Lily Elsie (8 April 1886 – 16 December 1962) was a popular English actress and singer during the Edwardian era, best known for her starring role in the hit London premiere of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow.
Early 20th-century fashion designer Lucile designed the costumes (including the plumed hats that became an extraordinary fad) and thereafter used Elsie to promote her fashions, designing her personal clothes and costumes for several of her other shows.
Lucile later wrote:
“I realised that here was a girl who had both beauty and intelligence but who had never learnt how to make the best of herself. So shy and diffident was she in those days that a less astute producer than George Edwardes would in all probability have passed her over and left her in the chorus.”
The production opened in June 1907 and ran for 778 performances at Daly’s Theatre. The show was an enormous success for its creators and made Elsie a major star.
Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile, 1907
Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile (1907)
by Foulsham & Banfield
Lily Elsie as Sonia and Joseph Coyne as Prince Danilo in ‘The Merry Widow’ (1907) by Foulsham & Banfield