Filmed in 1900 and released 1903, this film directed by Clément Maurice, shows the English performer Little Tich performing his famous ‘Big Boot Dance’.
Born Harry Relph, Little Tich was a 4 foot 6 inch (137 cm) tall English music hall comedian and dancer best known for his seemingly gravity-defying routine accomplished by the wearing of boots with soles 28 inches (71 cm) long. Originally gaining fame as a “blackface” artist, promoters on his 1887 U.S. tour made him drop the act (fearing the British accent would ruin the “illusion”) and so in its place Little Tich developed and perfected his Big Boot Dance, a full 100 years before Michael Jackson would lean in similar fashion for his “Smooth Criminal” music video. Returning to England in the 1890s, Little Tich made his West End debut in the Drury Lane pantomimes and toured Europe before setting up his own theatre company in 1895. He continued to star in popular shows until his death from a stroke in 1928 at the age of 60.
Read more Hobbledehoy posts about the British Music Hall
This edition of The Archive Hour not only shines a spotlight on the lesser-known stars of the British music hall but also reveals how this cultural phenomenon is surviving, thanks to a team of dedicated archivists who are using their computers to store recordings that go as far back as the 1890s.