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Hazel Dawn: The Pink Lady

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 10, 2008

She used to joke that most dawns came from the east, but she came from the west. Hazel Dawn – born Henrietta Hazel Tout – came from Ogden, Utah, and she never let the world forget that.

Hazel came from a musical Mormon family. Her sister Nannie was an infant phenomenon in the 1890s, singing before enthusiastic Utah crowds. When their father, Edwin, was called as a missionary to Wales, the entire family went along and provided the singing for street meetings.

Following three years’ church service, Edwin Tout moved the family to London where he felt his daughters could receive the best training in both vocal and instrumental music. There Hazel studied the violin as well as voice, and soon found small roles in London stage productions.

Her big break came in 1911 when American producers were searching for the right girl for a play to be called “The Pink Lady.” Their Lady not only needed a creditable soprano voice, she had to play the violin, be young and pretty, and have the right kind of sparkling personality. Someone recommended 19-year-old Hazel Tout, by then using the stage name Hazel Dawn, and the play’s producers brought her from London to New York.

Hazel was an instant success – a “skyrocket,” the papers called her. “A wonderful little woman who can sing a bit, fiddle a bit, dance a bit, and is wholly charming all the time,” read a Philadelphia review. Drama critics found her full of “summer and sunshine and the joy of out-of-doors.”

Although the title character, Hazel’s part had been written only as a supporting role. Reviewers praised Alice Dovey, the intended star, but could not help drawing comparisons to Hazel: “If Miss Dawn had not been in the cast Miss Dovey would have been remarkable. As it was, she was charming.”

“The Pink Lady” became the most popular Broadway play in 1911, and travelers returning from abroad reported that the play’s songs were being hummed in all the European capitals as well. “Pink Ladies” were favorite characters at masquerade parties that year. Hazel found her portrait on calendars, tobacco cards, and the covers of sheet music. Both the Army and Navy football teams claimed her as their mascot – at the same game. One monument to her popularity is the number of little girls born in the 19-teens christened “Hazel Dawn,” as an internet search quickly documents.

“The Pink Lady” played on Broadway for three years. Tickets were in such high demand that Hazel found it nearly impossible to take a vacation: producers were hard put to find a violin-playing soprano to replace her, even temporarily.

Hazel’s younger sister Margaret was slated to play “The Pink Lady” when the play was taken to London; at the last minute Margaret married her Ogden beau, Dr. Emmett Browning, so Hazel went back to London. Her success abroad was as complete as it had been in New York.

Hazel played other successful Broadway roles, although none ever quite equaled the popularity of “The Pink Lady.” She starred in the original Ziegfield Follies and appeared in early silent pictures and in a few “talkies” – look for her in her last role in the 1946 movie “Margie.”

In 1927, Hazel married Charles Gruwell, a wealthy Montana mining engineer; they had two children before his death in 1941. Hazel then went on to a new career as casting director for a New York advertising agency.

Hazel loved New York, but she always claimed that the great eastern city took a back seat to Ogden. “You’ve got all the money and all the artificial skyscrapers here,” she told a reporter, “but out there we have the real skyscrapers, mountains that mingle with the clouds.”

Hazel lived in her adopted city of New York until her death in 1988, at age 98.



23 Comments »

  1. Interesting. Thanks.

    Comment by Edje — June 10, 2008 @ 8:59 am

  2. Photos of Mrs. Dawn:
    http://silentladies.com/OSLDawn.html
    http://broadway.cas.sc.edu/index.php?action=showPerformer&id=37

    Comment by Edje — June 10, 2008 @ 9:08 am

  3. The Pink Lady herself!

    When I mentioned Hazel Dawn on an elist a few years ago, one of the participants remembered that as a young man in NYC he had accompanied an older member on a home teaching visit to Hazel. He hadn’t really known who she was, only that she was old-time showbiz. She wasn’t active at that point — whether because of age or inclination I won’t guess — but she did welcome visits from home teachers.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 10, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  4. I wasn’t aware of Hazel. Thanks again!

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 10, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  5. IMDB, for whatever it’s worth, says that Ms. Dawn was “devoutly Mormon.”

    I keep wondering how many of the millions of my fellow denizens of this city are Mormons. A lovely Jamaican woman showed up in my office a few months ago–not an actress, but a schoolteacher. She needed help with her children’s applications for permanent residence. She kept referring, vaguely, to their being “out of state.” When I asked her where, she admitted that they were in Utah. Pressed further, she said that they were attending Brigham Young University.

    If there are one or two, there are thousands.

    Thanks Ardis for helping us find another one of them.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 10, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

  6. ““You’ve got all the money and all the artificial skyscrapers here,” she told a reporter, “but out there we have the real skyscrapers, mountains that mingle with the clouds.”

    I live in Cincinnati but was raised in Utah County, right at the base of the real skyscrapers. I LOVE this quote, Ardis.

    Comment by Ray — June 10, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  7. Thanks, J., Mark, Ray. I think I would have liked to have known Hazel.

    Mark, when I was in the Geneva airport waiting for my plane home from my mission, a Japanese tourist, a young woman, came over to ask if I were LDS, then burst into tears when I nodded. Even though we couldn’t do more than acknowledge our bond in the most general terms, it meant that much to her. How did your Jamaican sister react when you let on who you were?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 10, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  8. Ardis, the best part of her reaction is that she has started coming to church again. And last Sunday, when I was visiting the branch she attends, she gave me a big hug!

    Comment by Mark B. — June 10, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

  9. Awwwww!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 10, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

  10. Thanks for the fascinating post. I gather that Margaret was an accomplished singer and performer as well.

    Comment by Justin — June 10, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  11. Yes, Margaret sang leading soprano roles for the Metropolitan Opera for seven years. Sister Nannie also sang in concert halls and command royal performances throughout Europe. I think one or two of the other siblings were also professionals, but I need to do more research on that. In all there were six sisters and one brother.

    When the family was in London and the missionaries held street meetings, the Touts would sing a few opening numbers to attract a crowd, then the missionaries would take over. The Touts would walk to another corner to meet another crew of missionaries, open that meeting, then walk on to a third point and repeat. Then they would walk back to the first point, sing to close that meeting, and move on to close the second and third meetings.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 10, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

  12. #11 – THAT is fascinating.

    Comment by Ray — June 10, 2008 @ 10:16 pm

  13. #11 – Round-robin opening and closing numbers. The essence of Mormon efficiency and organization.

    I wonder how many other elderly LDS of renown are still living, such that we should seek them out, meet them and get their story.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 12, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

  14. Thank you for this fascinating post; I am currently researching Hazel Dawn and Margaret Tout. Might anybody out there know if Margaret was ever known by the nickname ‘Peggy’?

    Comment by Sophie Ratcliffe — April 17, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  15. I have not seen her use “Peggy,” Sophie, although my sources are formal enough that they might not have repeated a nickname used among family and friends.

    If you’d like to outline your research project just a little bit, I may be able to send relevant materials to you.

    (Also, I just realized that for some unknown reason, I neglected to illustrate this post with any of the photos I have of Hazel. I’ll remedy that soon.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 17, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

  16. I’m researching the letters of the British writer, P.G. Wodehouse, for a selected edition. Wodehouse refers to meeting ‘Pinkie and Peggy’ in the street one day. It’s only a hunch, but I’m wondering if ‘Pinkie’ could be Hazel (nicknamed from The Pink Lady) and then it would make sense if ‘Peggy’ was her sister. I’m not even sure that Hazel was known as ‘Pinkie’ of course, I’ve found references to ‘college boys’ naming her after the play – so knowing whether Hazel was ever ‘Pinkie’ would also be incredibly useful – if you happen to know!

    Comment by Sophie Ratcliffe — April 17, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  17. ps – many thanks for getting back to me so quickly, by the way! VERY much appreciated…

    Comment by Sophie Ratcliffe — April 17, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  18. Hello, I have been researching Hazel Dawn and in particular an unfinished portrait made of her in 1924. She was being painted by a young artist in 1924 when he was abruptly diagnosed with a fatal cancer and died in just a month. The next year Hazel wrote an article about the artist and the unfinished portrait in the “New York Daily Graphic” paper, in hopes of bringing notice and appreciation to this talent gone too soon, but unfortunately there was little response and he was forgotten. I would love to know what happened to this unfinished portrait, or anything else about Hazel and the artist. Please write to me at Vartan84 at gmail.com.

    Comment by Vartan — October 29, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

  19. Hello,
    I came across this post while looking for Hazel Dawn Singing Alice Blue Gown. Hazel Dawn is my Great Aunt. We use to have an old 78 speed record of her songs, and one of the songs was Alice Blue Gown. We have many old family photos of Hazel Dawn, and when my family gets together ( my aunts and uncles) we always get these family photos out. The things on this site are wonderful. I find all of this fascinating

    Thank you Gracee Tout

    Comment by gracee Tout — May 19, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

  20. Hello Gracee, I as well just happened to come across this site researching Hazel Dawn. She was my Great Aunt as well. My Grandmother, Nannie Tout was her sister. I would love to hear from you, seeing as we are related to one another. Hoping you see my comment on this site.

    Thanks, Diane Byrne

    Comment by Diane Byrne — June 23, 2013 @ 7:53 am

  21. Diane, meet Gracee. Gracee, meet Diane. I don’t know either of you, but it’s so nice seeing you meet each other. Made my day.

    Comment by Carol — June 23, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  22. It isn’t easy to do on the iPad, but when I can get to a real computer, I’ll write to both cousins for permission to share your address with the other… but then you have to promise to share a Hazel Dawn story with us! :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 23, 2013 @ 10:32 am

  23. I have so many wonderful stories to tell!! I’m very excited to meet a distant cousin!! Diane Byrne

    Comment by Diane Byrne — June 23, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

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