Review Blog

Sep 16 2020

The secret life of the Savoy and the D'Oyly Carte family

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Headline, 2020. ISBN: 9781472271761.
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) The author has extensively researched the origins of the Savoy Hotel, London (opened in 1889) and its lasting impact on British customs and the Hotel industry. The book embodies the story of three generations of the D'Oyly Carte family. Richard D'Oyly Carte, an enterprising and enthusiastic musician started the empire by his establishment of theatres and commissioning Gilbert and Sullivan to write shows, making himself a fortune and them famous. Among his clients were Whistler and Oscar Wilde. His son Rupert and granddaughter Bridget continued both theatre and hotel businesses.
At a time when people did not dine outside of homes, the establishment of a luxury hotel with bathrooms, lifts, electricity, excellent wines and food (Escoffier was persuaded to become the Chef and Cesar Ritz the manager) attracted royalty, rich Americans, famous writers and actors, business magnates and politicians (even Robert Menzies was a guest!). Women were able to dine in public for the first time. Most famous people of the twentieth century are mentioned - Churchill, the queen, princess Margaret, Hemingway, Kennedys, etc are just a few. Its luxury and inflexible standards became a part of its lure. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were apparently denied entry to the Bar as they were not wearing ties.
I enjoyed reading the book. It could be of use as a case study of the establishment and success of a business empire which still exists over a hundred years later. While the book is about the Savoy hotel and theatre, it is more a biography of the Carte family and their personal as well as business problems and achievements.
There are extensive notes and an index.
Ann Griffin

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