b. 23 May 1887, London, England, d. 6 December 1958, London, England. The daughter of the legendary music hall star Lottie Collins (b. 1865, d. 1910), José (pronounced ‘Josie’) was in showbusiness from an early age. She first appeared in London’s West End in The Antelope (1908) and three years later was on Broadway in Vera Violetta, following this in 1912 with The Merry Countess and The Whirl Of Society. She was also in the revues Ziegfeld Follies (1913) and The Passing Show (1914). Other shows in New York included The Impostor(s) (1915), A Woman’s Honor and The Light That Failed (both 1916). In 1917 she played Teresa in the original London production of Frederick Lonsdale’s The Maid Of The Mountains (1917), with music by Harold Fraser-Simson. Collins introduced ‘Love Will Find A Way’ in the show, which ran for a staggering 1, 352 performances. Prior to the show’s London opening her mother’s third ex-husband, composer James W. Tate, contributed an additional song for Collins, ‘My Life Is Love’, and a duet she sang with Thorpe Bates, ‘A Paradise For Two’. After the end of World War I, Collins appeared in numerous shows and films in both the UK and the USA, among them Victory And Peace (1918), Nobody’s Child (1919), The Sword Of Damocles and A Southern Maid (both 1920), Sybil (1921), and that same year a revival of The Maid Of The Mountains, and Last Waltz (1922).
A measure of Collins’ popularity, as well as an indication that the shows in which she appeared were often less than adequate, can be inferred from her string of appearances in 1923 alone: The Velvet Woman, Shadow Of Death, Secret Mission, The Last Stake, Catherine, The Courage Of Despair and The Battle Of Love. Other shows of the 20s were Our Nell (1924) and Frasquita (1925). Collins’ star waned and she drifted into a round of revues, appearances in variety theatres and straight dramatic productions, including Facing The Music (1933). In later years, her personal life in disarray, she endured serious health and financial problems. In a church in London’s Covent Garden is a memorial to her, composed by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: ‘Sing again with your dear voice recalling a tone of some world far from ours. Where music and moonlight and feeling are one.’