Windmill Theatre Press and Marketing Material

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection features production, publicity, backstage and candid photographs and photographic negatives, press releases and press clippings relating to the Windmill Theatre, London, c.1940s-1960s.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Windmill Theatre opened in 1931, initially functioning as a venue for drama productions. After poor commercial success the theatre screened films for a period but eventually settled as a variety and revue venue, becoming best known for its creation of the Revudeville shows (running variety shows featuring song, dance and comedy that continued throughout the day) and its use of themed tableaux vivants. Inspired by the Parisian Folies Bergeres and Moulin Rouge shows, manager Vivian Van Damm introduced glamorous nude women known as the Windmill Girls - circumventing the Lord Chamberlain's (censor for all theatrical performances in London) censorship laws by ensuring his nudes remained in static poses, resembling living statues. Later on the fan dance was introduced as well as moving props, enabling the naked girls to move on stage whilst retaining their modesty and thus remaining 'legal'. These were a huge commercial success and the Windmill Girls toured their show to other London and regional venues.

The Windmill was famous for its motto 'We Never Closed', having stayed open (barring a compulsory closure of 12 days that affected all theatres in 1939) throughout the whole of the Second World War.

Owner Laura Henderson left the Windmill to Van Damm on her death in 1944. Rally driver Sheila Van Damm inherited the Windmill Theatre from her father after his death in 1960 and ran it until its closure in 1964. In 1964 she went on tour with a number of former Windmill artistes with her show The Windmill Revue. During its time many prominent British comedians performed on the Windmill stage, including Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock and the theatre itself was featured in a number of films, notably Murder at the Windmill (1949) and Mrs Henderson Presents (2005).

The theatre has had a number of different owners in the subsequent decades.

Arrangement

This collection has been arranged into the following series:

  • THM/422/1 - Photographs and negatives
  • THM/422/2 - Press releases
  • THM/422/3 - Press cuttings

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift to the Victoria and Albert Museum Theatre and Performance Department, 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Accruals

No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to the Windmill Theatre may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.