Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Jessie Matthews

Jessie Matthews, OBE (1907-1981) has a City of Westminster Council green commemorative plaque on the Blue Posts pub in Berwick Street, Soho, London, W1, where she was born into poverty. It describes her as 'Musical Comedy Star of Stage and Screen' . I like that. It states the truth.Indeed in the 1930s she was undoubtedly Britains most popular and biggest star. Having begun by understudying Gertrude Lawrence in Charlot's Revues in the USA, she got her chance when Gertrude fell ill and the public loved her. She introduced to the world such famous numbers as Noel Coward's 'A Room With A View' and Cole Porter's 'Let's Do It'. From the show 'Evergreen' she got her signature tune 'Over My Shoulder'.

Post WWII, she was less popular but she became Mrs Dale in 'Mrs Dale's Diary' a BBC radio 'soap' opera, in which she enjoyed considerable success. However, it is sad to think that our grandparents thought of her as the biggest musical comedy star and my generation remembers her for playing the part of a middle-aged matron. She continued to undertake stage work.

Her second marriage to Sonnie Hale caused a dent in her popularity for a while as she took him away from the popular Evelyn Laye.

Anyway, here she is:



And - eat your heart out, Ginger Rogers! In the USA Jessie was called 'The Dancing Divinity' and she was judged by many good judges to have been a better dancer than Ginger.


See those kicks:-


And, finally, what became her signature tune, from Evergreen (1934):


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