A collection of pieces especially commissioned for this volume on the matinee idol. The term implied a romance -- a dignity -- far above that ""loathsome sobriquet 'charisma'"" even if that ""perfect English rose"" Lily Elsie of The Merry Widow (Cecil Beaton here) or Gerald Du Maurier, admired by his daughter Daphne, later deplored by Noel Coward, have faded -- faded. So too have many of the others in this walk down memory lane through London's West End, although midway the American reader will be more au courant with the Barrymores or Laurette Taylor or Valentino or Lillian Gish or Coward himself, so prodigiously talented and adaptable -- the true survivor. Much of this is not more than program notes -- but as we move forward to the talkies Dilys Powell (in one of the best written essays) assesses genuine talent versus that evanescent essence of stardom (which perhaps only Garbo overcame -- ""Silent, private, in the eyes of her public she is changeless""). And we see the phenomenon of just being and emanating giving way to a profession which demands something more, a ""working"" profession -- theater and film have become a reflection of more serious times and concerns. Sans maquillage and an end to illusion. . . . An in-set of some 50 photographs will serve as prompters in the now dusty wings.