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Britisher Prior (The Contract, ""Paradiso"") has borrowed enough turns, wheezes, and rinky-tinkly songs from turn-of-the-century English music-halls and vaudeville to give some authenticity to this love story about a comic and a singer. Seventeen-year-old Clara, student at a prim girls' school in Newcastle-on-Tyne and daughter of the owner of the Alhambra music hall, has a whopping crush on Harry Viner, the King of Kosher Komedy, and a passion of equal clout for the boards. So in no time she's mingling with Harry's struggling, chirpingly profane troupe (at a wedding) and tagging after Harry to London (""The Smoke""), where they make love in his seedy digs and later marry. Clara is pursued in a genteel fashion by university-trained John Hyatt, who wants to write songs--and she soon receives the ditty that will shape her career as a double with Harry, and later a single: ""Naughty but Nice"" (""Never Been Kissed in the Same Place Twice""). The Viners move to America, have high ups and low downs: Clara has an abortion, later loses a baby, and lustily poses ""plastique"" to pay the rent while Harry, the despair of managers for impulsive onstage experimenting with new material, strays to a hearty female reporter. So Clara, in a rage, returns to the Alhambra after touring successfully as a single; and the two are finally reunited just on the eve of World War I as a cinema opens across the street, spelling the end of music-hall's heyday. The tinsel is tarnished in places, but--with nostalgic limelight and a scattering of real personalities--this is a fairly playable olio from the days of dog acts and impudent flounces.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row