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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Olga Katzin

Although sometimes described as “the Russian writer and actress”, she was born Queenie Olga I. Katzin in Kilburn, London, on 9 July 1896. Her Russian heritage came from her father, Isaac Itzhak (John) Katzin, a laundryman born in Plungé, Lithuania. He was married in London in 1892 to London-born Matilda Maud Litoun, whose roots were in Czechoslovakia and London’s Jewish community. She was the second of seven children born between 1890 and 1907 and spent her childhood in Acton, London, and South Africa, to where her family emigrated in around 1902.

While her parents remained in South Africa, Olga came to England and studied drama at Miss Elsie Fogerty’s Royal Albert Hall School, passing her exams in 1916. She was elected a member of the Actors’ Association in September 1919. In 1920 she was in the chorus for Euripides at Chiswick and in a tour of various Greek plays in 1921 as part of the London Greek Play Company.

She and Berwick-born actor Hugh Lorimer Miller (1889-1976) were married in Paris on 18 July 1921 and put together the Katzin-Miller Repertory Company. During the autumn of 1921 they co-starred in a season at the Plymouth Repertory Theatre, beginning with As You Like It, with Katzin playing Rosalind. Other performances included plays by Shakespeare, Shaw and Goldsmith, ending in November with a performance as Lady Teazle in School For Scandal. In 1923 she was performing at a Shakespeare festival in Stratford-upon-Avon.

With her husband she travelled to America in 1925 and met with a good deal of success on the American stage. Olga began publishing poetry with Troubadours (1926), followed by A Little Pilgrim’s Peeps at Parnassus (1927), a rhymed review of verse from Druid to Drinkwater. On Broadway she performed in Pickwick and The Whispering Gallery and wrote and directed the comedy, The Novice and the Duke, performed in 1929-30. She also wrote at least two 3-act comedies, One Chaste Man (1929) and Au revoir, Madame (1930), the latter as A. Maury, although both plays may have remained unperformed. She was a regular reviewer for The Bookman in the early 1930s. At the time she was living with her husband and two children in Manhattan, New York.

Olga Katzin received praise as the faithless wife in Counsellor at Law by Elmer Rice at the Nottingham Theatre Royal and as the director of The Alchemist at the Embassy Theatre and Prince’s Theatre, both in 1935. She continued to write poems, some of which were broadcast on radio, in which medium she also performed (in, for example, The End of Her Honeymoon by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, 17 November 1936 and The Midnight Sun, or Beware of Poets by Théo Fleischman, 5 August 1938, both adapted by Lance Sieveking for North National). Rake’s Progress was broadcast on 26 April 1939, a play written by Katzin based on the life of John Wilkes. She also appeared on television, co-starring in The World of Women on 22 March 1937, in which she tried to forecast what life would be like 100 years hence, with artist Pearl Binder illustrating her verses live before the television cameras.

Her play Puck’s Post was broadcast on the Home Service on 23 June 1943 and again on 25 August 1943. Wrote the musical setting for The Midnight Murk around the same time. However, her main output was in humorous, sometimes scathingly political verse, which she contributed to Lilliput, Printer’s Pie and, for 20 years, to New Statesman. In the early 1950s she contributed verses to the first 15 issues of The London Mystery Magazine (1949-52).

Much of her work appeared as by ‘Sagittarius’, but she used a variety of names in different publications, including ‘Roger Service’ (Tribune), ‘Scorpio’ (Daily Herald), ‘Marcutio’ (Guardian, 1952-60) and ‘Fiddlestick’ (Time and Tide).

She died on 6 January 1987. She was survived by her three children,Sonya Lorimer Miller  (b. Richmond, Surrey, 1924), Gabriel Lorimer Miller (b. New York, 1928) and Jonathan A. Miller (b. Kensington, 1936).

Note: the photograph almost certainly relates to her appearance as Cleopatra at the Court Theatre in April 1922 in Arthur Symons’ play Cleopatra in Judea, which co-starred her husband, Hugh.


Troubadours. London, 1926.
A Little Pilgrim’s Peeps at Parnassus, illus. Arthur Watts (published anonymously). London, Holden, 1927.

Verse as Sagittarius
Sagittarius Rhyming. London, Jonathan Cape, 1940.
London Watches. London, Jonathan Cape, 1941.
Targets, with David George [i.e. Daniel George Bunting]. London, Jonathan Cape, 1943.
Quiver’s Choice. London, Jonathan Cape, 1945.
Let Cowards Flinch, illus. Vicky. London, Turnstile Press, 1947.
Pipes of Peace. London, Jonathan Cape, 1949.
Strasbourg Geese and other verses. London, Jonathan Cape, 1953.

Books as Sagittarius
Everybody’s Puzzles and Problems. London, Vawser & Wiles, 1944.
Everybody’s Self-Defence. London, Vawser & Wiles, 1944.
Amusing Card Games for One—Two—Three—Four or More Players. London, Featherstone Press, 1945.
The Fortune Teller’s Guide. London, Featherstone Press, 1945.
Up the Poll! The sap’s guide to the General Election, illus. Vicky. London, Turnstile Press, 1950.
The Perpetual Pessimest. An everlasting calendar of gloom and almanac of woe, with David George; illus. John Glashan.. London, Hutchinson, 1963. [[Pan X453, 1965]]

Puck’s Post. London, French’s Acting Edition, 1943.

(* The photo of Olga as Cleopatra was found here.)

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