The Better 'Ole - Toronto Company

The first of Mr & Mrs Coburn's touring companies of "The Better 'Ole" to go on the road opened at the Princess Theatre, Toronto on 30 December 1919. It was headed by James K Hackett as Old Bill.

Hackett's company played for 2 weeks at Toronto, and then set off on the road, following a route which would take them to more than 20 cities in a dozen or more States from Syracuse to San Francisco. 

Cities visited by James K Hackett's company of "The Better 'Ole" between January and May 1919 included:

Syracuse - Buffalo - Cleveland - Winnipeg - Kansas City - Omaha - Des Moines - Minneapolis - Saskatoon - Baltimore - Allentown - Scranton - Trenton, NJ - Harrisburg - Washington DC - Pittsburgh - Sacramento - Oakland - San Francisco

Cast:

Old Bill --- James K Hackett

Bert --- Harry Radford Allen

Alf --- Horace Sinclair

Rachel --- Penelope Rowland

Colonel --- Arthur Clare

A Spy --- Henry Sherwood

Suzette --- Gladys George

A Tommy --- Henry Pyper

Victoire --- Marcia Abbe

captain of Women War Workers --- Helen Murdock

Mlitary Postman --- Thomas Ellis

Captain Milne --- Harry Kendall

Berthe --- Aida St Clair

French Officer --- Henry Sherwood

French Porter --- Gus Pittleoud

Maggie --- Ada Sinclair

Kate --- Marion Berry

Vicar --- William A Evans


"The Better 'Ole" opened at the Columbia Theatre in San Francisco on 28 April 1919. James K Hackett, as he had done at all the theatres he played at, was acclaimed for his representation of Old Bill. However just as the show started its second week in San Francisco, the actor was forced to withdraw from the show due to serious illness. On 5 May newspapers reported that he had suffered a "nervous breakdown." His physicians stated he was suffering from "locotomor ataxia" and he was said to be experiencing lapses of memory and being unable to remember his lines. 

Following Hackett's unexpected departure from "The Better 'Ole" the role of Old Bill was taken up by Leonard Booker, who had up until this time been playing the Sergeant Major in the play. From 15 May 1919 Old Bill was played by Dewolf Hopper, who travelled to San Francisco specially to take over.