Actors, Singers and Musical Personalities ~ Martyn Green

1.  Green

Martyn Green (1899 - 1975): Early Work with D'Oyly Carte

1.   Cigarette Card with Martyn Green as the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe and as himself.   Photographer unknown. Date ca 1937.  [Image in the public domain]. 

William Martyn-Green entered the Royal College of Music in 1919 following his discharge from the Army. After leaving the Royal Academy, he joined a touring company as Paul Petrov in Sybil under the stage name Martyn Green. Later, while appearing in a musical revue called Shuffle Along an old college friend, Ethel Maclelland, who was at the time singing principal soprano roles with the D'Oyly Carte "New" Opera Company suggested that he would do quite well in G&S." Green took up the idea, heading for London and the Savoy Hotel to arrange an audition with Rupert D'Oyly Carte.

Green was eventually engaged, joining the "New" Company chorus in Northampton in November 1922. He took his first named part, Luiz in The Gondoliers, later that month.   In July 1923 he was made understudy to Frank Steward   In so doing, he took Antonio, rather than Luiz, as his regular role in The Gondoliers, and added the Associate in Trial by Jury as his second regular part. He switched from the Associate to Counsel for the Plaintiff in Trial in November 1923.

During that 1923-24 season Green filled in for Steward on occasion as the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury, Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore, the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe, Ko-Ko in The Mikado, and the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers.  It has been suggested that he may have gone on for Frank Steward as Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard once in February or March 1923, but that remains unproven. Green did say that Jack Point was his first patter role, and that he played it in Bolton.

In July 1924, the "New" Company began the new season with a new repertoire. Green continued to understudy Steward, but now took Mr. Cox in Cox and Box and First Citizen in The Yeomen of the Guard as his regular roles. In January 1925 he added Pish-Tush in The Mikado, sharing that role with John Huntington.

In June 1925 Green transferred to the Repertory Company as Lytton's understudy, taking Cox, the Associate, Major Murgatroyd in Patience, and Luiz as his regular parts, until August 1926, when he once more swapped Luiz for Antonio. In the period between 1925 and 1928 Green also filled in for Lytton on occasion as General Stanley and for others as Florian in Princess Ida and Giuseppe in The Gondoliers.  In June 1927 the "New" Company was disbanded.

n 1928-29 he took the Counsel and Major Murgatroyd as his only regular named parts but filled in on occasion for Lytton in all his roles that season: General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, Reginald Bunthorne in Patience, the Lord Chancellor, Ko-Ko, Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore, and the Duke in Gondoliers. In 1929-30 he gave up the Counsel, but reclaimed Mr. Cox in an expanded repertoire, continuing to fill in on occasion for Lytton, this season as General Stanley, Ko-Ko, Robin, Jack Point, and the Duke. He also sang the part of Cox in a 1929 BBC radio broadcast.

[Text based on Boise University information and other material in the public domain.]


2.  Ko-Ko

Martyn Green in the 1930's

2.   Martyn Green as Ko-Ko.  Still photograph from Victor Schertzinger’s The Mikado (1939)

The 1930-31 season began as the previous one had ended, but on May 3, 1931, Henry Lytton's car overturned while manoeuvring on a rain-slicked road while approaching Cambridge. Lytton was seriously injured and was out for the better part of two months, Green taking all his parts.   Green continued to appear as Cox and the Major (a part he recorded in 1930), but was now designated as Lytton's "deputy" as opposed to "understudy," and in August 1931 was assigned two of the patter roles, General Stanley and Robin Oakapple, as his own. He was also filling in more frequently as Jack Point, though Lytton liked the role and would reclaim it from time to time.

Green assumed the remaining leading patter roles after Lytton's farewell performance in Dublin on June 30, 1934. From June 1935, his roles were now Sir Joseph, General Stanley, Bunthorne, the Lord Chancellor, King Gama in Princess Ida, Ko-Ko (which he recorded in 1936), Robin, Jack Point, and the Duke of Plaza-Toro. In June 1938, and again in June 1939, he finally played John Wellington Wells when The Sorcerer received brief London revivals. He also appeared as Ko-Ko in the 1939 film version of The Mikado.

When World War II intervened in September 1939 Carte shut the Company down. Green didn't wait for the restart, moving on to a starring role in a Noel Gay revue, Lights Up, and, six months later, touring variety halls for a time with Sylvia Cecil in a two-person act, called "Words with Music," which, of course, featured songs from Gilbert & Sullivan. Green was granted a commission in the RAF Voluntary Reserve in April 1941 and served at home and abroad (as an instructor and administrator) until September 1945.

[Text based on Boise University information and other material in the public domain.]


3.   Gama

Green's Career after Wartime Service

3.   Martyn Green as King Gama in "Princess Ida".  ca 1938Photograph, photographer unknown. 

Green returned to the D'Oyly Carte as principal comedian in September 1946. He played all the traditional roles for five seasons, recording most of them (Sir Joseph and General Stanley, 1949; Ko-Ko, Robin, Point, and the Duke, 1950, and Lord Chancellor and Bunthorne, 1951). After retiring from the Company in August 1951, Green was engaged to appear as George Grossmith in the film The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (filmed in the summer of 1952, but released in 1953). He then left for America, along with Ella Halman and Radley Flynn, to perform Gilbert & Sullivan for S. M. Chartrock. He remained in America where he continued his career in musicals, legitimate plays, television, and films.

In 1959 Green's left leg was crushed in a garage elevator, and had to be amputated below the knee. Eight months later, equipped with a prosthetic limb, he was performing as W. S. Gilbert in the musical Knights of Song in St. Louis.

In 1960 he also directed Groucho Marx (not to mention Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway and Robert Rounseville) in a remarkable Bell Telephone Hour television condensed production of The Mikado. He continued to appear on Broadway, and worked with touring companies and in summer stock for the rest of his life.  His last stage appearance was in Chicago in December 1974 in a play called The Sea. He returned to his Hollywood home and was shortly hospitalised. He died of a blood infection on February 8, 1975.

Martyn Green wrote two books:an autobiography, "Here's a How-de-do" in 1952, and an annotated songbook, "Martyn Green's Treasury of Gilbert & Sullivan" (New York, Simon & Schuster) in 1961.

[Text based on Boise University information and other material in the public domain.]



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