“Cary Grant’s Aston Villa Connection: Unearthing the Intriguing Mystery of a Pantomime Football Match from 1910”

“Cary Grant’s Aston Villa Connection: Unearthing the Intriguing Mystery of a Pantomime Football Match from 1910”

The question arises from an exceptionally rare football program: did the iconic Hollywood star Cary Grant participate in a match against Aston Villa?

The aged flyer, promoting a game between Villa and a team

of pantomime stars on January 25, 1910, featured the Pender Troupe, renowned acrobats and tumblers

well-known on both sides of the Atlantic.

Among the members of the Pender Troupe was Archibald Leach, a boy stilt walker.

Hollywood legend Cary Grant

In later years, Archibald would achieve worldwide fame as the debonair heartthrob Cary Grant.

Discovered in 2021 among sports memorabilia auctioned by

Midlands Sports Auctions, the program’s potential significance was initially unknown.

The program highlights the participation of prominent theater figures of the era at Villa Park.

The 22 celebrities, captained by George Robery, a former Millwall player

turned panto star, included Seth and Albert Egbert, celebrated figures

in the early British film industry, and Mark Daly, a silver screen

headliner associated with the acclaimed Fred Karno company alongside Charlie Chaplain.

Hollywood legend Cary Grant

The charity match, inaugurated by vaudeville star Ava Reeve, aimed

to support an undisclosed cause. Although Cary Grant would have

been merely six years old at the time, the tradition of child

performers in music hall entertainment raises the possibility

of his presence, perhaps as a ball boy.

While it’s improbable that he performed with the troupe in 1910,

Cary may have traveled with them to Birmingham, given his childhood

connections to the act, watching their performances at Bristol’s Hippodrome.

In his autobiography, “Archie Leach by Cary Grant,” he recounted his

introduction to Bob Pender’s troupe and their suggestion that he audition in

Norwich at the age of 16, eventually touring the States with the act.

The Pender Troupe achieved considerable success, headlining in New

York and featuring in Drury Lane pantos and Gaumont silent films.

The Villa Park event was a busy day for the professional team, as

Villa also played a more serious game against West Brom.

While concrete evidence of Cary Grant’s presence is lacking, the day

stands as a fascinating episode in Birmingham’s history.

The panto match serves as a reminder that football,

like a dame, can have two distinct halves.

Read related news on sporttoday.co.uk

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