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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Evelyn Laye born 10 July 1900

Evelyn Laye OBE (10 July 1900 – 17 February 1996) was a British actress and singer who had a career that nearly spanned 80 years. Between the two world wars Evelyn was London’s most successful star of stage musicals and operettas.  

Born Elsie Evelyn Lay in Bloomsbury, London, England, Laye made her first stage appearance in August 1915 at the Theatre Royal, Brighton as Nang-Ping in Mr. Wu, and her first London appearance at the East Ham Palace on 24 April, 1916, in the revue Honi Soit, in which she subsequently toured. She appeared in a minor role at The Gaiety Theatre in The Beauty Spot (1917), but the following year she achieved stardom in Going Up!, one of the first aviation musicals.

In 1920 she was Bessie Brent in a revival of the first Gaiety musical-comedy, The Shop Girl. Among her successes during the 1920s were Madame Pompadour (1923), The Dollar Princess and Lilac Time. She made her Broadway debut

in 1929 in Noel Coward's Bitter Sweet and became a favourite both sides of the Atlantic. 

In 1925 Laye fell in love with and married the light comedian Sonnie Hale, much against the wishes of her parents, who refused to attend her wedding or to give her a reception afterwards. Since she had never before been separated from them, her deep distress soon led to a reconciliation, but it may well have been the strain that this must have imposed on the marriage that led Hale to abandon her in 1928 for another emerging talent, Jessie Matthews. The break-up led to the greatest mistake of her career.  

Imported to Hollywood by producer Samuel Goldwyn in 1930, Evelyn Laye immediately laid an egg. It wasn't her fault, though; she was extremely pretty and competently sang "Along the Road of Dreams" but One Heavenly Night's libretto was totally manufactured and leading man John Boles stiff as a board. As a consequence of the operetta failure, Goldwyn refused to ever cast Laye, Boles, Lilyan Tashman, and even comedian Leon Errol in any future ventures. There would be several subsequent Hollywood films and she was back on Broadway in Sweet Aloes (1936) and Between the Devil but she was never as successful in America as in London's West End. 

On the outbreak of war, she immediately volunteered to sing for the troops, and, on the formation of Ensa, she was put in command of all entertainments for the Navy. She also did her last Cochran show, Lights Up, at the Savoy, as well as three musicals, all of which were adversely affected by the wartime bombing.

When the war finished, she made a success, even if it was not a smash hit, of the Yvonne Printemps roles in Oscar Straus's Three Waltzes (Prince's 1945), and, for the next nine years, developed her acting skills, largely in a series of touring versions of West End successes.

She acted several times opposite her second husband, the actor Frank Lawton, including in the 1956 sitcom My Husband and I. Her other stage successes included Silver Wedding (1957) with Lawton, and The Amorous Prawn (1959) and Phil the Fluter (1969). 

Awarded an OBE in 1973, Laye continued acting well into her nineties. One of her last appearances was in Sondheim's A Little Night Music in 1979.It was reported after Laye's death that Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother had planned to try to get her knighted (created a DBE) even though Laye was already in her 90s. 

Her acting career ranks as one of the longest in British theatre. During a tribute in 1992 at the London Palladium the actor Sir John Mills described her as "the fairest prima donna this side of heaven".

She died in London from respiratory failure at the age of 95.

(info various sources, mainly Wikipedia)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Evelyn Laye – Gaitey Girl” go here:

1. New Moon: Lover Come Back To Me
2. New Moon: One Kiss
3. New Moon: Wanting You
4. Madame Pompadour: Love Me Now
5. Blue Eyes: Do I Do Wrong?
6. Princess Charming: Near And Yet So Far
7. Princess Charming: Brave Hearts
8. Princess Charming: Love Is A Song
9. Princess Charming: The Princess's Awakening
10. The NIght Is Young: The NIght Is Young
11. The NIght Is Young: When I Grow Too Old To Dream
12. Paganini: My Nicolo
13. Paganini: Love Never Comes Too Late
14. Paganini: Nobody Could Love You More
15. Paganini: Love, Live Forever (And Rule My Heart)
16. Bitter Sweet: I'll See You Again
17. Bitter Sweet: Zigeuner
18. Lights Up: You've Done Something To My Heart
19. Lights Up: Let The People Sing
20. Lights Up: Only A Glass Of Champange
21. Three Waltzes: Forever