (Oakwood Press, 1955).

References[edit]

Coffin, Hayden. Hayden Coffin's Book: Packed with Acts and Facts (London: Alston Rivers, 1930).

External links[edit]