Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Young Victoria

I am thrilled to learn that the film The Young Victoria will be released here in early November. (You can watch a preview on the official website.) I am a fan both of Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, the stars of the film. But I will think back to two not-so-young actors who played the famous shaving scene on a stage in New York, as part of Victoria magazine's Well-Spoken Companions series.

Julie Harris and Richard Kiley were our Victoria and Albert. Miss Harris brought her own costume for this dramatic reading. Richard Kiley, whom I had adored for years, was fitted with a smashing smoking jacket by Susan George, who also produced a set fit for such royalty. These two veterans were a thrill to watch. It was magic before my eyes in many ways. In the first place, here we were the inspiration behind such a pairing. The last time I had seen them on the stage was a reading of Love Letters. Now, they were our "stars."

Julie Harris had portrayed Victoria in the famous play Victoria Regina, the one that Helen Hayes played all over the country. (Many thought Helen Hayes was the queen, her portrayal was so true to life.) Mr. Kiley was new to the role, but not so new to bring his own inimitable touch--the star of Man of La Mancha did something that was not in the script. He sang to his queen Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes. Hey, my eyes were full of tears and I am not sure I was breathing. I don't think the people packed into the auditorium were breathing either.

We began this series as dramatic readings. When the first one was to be announced in The New York Times, we turned with great anticipation to the readings section of the arts pages. There was no mention of our program. We were crestfallen. But this lasted for just a few minutes until we found our program listed in "Off Off Broadway" productions. Interestingly our offices faced Broadway, but we never expected to be anywhere near it in the New York press!

Many Victoria readers shared the experience by purchasing audio tapes we made of the evening, recorded live. I still have a small cache of them. With today's technology they almost seem as quaint as Victoria's handkerchief. I part with one once in awhile to share with an actress or an aspiring one.

Timidly I had gone into this endeavor. But Daniel D'Arezzo, on our staff, had the foresight and the contacts that made it all happen. It was a night to remember, including the reception we held for the actors after the performance. I was like a school girl when someone revealed to Richard Kiley that I was a huge fan. Having that voice talk to ME!

Note: Julie Harris and Helen Hayes were the first recipients of Victoria's "Star in Our Crown" award. When those were awarded, Blythe Danner and Edward Herrmann were the regal newlyweds and portrayed Victoria watching with rapture as her prince performed his morning shave. Bravo!


  1. I still have my tapes and occasionally take them with me when on a road trip. The joy of listening to them again is a real treasure and delight. Thanks for making the tapes. My favorite one is Colette.

  2. What a delightful story! I'm loving these "backstage" peeks, Nancy, that you're sharing. They are utterly delightful and you pen them so well, I feel as if I'm listening to you just tell us, as you did in Women's Journey. What a joy to "hear" your voice again!

    In fact, I listen to these just as you hoped, Nancy, as an actress admiringly. I love this tape and in fact, I love the love story of this royal couple. There's a real charm to this particular presentation--so real and honest--and I often wish I could climb into the "way back machine" and see these performances.

    Victoria fans who haven't heard them should rush over to Ebay and snap them up...they can also be found on Alibris and ABEBooks, occasionally. They are a treat!
    Karen Marline in Rochester

  3. It is a great story, I agree. BTW, I love Blythe Danner and Edward Herrmann in their many movies together, and thought they had special chemistry. An actress friend once told me the chemistry (at least on Herrmann's part) was quite genuine. She did not imply anything inappropriate, just mentioned that EH thought very highly of BD. I love them both!

  4. I didn't realize how much I really missed your wonderful descriptive writing until you started this journal. I used to dream of living in New York when I was a teenager and going to the Broadway theatre. You are giving us a window into your world that we were not even privileged to visit during your Victoria days. I not only loved hearing about this adventure, but have truly enjoyed learning how you and your editors worked together so beautifully.

  5. I am so enjoying these stories from your days as editor of Victoria. I can't imagine what an enormous job that must have been, but I loved reading your comment about teamwork. It seems that even as "head of the operation" you let your team know that they were valued for their creativity and quality of work. I loved reading Susan George's reply to your comment because that spoke volumes for what you were trying to convey. Greatness is rarely a singular achievement. And when egos, pride, and desire for "credit" are put aside, it is amazing how a team will unify and rise to a new level of achievement. It is very obvious from the first issues of Victoria in 1987, how true this was as the magazine grew so beautifully and gracefully issue after issue. She became more lovely, and there never seemed to be a moment where you and your team said, "We have arrived." In your quest for excellence, we were given year upon year of delightful content both visually and textually. I am thrilled that we are hearing your voice again in this blog, and that you are sharing your experiences with us about something it seems we all still hold so dear. I am looking forward to more in the days to come.


  6. I am so glad I mentioned the new Movie,"The Young Victoria"is being released soon! I think it looks to be such a beautiful movie,I'm so looking so forward to seeing it. If it spurred your memory of the play, I really enjoyed hearing all about it,on this blog from you.I cherish your magazine, & now to be able to read more of your good memories is wonderful!

    I had the Victoria & Albert well spoken companion- cassette on my "wish list", on Amazon,& now it is sold. They are hard to find. Do you think that they could be re-released & then sold on C-D's?

    How about if every Victoria magazine that was ever published when you were the Editor,-could they possibly be made into Hardbound leather volumes and published again that way? Now that would be a dream come true, for so many! The magazines are all so beautiful, & I think these would make the nicest "Collector Editions", I have ever imagined.

    Speaking of books,- I just got the book you wrote Nancy, called "Jenny Walton's,Packing for a Woman's Journey".It sure is a good read.Also, I am so excited to read the new book you are publishing soon. Thanks so much for bringing Victoria into my Life, your writing and all of the Victoria books too,it is such a blessing for me.Love,Valery

  7. Unfortunately, I don't think it's possible to get the Victoria tapes of Well-Spoken Companion other than what is out there now. I didn't write about them to spur sales--other than to have people who like them to enjoy them. The news about the film, inspired by memories of the producing the tapes.

    I guess it's important to note that I have no economic interest in Victoria or any of its products anymore. Rights are pretty complicated things and all the writers and photographers and freelance editors for the magazine would have to be involved in a project like you suggest. However, many of the photographs and stories we did for the magazine did find their way into hardcover books. Many are still available.

    When the world gets a bit weary on occasion (apologies to Noel Coward), I keep close to my heart all the good wishes that readers have sent over the years. When you are in the crucible, sometimes it's hard to imagine the impact of what you are doing. I am intensely proud of the issues we produced--emphasis on the "we." Like making a fine garment, we stitched well where it wouldn't necessarily be seen as obvious. I have a wonderful cap that I especially like because the inside of the brim, which isn't seen, has pattern that was obviously thought about carefully when it was designed.

    My favorite magazine today is the UK edition of House and Garden. I always learn something; I'm always inspired; I'm always tearing pages madly to file. And I find the best books to look into, even if I don't buy them all. The shelves in my place are groaning. I think what I like most is the emphasis on creative people. Sound familiar?

  8. I enjoy the UK House and Garden and also love The English Garden magazine. The photographs transport me, and the writing entertains. It's like having a little slice of Victoria every once in a while. And while I do enjoy many blogs on the internet, there's nothing like the tactile exercise of holding and turning those lovely pages. And what I find missing in the magazines I mentioned above is Victoria's broad spectrum of stories and generous historical detail, all the while staying current. And my back issues (treasures) still seem to be both historical and current even to this day.

    I think of the stories of thatched-roof cottages in England, or ivy covered college walls in the States, or female historical figures like Amelia Earhart, or how to properly take tea, or authors like Alexandra Stoddard helping us to live a beautiful life, or the meanings of flowers, the John Singer Sargent piece... I could go on and on. All of these subjects are still as interesting, varied, and relevant today as they were when the issues came out.

    Thanks for letting us know about the rights to the issues under your leadership. I am just really thankful that I kept mine because while there are other magazines that have the occasional beautifully designed layouts, photos, articles, writing, etc... I can't imagine that there will ever again be one that delivers the consistency that we had with Victoria.

  9. Nancy-,Thanks for all the info about the re-publishing of the magazines into Hardcover book volumes.Well, It never hurts to ask I guess.I do have all of the Books ever published by the Editors of victoria,{the ones with the logo on them}, & a few from the same Editors that have published books, {without the logo.}Many of the pictures in them I have seen before in the magazines.I really still think it is a good idea, but I understand about the rights now, to the magazines etc.--Oh,how I wish it was still a possibility, all of the contributors would probably agree to it.{persistant aren't I?} I will have to give up on the idea, but still just can imagine how very beautiful& cherished these volumes would be.

    I understand too, that you have no economic interest any longer in Victoria or it's products.& I also knew that you weren't trying to spur sales with the victoria & Albert cassette Tapes. I'll just have to find as many issues of the Victoria's I can.,& someday maybe have the whole collection again.

    I only wish I would have kept the issues I once had- but you know, when I remarried & then moved from North Dakota from my Victorian home,clear South to"Victoria", Texas-{yes all in the name} long good story-,perhaps for some other time... I gave away most everything or sold out, just to have an easier move. I live in Reno,Nevada now, and love the climate here the best of all!

    I know of people who loved your magazine so much, that one even legally changed her given name to "Victoria". So, now I hope that you know even more how much impact that your magazine means to many- I moved North to south- across the country because of the name"Victoria" - and,there are a couple special Internet groups that exist, because of & about Victoria,that I belong to. Also there are many blogs, with it's articles discussed often. Many people too, started business's that are a success because of the wonderful Victoria magazines & Books insights. Thousands of us, would read & adore Victoria magazine, & still do after all these years.-so much more to say,- but mainly so you know just how much we all appreciate your teams efforts ,to have made such a consistently beautiful magazine,-- that it really has had so much positive impact in peoples lives in so many ways!They are "timeless",very tasteful & good reading,with the most beautiful pictures! {Even all the product adds were}.Certainly is my favorite publication of all time! I do read a few other magazines too, but none make me as happy and comfortable to read as "Victoria" from the years when you were the Editor.

    O.k - enough gushing for now,Ha!- but really I needed to say this.Love,Valery