Saturday, 24 February 2018

Pat Kirkwood born 24 February 1921

Pat Kirkwood (24 February 1921 – 25 December 2007) was a British stage actress, singer and dancer who appeared in numerous performances of dramas, cabaret, revues, music hall, variety and pantomimes. She also performed on radio, television and films. She was the first woman to have her own television series on the BBC.
Patricia Kirkwood was born, the daughter of a shipping clerk, in Pendleton, about three miles from Manchester's city centre, in 1921. Whilst on holiday with her parents in the Isle of Man, she took part in a talent contest and as a result, was asked to sing on the BBC's Children's Hour. In 1936, she played variety at the Hippodrome, Salford where she was billed as "The Schoolgirl Songstress". The following year, she played Dandini in Cinderella in a West End pantomime.
Kirkwood's potential was obvious to all: she could act, dance and sing; she spoke well; and she had a gorgeous figure. She appeared with success in the films Save A Little Sunshine (1937) and Me And My Pal (1938) and made her first record, "Hurry Home".

Her first prominent role was in 1939, alongside George Formby in his horse-racing comedy Come On, George!  The comedy duo Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch were happy to allow Kirkwood to sing, look lovely and shine in their film of Band Waggon (1940). It led to her being described as Britain's Betty Grable but she hated references to her million-pound legs, "It did make me cross. They are simply things to walk around on. I never thought anything more of them than that."

 In 1939, Kirkwood opened to tremendous reviews in the revue Black Velvet at the London Hippodrome; in the show she introduced British audiences to Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs To Daddy She was the queen of a new universe in the London Palladium extravaganza Top Of The World in 1940, with Tommy Trinder and the Crazy Gang. Kirkwood worked hard during the war. She was involved in making films, records, personal appearances and with her own radio series, A Date With Pat Kirkwood. She also appeared before George VI at a Command Performance at Windsor Castle.


In 1944, she was offered a contract, allegedly worth 250,000, with MGM in Hollywood. She and her mother flew to America shortly after the war ended and she appeared alongside Van Johnson in the romantic No Leave, No Love, (1946) directed by Charles Martin. She sang three songs in the film including "Love on a Greyhound Bus". The poor reviews plus the strict diet and fitness regime of the studio led to a breakdown and an attempted suicide, and she returned home.
Kirkwood had a West End hit with Starlight Roof in 1947 and some record success with one of its songs, "Make Mine Allegro". She appeared in Coward's 1950 musical Ace Of Clubs, but it was an old-fashioned operetta that was lucky to make 250 performances. Encouraged by Coward, she also played a successful season at the Desert Inn, Las Vegas. She had further West End success in Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town (1955) with Shani Wallis and a musical comedy, Chrysanthemum (1958), which co-starred her then husband Hubert Gregg.
There was much unwanted publicity when it was suggested that Kirkwood had had an affair with the Duke of Edinburgh. She had met him in 1948 and reporters had seen them dancing and having breakfast. She totally denied any impropriety but said, "He was so full of life and energy. I suspect he felt trapped and rarely got a chance to be himself. I think I got off on the right foot because I made him laugh."

She became the first female to have her own television series with The Pat Kirkwood Show in 1954 and also appeared in various TV plays. In Our Marie (1953) she played the music hall star Marie Lloyd; she also appeared in Pygmalion (1956) and The Great Little Tilley (1956) as another music hall star, Vesta Tilley, which was directed by Hubert Gregg and subsequently became the film After The Ball (1957). In 1953, she was reunited with George Formby on the panel of What's My Line but was seen on screen feeding Formby questions to ask the contestants.
In the 1960s, Kirkwood and Gregg moved to Portugal and she told reporters, "I never play my old records or look at my cuttings. I've retired." She was to write her autobiography, The Time Of My Life, in 1999.

Kirkwood made several stage appearances in the 1970s, often in pantomime, and she had success in a revival of Pal Joey at the Edinburgh Festival in 1976 and touring in The Cabinet Minister with Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison in 1978. She married for the fourth time in 1981 to Peter Knight  and settled down to a life in Yorkshire. Occasionally, she performed her one woman show, An Evening With Pat Kirkwood, and appeared in revivals of Noël Coward and Cole Porter's works.

Her last public appearance was in Noel/Cole: Let's Do It at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1994. Earlier that year she had been a subject of This Is Your Life, when she was surprised by Michael Aspel at London's Prince of Wales Theatre.

Kirkwood was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. There was a family history of the disease as her mother Norah had suffered from the same illness. She died at Kitwood House nursing home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire on Christmas Day 2007, aged 86.

(Compiled and edited mainly from an article by Spencer Leigh for The Independent) 

Glamorous West End star of the 1940s and 1950s, Pat Kirkwood, also frequently lit up our TV screens. Here she is strutting her stuff on a live television performance of 5 March 1960.

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

The Unforgettable Pat Kirkwood

For CD 1 go here;

1. Just One of Those Things
2. Save a Little Sunshine (Feat. Dave Willis)
3. Dinah
4. Nobody's Sweetheart
5. My Heart Belongs to Daddy
6. Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love
7. The Only One Who's Difficult Is You
8. Heaven Will Be Heavenly
9. You've Done Something to My Heart
10. Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh!
11. Where Or When
12. This Can't Be Love
13. In the Mood
14. My Kind of Music
15. The Victory Roll
16. South American Way
17. Listen to Me
18. All the Time (Feat. Van Johnson)
19. Love On a Greyhound Bus
20. Isn't It Wonderful
21. Introduction and Violins in the Night (Chorus)
22. Make Mine Allegro
23. I'll Think It Over (Feat. Vic Oliver)
24. So Little Time
25. Hold It Joe (With Chorus)
26. Wild West End (Chorus)
27. Intro: Nothing Can Last for Ever (Orchestra)
28. I'd Never, Never Know
29. Why Does Love Get in the Way?
30. In a Boat On a Lake With My Darling (Feat. Graham Payn)
31. Sail Away (Feat. Graham Payn)
32. My Kind of Man
33. This Could be True (Feat. Graham Payn)
34. Josephine
35. My Kind of Man (reprise)
36. Chase Me Charlie

For CD 2 go here:

1. The Boy in the Gallery
2. Ohio (Feat. Shani Wallis)
3. One Hundred Easy Ways
4. Swing! (With Chorus)
5. The Wrong Note Rag (Feat. Shani Wallis & Chorus)
6. I'd Pick Piccadilly
7. Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? (With Chorus)
8. Stars in My Eyes
9. The Man That Wakes the Man That Blows Reveille
10. After the Ball
11. The Army of Today's All Right (With Chorus)

12. Jolly Good Luck to the Girl Who Loves a Soldier (With Chorus)
13. Is This Love? (Feat. Hubert Gregg)
14. Love Is a Game (Feat. Hubert Gregg)
15. Saturday Night (Feat. Chorus)
16. No More Love Songs
17. Shanghai Lil (Feat. Chorus)
18. On a Wonderful Day Like Today
19. What a Wonderful World
20. Guess Who I Saw Today?
21. (A) If Love Were All (B) I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All?
22. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
23. As Time Goes By
24. It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow
25. To Keep My Love Alive
26. London Pride
27. People
28. Farewell Speech of Vesta Tilley
29. You're the Top

This historic double CD released to mark the first anniversary of her death spans 56 years of her glittering career from her first film at the age of 17 to her last stage appearance in 1994. It features no fewer than 29 performances that have never previously been released on CD. These include a duet with her Hollywood co-star Van Johnson recordings she made in the United States which were never issued in Britain rare soundtrack footage from her 1950s screen musicals and five songs in live performance in 1993.