In 1936, Hugh Wade worked on two projects  with the lyricist Edgar Blatt. One was the Revue , To and Fro (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/to-and-fro-1936-hugh-wade-and-the-perils-of-the-topical-revue/ ), and the other was a song for a film. The film was “The Tenth Man” directed by Brian Desmond Hurst from a play by Somerset Maugham. Wade and Blatt provided the song “Night Must Fall” which was sung by Dinah Miller.

Brian Desmond Hurst is something of a cult hero today. This is thanks largely to the quirky but fascinating 2005 biography of him by Christopher Robbins.

Born into a working-class Belfast family, Hurst (1895- 1986) was one of Belgravia’s last great Bohemians. His friends and neighbours included Moura Budberg, Elizabeth Welch and Hermione Gingold. An outrageous bon viveur, he was also a veteran of the Gallipoli campaign, his memoirs of which are just about the most harrowing account of war-time atrocities you will ever read.As a director, he is best remembered for Scrooge and The Malta Story although the list is a long and creditable one.

There is a website devoted to his career  here Brian Desmond Hurst.

Edgar Blatt is a less familiar name but, from what I can gather, of interest in his own right. His main musical partnerships appear to have been with Simon Carnes and Nat Ayer Jnr. I’ll do a separate post on Carnes, as he was a most singular character in a world not short of singularity. Nat Ayer Jnr. was the son of Nat D. Ayer, the composer and performer of “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” and “If You Were the Only Girl in the World“. Nat Jnr. lived most of his life in Pimlico, south London, and as a very old man was much sought after by popular music archivists as he was a mine of anecdote and information.

Blatt and Ayer provided the score for “Stop…Go”, a 1935 Charlot Revue starring Douglas Byng, for whom Hugh Wade also wrote, Dorothy Ward and the American film-star Mary Brian. Also in the cat were Richard “Stinker” Murdoch and Simon Carnes. Dorothy Ward deserves to be better-known. She was a Variety and pantomime stalwart for many years (more info here Dorothy Ward ). The playboy aviator, Jim Mollison, with whom Dorothy had a much-publicised affair (he was married to Amy Johnson) is exactly the type of chap Hugh Wade would have entertained at his Motor and Aviation club residencies. More on Jim Mollison here  Jim Mollison .

Dorothy Ward

Edgar Blatt was involved in a number of other revues including “All’s Well” co-written with Simon Carnes (again) and presented/produced by Gordon Harbord (the influential theatrical agent who re-named Diana Fluck as Diana Dors and Harry Skikne as Laurence Harvey). Edgar was throughout this period married to Corinna Vereker (Viscountess Gorst) and lived at the very upmarket address of 51 Sloane Gardens. Coincidentally, Corinna’s first husband was the governor of Malta during the period explored by Hurst in The Malta Story.

By 1939, Edgar seems to have tired of the theatre world and went to work for the BBC. During the War he was Transcription Manager for the overseas service, which puts him in the same department as Sunday Wilshin. Both appear in the correspondence of George Orwell. Blatt at this time became part of the Dover Castle regulars. The Dover Castle was the favoured watering-hole of a number of BBC executives, an erudite but rather hearty and sports-obsessed group. The most famous of the imbibers are Roy Plomley (Desert Island Discs) and Bob Danvers-Walker (the ultimate “Received English” voice of Pathe newsreels and innumerable radio broadcasts).

After the War, Blatt worked on the Dick Barton series – for radio and film – and was a founder member of the Lords’ Taverners. He appears to have emigrated to South Africa in the early fifties.

The fourth person connected to “Night Must Fall” is the lamentably neglected singer Dinah Miller. Described as a “rhythm singer”, of all the 1930s dance-band vocalists she was considered the one with the most authentic “Harlem” sound. Her story is remarkable – an Eastender, her mother was a black woman and she entered show-business as a tap-dancer before  becoming the favoured songstress for several of the leading “orchestras” of the period. She moved to Denmark in the 1930s and fronted a number of all-women jazz groups there after the War.

Dinah (Diana) Miller Group

There is more information here http://www.ciscohouston.com/docs/jcc/diana_miller.shtml

So, where is Hugh in all of this? There is no indication that he knew Brian Desmond Hurst, but given Hurst’s fondness for hosting parties,  their paths may well have crossed  – socially as well as professionally.

You don’t collaborate on ( at least) four songs without direct inter-action,  so at the minimum he  had a working relationship with Edgar Blatt. Blatt appears to have alternated between Nat Ayer and Hugh Wade to put music to his lyrics, depending on the required sound.

Singers and songwriters were not necessarily acquainted so I wouldn’t expect much connection with Dinah Miller. He was, though, enough of an aficianado to have been pleased by her recording of his composition.

To finish – a couple of examples of Dinah Miller’s “rhythm singing”

 

 

Advertisements