Friday, 28 October 2011


Although she was extremely stylish and could give the impression of a great beauty, Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952) was only just the right side of pretty and had nothing much more than a sweet voice. However, those who saw her on the stage said that she lit it up: a living example of 'It' in action. It doesn't really come across in the few films that she made and (The Band Wagon aside), a similar thing can be said of Jack Buchanan. They had a stage presence that was largely lost on celluloid. The affection in which she was held was so great that Noel Coward could not trust himself to attend her funeral.

Sheridan Morley, one of her biographers, shrewdly put her presence down to her compassion and, to my mind, in saying this, he half draws back the curtain on 'It'. I also think (and it has to come from sound recordings), that she had extraordinary senses of timing, irony and wry humour. The recordings show how she could bring her audience onto her side; see her point of view and like her. That George and Ira Gershwin wrote Someone To Watch Over Me for her also says something; not to mention all the Coward songs and plays, written for her to perform. Here she is singing it a year before she died.

Maybe I am just a sentimentalist - but I don't think that anyone could ever sing it better than she:

My favourite story about her is that, after she was bankrupted over her wildly extravagant spending habits, she bought a house in England but then went to live in America. Her agent asked her whether this was sensible. Her response was to ask him to look into the cost of installing a swimming pool.


  1. I have managed to comment using my account, by using Firefox instead of Google which, as ever, is waging a war with Yahoo. These people really don't care about the inconvenience to us as users.

  2. Loved the story about the house and the pool!
    Jeremy Hedges

  3. Thank you for introducing her to me! Already from the photos that are appended to the video one can intuit that she probably had something special about her- (charisma). It doesn't happen often but that song nearly made me romantically 'remember' a time that I have not experienced myself.