While performing with Dean Jagger and William Laveau in Alias Jimmy Valentine at Powers’ Theatre in January 1928 there was an incident where Lucille missed her cue to be in the safe for when the door was opened. William Laveau as Lee Randall alias Jimmy Valentine, and the audience was stunned, the safe door open and no Kitty Lane. Then to their surprise she appears, runs and jumps into William Laveau’s arms. The audience burst into laughter.
For years I had heard this story, always this way until I interviewed John Coffee in the early-1990s who played Bobby Lane, Kitty’s big brother. John Coffee goes on to tell me they were perched on the catwalk up near the dressing rooms playing grownup. Practicing kissing techniques, when Lucile heard her cue she flew down the spiral staircase to the stage below only to miss the opening of the safe door. As the audience was stunned that she was missing, she quickly appeared through the secret door and ran into the arms of Dean Jagger, the prison warden, instead of William Laveau, alias Jimmy Valentine. This comedy of errors caused the audience to roar with laughter.
“Talented Children with Wright Players, Powers.
Little Lucile Cunningham and young John Coffee, Jr., the two children appearing in Alias Jimmy Valentine with Wright Players this week conduct themselves like veteran actors.
The children have excellent diction, clear enunciation, a freedom of action and spontaneity which is delightful. They add a nice bit of freshness and novelty to the performance. It is an advantage to the stock company to be able to find child players so well equipped for stage appearance.
The role played by Lucile Cunningham is quite essential to the plot, as she becomes locked in the new safe in the bank, and this episode is important to the development of the plot and solution of the problem.”
— Grand Rapids Press, Thursday 26 January 1928
“Wright Players Revive Alias Jimmy Valentine.
… The climax comes in the scene in which little Kitty Lane, accidentally is locked in a bank’s vault and Jimmy must open the safe by the old crook methods, which will reveal his identity to Detective Doyle or must let the child die. It is a tense situation but the safe is opened, the child is saved and a happy conclusion is reached.
Two very clever child players, Lucile Cunningham as Kitty Lane and John Coffee, Jr., as Bobby Lane, give the audience a genuine surprise. They have remarkable poise, naturalness and spontaneity. The were trained in the Fealy school and play like experienced actors …”
— Grand Rapids Press, Monday 23 January 1928
“Jimmy Valentine is Certain to Please.
… The two kiddies, John Coffee, Jr., and Lucile Cunningham, are an outstanding feature in one scene where the boy plays the role of a banker who is approached by his sister acting the role of a person seeking a bank loan. Their work is delightful and wins much laughter and applause.”
— Grand Rapids Herald, Tuesday 24 January 1928
“Wright Players Score In Their Revival of Original Crook Play.
… Two fine child actors are offered in John Coffee, Jr. and Lucile Cunningham. These are talented youngsters.”
— Grand Rapids Herald, Monday 23 January 1928