Perhaps the most famous thing about the Penders was their connection with Cary Grant.
Grant, under his birth name of Archibald Leach was a member of the troupe and travelled with them to America in 1920. For this reason the name Pender occurs in most references to Cary Grant.
The Pender Troupe appeared in pantomime at Drury Lane Theatre
There were about six of them and they performed on stilts.
There was also an offshoot called Bob Pender’s Little Dandys.
Bob Pender had been famous as a Drury Lane clown. His wife Margaret was a dancer, had been ballet mistress at the Follies Bergere.
The group did mime, dancing, tumbling and stilt-walking.
The troupe toured the English provinces and played the Gulliver chain of music halls in London.
The Lomases lived in Brixton.
Bob’s wife, Margaret, a one time ballet master at Follies Bergeres in Paris and trained as a ballerina by Katti Lanner of the Empire, Leicester Square, was also involved with the work and management of the troupe.
In its early days, probably a few years either side of 1900, the troupe consisted of Bob Pender and his two brothers and was known as the Lomas Troupe whose best known act was called Monkeyland in which the whole troupe appeared in monkey costume in a comedy mime and slapstick routine.
When the act split, Pender formed his famous “Giants” troupe of stilt-walkers and acrobats which was generally regarded as the finest act of its kind and toured successfully in UK, Europe and USA billed often as “The Long and Short of it — A Screaming Absurdity”. They made their first appearance in the US in 1911 at a new cabaret-type venue in New York called the Follies Bergere Club on its opening night.
It was in pantomime where the Penders had some of their greatest success, reportedly appearing in 10 successive Drury Lane pantos and Margaret was also a pantomime ballerina at Drury Lane for several years.
Certainly in the 1907-8 “Babes in the Wood” the Pender troupe of Giants appeared, and in the 1910-11 production of “Jack and the Beanstalk” where they were giant storks.
Before World War 1 Pender’s troupe appeared in a couple of early Gaumont silent short films. In 1904 “Hands Up” was a 3 minute farce in which old highwaymen on hobby horses robbed a stage coach and in a 1910 short film “Travelling Stiltwalkers” they appeared as stiltwalking buskers who save a child from a burning house.
Doris Pender joined the troupe of Little Dandies in 1912 appearing at the Camberwell Palace as well as later touring in the US where the troupe appeared in shows with Eddie Foy and the 7 Little Foys. When Pender retired in the mid 1920s to Southend where he ran a novelty store, Doris (who had married Jack Hartman [possibly Henry John Hart1], a comedian, together with Chuck O’Neill) formed a comedy act Hart Pender and O’Neill which appeared in variety. Bob Pender died in 1939 and Doris died of leukaemia in her London home in 1975.
In July 1920 the Penders sailed on SS Olympic to appear at the Globe Theatre in New York, the act was switched to the Hippodrome and ran for 456 performances of their show “Good Times”. They went on to a 6 month tour of the Keith vaudeville circuit that took them to Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston etc. In mid 1922 the tour ended with an appearance at the New York Palace. Of course this is where Cary Grant and one other (less famous) member left, seeking their fortune. I read that Bob Pender gave them their fare home, just in case.
The cast of the Harlequinade was Will Pender, Joe Pender, Maggie Pender, Will Compo and T & G Pender.
Robert and Maggie Lomas sailed on the Aquitania arriving in New York on 22.02.21. Their next of kin was listed as Mrs Ratcliffe, 40a Barker St, Oldham.
They have been known as:
Bob Pender’s Knockabout Comedians
The Bob Pender Comedy Troupe
Bob Pender Stage Troupe
Pender’s Acrobatic Troupe
1 Pat Palmer has Doris’ second marriage certificate which gives her first husband as Henry John Hart
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