Dear Reader

Dear Reader #194

Dear Reader,

Research for Sunshine, book two in my Golden Age of Hollywood series.

Between 1921 and 1929, Lillian Boyer (January 15, 1901 – February 1, 1989) performed numerous aerial stunts. They included: wing walks, automobile-to-aeroplane transfers, and parachute jumps.

While Lillian was working as a waitress, two customers invited her to fly in their plane. During her second flight, she climbed out on to the wing and began her career as an aerial performer.

Lillian was the first woman to jump from a speeding automobile to an aeroplane. According to a 1922 Milwaukee newspaper, she was “without doubt the greatest thrill-producer since the days of the gladiators.”

Lillian’s performances included: 352 shows in 41 US states and Canada, most of them wing-walking; 143 automobile-to-plane changes; 37 parachute jumps (13 into Lake Erie).

📸 Lillian performing the “breakaway” and “the ladder of the sky.”

After her success in My Lady of Whims, Clara Bow was billed as “Clara Bow – Movie Star” in her thirty-third movie, Fascinating Youth, which went on general release on August 23, 1926. 

Fascinating Youth was a silent romantic comedy. The movie starred Charles “Buddy” Rogers, on debut. Buddy Rogers would soon become a regular in Clara’s personal and professional lives. 

Many well-known personalities, including Clara, made guest appearances in Fascinating Youth, judging a beauty contest. 

This movie was just a filler for Clara. Paramount recognised that they had a star on their hands, and were keen to cast her in bigger projects. At twenty, Clara’s star was bright, and it would become even brighter as the decade unfolded.

The Brereton branch of my family starts with Fanny Brereton, baptised on 19 November 1837 in Holy Trinity, Bristol. Fanny had five children out of wedlock with William Bick. In 1864, via Southampton, the family moved to London, where they married, on 14 December 1868 in St Mary’s, Lambeth. As a married couple, they had five more children.

Fanny’s father, James Richard Brereton, born 19 November 1793 in Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, London, baptised 22 December 1793, was a cutler. He travelled to the West Country where he worked with various metals. On 17 May 1818, James married Ann Lowcock in All Saints’ Church, Martock, Somerset. The couple had six children. 

I’m now researching the lives of James’ parents, Thomas Brereton and Sarah Wright.

Thomas Brereton was born on 24 April 1762 in Apollo Court, St Dunstan’s in the West, London. His parents were Sandford Brereton and Sophia Berry. Sandford was from Nantwich, Cheshire, while some records suggest that Sophia was born in Amsterdam. The family links are brought together in this document from 1766, which records the birth of Thomas’ brother, William, in the Holborn Lying-In Hospital.

My ancestor Thomas Brereton married Sarah Wright on 12 May 1788 in St Dunstan in the West, London. Sarah’s parents were William Wright and Margaret Woodhouse. Like his father before him, Gregory, William ran a coaching business. The couple had nine children, five girls and four boys. It’s lovely to see Thomas and Sarah’s signatures on this document.

My ancestor Thomas Brereton was a clerk in Holborn, London. Charles Booth’s map shows that he lived and worked in the heart of London’s legal district, so it seems fair to assume that he spent his days working on legal documents. Ironically, the Old Bailey was to feature large in the family’s affairs in Thomas’ later years.

Madeleine Carroll

In 1938, when this picture was taken, Madeleine Carroll (26 February 1906 – 2 October 1987) was the world’s highest-paid actress. How did she achieve such success? Through public records, I’m endeavouring to find out.

Madeleine Carroll was born in Herbert Street, West Bromwich, Staffordshire to John Carroll, an Irish professor of languages, and his French wife, Helene Tuaillon. Helene died on 7 May 1980, four days after her 100th birthday.

Madeleine graduated from the University of Birmingham with a B.A. degree in languages. Indeed, her first appearance in the local newspapers, on 3 July 1924, was the announcement of her exam results.

First steps. While at the University of Birmingham, Madeleine Carroll appeared in productions for the university’s dramatic society, taking the female lead in her first production and receiving a creditable review.

Madeleine’s parents employed a domestic servant, which suggests she enjoyed a comfortable upbringing. The family consisted of Madeleine, her parents and her sister, Marguerite Marie.

Second steps. The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 6 January 1927. While at university, Madeleine Carroll’s stage career progresses. In eleven years she would become the highest paid actress in the world.

Third steps. Combining her university studies with acting, Madeleine Carroll next appeared on stage in The Lash. This review is from 21 May 1927. More stage productions followed over the summer. Then, on 19 September 1927, the Birmingham Daily Gazette announced that Madeleine was to become a film actress. She would appear as Diana Cheswick in The Guns of Loos.

Latest results from the Quarter-Finals of our Mastodon movie poll

Singin’ in the Rain 38% v 62% Lawrence of Arabia

Casablanca 61% v 39% Rear Window


Dr Strangelove 46% v 54% Citizen Kane

Casablanca 70% v 30% Lawrence of Arabia


Citizen Kane 32% v 68% Casablanca

Some book news. Three of my books are listed on Amazon’s Hot New Releases French Fiction chart: #2 Operation Jedburgh, #3 Operation Butterfly and #4 Operation Liberty, books 10, 11 and 12 in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series. Butterfly will be published in July and Liberty, which completes the series, will be published in October.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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