KFWB Presents…Ursula Cheshire

Hollywood AM radio station KFWB featured Ursula on its program in February 1927

Hollywood AM radio station KFWB featured Ursula on its program in February 1927

After Ursula’s turn in the play The Sin of David in May 1926, and her divorce decree three months later, the next mention of her found in my online research appeared in the January 29, 1927 publication of Radio Doings, the “Red Book of Radio.” A weekly guide to programming for the Pacific Coast, Radio Doings ran feature articles, news briefs, ads, Q&A, “DX Club” (association of radio hobbyists) correspondence, a “Woman’s Page,” broadcast timetables, and detailed programs.

Radio Doings ad

1927 ad in “Radio Doings,” a weekly guide to programming for the Pacific Coast

The programming page for KFWB, an AM radio station out of Hollywood, California, announced that Ursula Cheshire would be featured on Friday, February 4 from 9 to 10 am, along with Merrill Oslin and the Warner Bros. String Trio.

Launched in 1925 by Sam Warner, KFWB was owned by the Warner Bros. Motion Picture Studios. The radio station, which operated with 500 watts of power, still exists, now as an all-sports station known as The Beast 980 and running with 5,000 watts.

I assume Ursula sang on the program, but have no record of what. I believe her co-guest was the same Merrill Oslin who was an ensemble cast member in the 1929-1930 Broadway musical comedy Sons O’ Guns, which played at the Imperial Theatre in midtown-Manhattan (where Les Miserables is currently showing). And, perhaps the musicians in the Warner Bros. String trio were some of those who performed in the “Vitaphone” shorts that the movie studio produced to promote “talking pictures.” (Vitaphone was a sound film system used for films from 1926 to 1931.)

The Jazz Singer souvenir program

1927 souvenir program cover for “The Jazz Singer,” starring Al Jolson

Here’s some historical context for you: The world’s first “talkie” (synchronized-sound feature film), The Jazz Singer (starring Al Jolson), was released in 1927—the same year Los Angeles listeners heard Ursula’s beautiful singing voice resounding through their radio speakers.

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New Drama for Ursula Back in the States

Ursula Cheshire

Ursula in costume for “The Sin of David,” a play by Stephen Phillips (Los Angeles 1926)

As befitting a young woman whose life had thus far largely centered on the theater, Ursula experienced plenty of personal drama in the space of just over one year. Between May 1924 and mid-June 1925, she graduated from the University of California at Berkeley; studied at a castle in France with famous opera star Emma Calvé; toured parts of Europe with her fellow students; began an Italian romance, got engaged and married; separated from her new husband; and returned to California with her mother.

In the year between her homecoming (June 1925) and the issuance of her divorce decree (August 1926), Ursula returned to her steadfast love: the theater.

Gamut Club

1926 photo of the Gamut Club (Los Angeles), where Ursula acted in “The Sin of David.”

Both Ursula and her mother acted in the United States premiere of The Sin of David, a play by Stephen Phillips, who was the author of “Nero,” the college production in which Ursula danced and played the poisoner Locusta. Produced by Ursula’s esteemed childhood Shakespeare teacher Florence A. Dobinson, the play opened on May 17, 1926 at Los Angeles’s Gamut Club, a men’s musical and arts society.

Ursula Cheshire

Ursula in costume for “The Sin of David”; photo taken on Browning Blvd, Los Angeles, 1926

Set in the seventeenth century during the English civil war between Charles I. and the Parliament, The Sin of David is based on the Biblical story of King David and Bathsheba. (In a nutshell: From his rooftop, David spies on Bathsheba bathing, summons her, has sex with and impregnates her [his “sin”], and sends her husband to his death. David and Bathsheba marry; their son dies in infancy. They conceive a second son, Solomon, who eventually succeeds David as King of Israel.)

I don’t know whom Ursula played in Sin of David. The principal female character strums a mandolin towards the beginning of the drama, but even though Ursula was photographed in costume holding some sort of mandolin (in the outdoor photo), she did not play the lead role (Miss Mary Isabelle Alpaugh had that honor).

While L.A. Times drama critic Edwin Schallert offered a less-than-stellar review of the play, he did note that the actors included “the youngster Ursula Cheshire, whom the audience enjoyed exceedingly.” Go, Ursula!

The Sin of David play review

“L.A. TImes” review of “The Sin of David,” May 19, 1926

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