Tag Archive: music


Time May Change

We left Hugh Wade enjoying a “hit record” in 1946  (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/let-it-be-soon/).

His life-style, in many ways, had resumed its pre-war pattern. He still lived in the heart of theatre and club-land. Between 1945 and 1948 his address was 80 Long Acre (before the war he had lived at 73 Jermyn Street).He continued to be involved with providing music for Pantomime and Revues and, although I can find no hard evidence, was almost certainly playing piano at late-night clubs. Although his health was fading, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1948, William Wade’s photographs suggest that he was, to the end, a recognised figure on the club circuit.

Around this time, he collaborated with the actor/producer Leigh Stafford in the musical comedy “Maid to Measure”. This provided him with his second post-war success. This show was intended to be a comeback vehicle for Jessie Matthews. Matthews had been the most glittering of pre-war British stars but her career had been disrupted by scandal and controversy (see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/evergreen-jessie-matthews-and-buddy-bradley/). She also had a reputation for unpredictability and suffered more than one breakdown.

The show was not the triumphant return its producer had hoped it would be. It opened in Edinburgh to mixed reviews, toured, was very well received at the King’s Theatre, Hammersmith but failed to take off at its most prestigious venue, the Cambridge Theatre. Its West End run was only 36 performances.Part of the problem was Jessie’s health but mostly it was the overall structure of the musical, whose flaws a strong cast (including a young Miriam Karlin) could not quite overcome. What was universally agreed was that the highlight of the show was a song, sung by Matthews, “Time May Change”. This was Hugh’s main contribution to the endeavour and, happily, took on a life of its own , becoming one of the major hits of 1948.

Early review of Maid to Measure

“Time May Change” is a trademark late Hugh Wade piece. Sentimental, wistful and with a distinctly nostalgic tone. The lyrics are functional, maudlin in print but effective when sung well, and the melody has an elegance to it,old-fashioned (even for the time) but full of emotion.

“Time may change the secret of the ocean

Time may change the language of devotion

Who knows what fate may have in store for us

Let’s make it more for us than ever before

Time may change the colour of the pages

Rearrange the tempo of the ages

These changing years may disappear from view

But time won’t change my love for you”

As with Hugh’s other compositions, some of the leading acts of the day recorded it. Again we see how the dance-band leaders from Elvira’s day – Ambrose, Geraldo, Joe Loss, Lou Preager – still held sway in post-war popular music.

Anne Shelton Jun-48 Decca F8898

Anne Shelton
Archie Lewis with The Geraldo Strings Jun-48 Parlophone F2294

Archie Lewis

Geraldo


Rita Williams Jul-48 Columbia FB3407

(Rita Williams sang with Lou Preager in the 1940s – she later formed the Rita Williams Singers who performed in innumerable variety shows on radio and TV in the 50s and 60s)

Lou Preager
Joe Loss and his Orchestra (Howard Jones) Aug-48 HMV BD6015

Joe Loss
Jack Simpson and his Sextet (Dave Kydd) Sep-48 Parlophone F2309

( Jack Simpson had been the drummer in Ambrose’s orchestra. A multi-instrumentalist, had he not concentrated, very lucratively is it happens, on the now despised xylophone he would be rememembered as the first great English jazz vibraphonist.)

Though I have a fondness for Simpson’s version, it is the recording by Archie Lewis that was the most popular and, in retrospect, the most significant. Lewis is a sadly neglected singer and deserves to be re-instated as one of the important black artists in the London musical landscape of the period. A baritone, he was known as “the Crosby of the Caribbean” or “the black Bing Crosby” and had a string of hits with a rather lugubrious take on a number of ballads that appealed to the immediate post-war audience. The best known and most typical is “In the Land of Beginning Again” which captured the mood of the time perfectly.

In many ways he represents the last in a line of sophisticated black cabaret artists that includes the BYP favourites Hutch and Turner Layton. “Time May Change” was tailor-made for him. However, it would have been Geraldo, a friend of Hugh’s, who would have chosen the song. That it was a sensible decision is evidenced by this early review in Gramophone,

“”Time May Change”, from ” Maid to Measure,” looks like becoming one of the hit tunes of the year, and Archie Lewis made a good choice in being among the first to record it. Full marks on all scores for this side.”

The song was indeed chart-bound, reaching number 4 (on sheet-music sales) and registering in the top twenty for 14 weeks. Sadly, by the end of its run on the Hit Parade Hugh was in steep physical decline.He was to have one more successful composition with “Souvenirs De Paris”, before his premature demise on the 10th of April 1949.

Here is a short clip from the end of Paul Rotha’s MOI film West Indies Calling (full version available on YouTube). The musicians backing Archie Lewis are some of the mainstays of the West End club scene and would have been familiar to Hugh and his associates.

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Jessie Matthews did not record Time may Change ,unfortunately. She has been treated rather harshly in some histories of popular culture and is yet another in need of a little revisionist appreciation. A useful site is this one – Jessie Matthews.

The Jack Jackson and Archie Lewis versions of TMC are available as downloads from Amazon etc.

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Anthony De Bosdari

Anthony De Bosdari and Babe Plunket-Greene feature prominently in the various anecdotes concerning “Bright Young People”. Both are seen as belonging to the disreputable end of the set and while this is not exactly untrue, they have, I think, been the victims of some rather unpleasant snobbery, then and now. Bosdari becomes “the bogus Sicilian Count” and Babe “the gold-digging daughter of a bookie”. As with others we have encountered, the truth is a little more complicated. It is also proving rather hard to unravel.

Tallulah Bankhead and Tony Bosdari

Tony Bosdari  (b 1899) was one of three brothers born to Maurizio De Bosardi. All three were entitled, apparently, to call themselves Count, which is, to say the least, confusing. Although much emphasis is put on their foreignness , Anthony was educated at Winchester and seems to have been the model English public schoolboy, winning prizes for Latin, editing the school magazine and, most importantly, excelling at cricket. He topped the batting averages in his final year in a side that included future England captain, Douglas Jardine (of “Bodyline” notoriety).

In the 1920s he became known as a man-about-town, a polo player of some repute and, take your pick, a “confidence trickster”,” a wheeler-dealer”, a “venture capitalist” or simply a “business man”. What is certain is that he worked for Brunswick’s UK branch and had a great impact on the “Bright Young People”, but not in the ways usually mentioned.

In 1926 he organised a demonstration of Brunswick’s “Panatrope” radio/gramophone ( fittingly,at the Cafe De Paris). This early “music centre” was considered a major leap forward in home sound-technology and was a key part of 1920s dance and cocktail party culture.

This from Gramophone, November 1926

“The Panatrope
The relationship of wireless and gramophone reproduction has decidedly taken a step into the limelight of the gramophile’s stage with the Panatrope. This American invention was described pretty fully a year ago (October, 1925, Vol. II., p. 226) under the heading “The Coming Revolution?” and though it has taken a good while to reach this country, there is no reason to doubt that it opens up all the vista of future development which was then indicated. The combination of wireless, films and gramophone in the home is now appreciably nearer, and though only wealthy modernists can take more than a detached interest in the matter for some time to come, the whole subject is one of vast interest to all speculative minds.

The Café de Paris

Our representatives had the privilege of attending the first demonstration of the Panatrope at a hmcheon given by the British Brunswick Co. at the Café de Paris on October 4th. Count Anthony de Bosdari, who introduced the Panatrope with a very clever speech, deprecated the idea that it was intended in any way to compete with the gramophone. He left it to the Daily Telegraph to call it a “super gramophone” ; in fact, he claimed nothing for it except what was abundantly justified by the subsequent records played upon it.
An American Report

A propos, one of our readers, Mrs. Caesar Misch, of Providence, Rhode Island, writes: “Last week I put a band record on the Panatrope, using the second stage of amplification. The windows of the music-room were open and I soon saw my chauffeur run to the front of the grounds, thinking a band was passing! The sound had to travel 125 feet back to the garage where he was working, and that through windows at the front of the house, and that with only the second stage. This seems to me a significant comment on the ‘real-ness’ of the reproductions.”

The tune is one of the hits from Blackbirds of 1928

At the same time Bosdari was putting jazz on the UK map. Said to be the “best dancer in London”, he was one of the first to pick up on Fred Elizalde’s Quinquaginta Varsity jazz band and persuaded the Savoy to book the young composer as resident band-leader – he then arranged for him to record  for Brunswick. Elizalde’s work is still considered the most sophisticated and jazz-oriented of UK dance bands of the era. (see Fred Elizalde)

Bosdari  also  secured Society favourites Bert Ambrose’s Mayfair Hotel Orchestra for Brunswick. He would also have had a say in Brunswick UK releasing “hot” music by the likes of Red Nichols, King Oliver and Irving Mills’  above-mentioned Hotsy-Totsy Gang. Therefore the Count played a significant part in providing the soundtrack for the jazz-mad party set of the period.

Just prior to this, he had been working in Selfridge’s marketing department ( he was a friend of fellow Wykehamist, Gordon Selfridge Junior). It was Bosdari who had introduced John Logie Baird to the store  in 1925, thus giving the public the first real viewings of “television”. The equipment was so provisional and ramshackle that it was not a great success but it does show a remarkable sense of foresight on Bosdari’s part. Bosdari obviously had a feeling for all things modern, he appears to have had dealings with the German film company UPA  and Klangfilm, pioneers of film sound equipment.

He must have continued his association with Selfridge’s too and appears to have tried to get Brian Howard a job there as a display designer (unsurprisingly, for Howard, nothing came of it).  Howard also mentions a company called First International Pictures, another Bosdari project, for whom he was to work on set design. I think this is First International Sound Pictures – but can find little information – again, nothing materialised.

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However these aspects of the Count’s career have been largely buried. It is as a playboy and in particular as the lover and fiance of Tallulah Bankhead that he lives in the history books.Bosdari’s engagements, affairs and (possible) marriages are not easy to follow. He was briefly engaged to the actress Enid Stamp Taylor in 1926, was even more briefly married to Josephine Fish, an American heiress, in 1928, and then  for six months until May 1929 was engaged to Tallulah. In 1931 a forthcoming marriage to the Duchess of Croy (formerly Helen Lewis, another American) was announced but whether it took place or not I can’t ascertain. Then, according to Bright Young People annals, he married Babe Plunket Greene.  Countess Marguerite Bosdari is, I presume ,Babe and is on the electoral role in 1932 but I can’t find much more as yet . With so many Counts and Countesses Bosdari (even Tallulah termed herself such for a while) it gets rather confusing

Countess Bosdari 1934 (is this Babe?)

Anthony De Bosardi seems to fade into obscurity (perhaps under something of a cloud) from the mid-1930s onwards. There is some useful material at this fascinating website Levantine Heritage but there are still plenty of questions remaining (as ever). Alec Waugh, who knew him well in the 1920s, says Bosdari was interned by the Germans in World War 2. The Levantine site suggests that he then lived in either North Africa or South America. He is an intriguing figure and I’m sure there is much more to unearth.

I’ll post next on Babe Plunkett-Greene, in many ways an equally puzzling character.

Let It Be Soon

In 1946 Hugh Wade  found himself with a hit on his hands. The tune was “Let It Be Soon (in the Sweet Bye and Bye)”. The music was Hugh’s and Dick Hurran provided the lyrics. Melody Maker ranked the tune as the 27th best-selling title of the year and it was on the charts for 14 weeks. As the song was only released in the latter half of the year this, in modern terms, means it was a top ten title and, possibly, at one point, the best-selling song of the week. Charts were relatively new and still (until 1950) based on sales of sheet music.

Increasingly though, records and airplay were becoming what mattered. Several leading acts of the day recorded versions. The earliest appears to be

Victor Silvester and his Ballroom Orchestra Aug-46  (Columbia FB3232)

This was, I presume, an instrumental version as there is no record that Silvester ever used vocalists. Silvester was the king of “strict-tempo” and in a very long career his instructional books (he had been a champion dancer in the 1920s) and phenomenal record sales (estimated at 75 million) pretty well shaped the whole “ballroom dancing” world. Although considered very “corny” by my generation, he used some of the best dance-band musicians and was in his own way a truly innovative figure. He used an unusual two-piano line up and “strict-tempo” is really the equivalent of BPM and hence, arguably, the original Disco sound – everything subsumed to the needs of the dancers. This, not unlike Disco, tended towards uniformity and eventually became somewhat anodyne and formulaic (“Slow, Slow Quick, Quick, Slow”). The public however could not get enough.

Then we get

Tessie O’Shea Sep-46  (Columbia DB2232)

Something of an “acquired” taste, O’Shea, who had begun as a Sophie Tucker copyist, was a top of the bill act in Blackpool and at the London Palladium and was later very successful in America. She was also a featured vocalist with Jack Hylton. She has some claim to be the last great “Music Hall” artist and certainly played up to that image on television and in the theatre. Americans thought of her as the epitome of Cockney cheerfulness – she was in fact born in Cardiff to Irish and Jewish/Italian parents.

It would appear that  her take on”Let It Be Soon” is what would now be considered a B Side, but this distinction was rarely made in the 1940s. Of the disc, Gramophone had this to say,

“Tessie O’Shea, who has given us so many happy hours in the radio programme, “Music Hall,” has recorded The ‘Ampstead Way from the new film “London Town,” and from all appearances this number has all the makings of another “Lambeth Walk.” It only needs someone to devise a special dance to fit the tune and =this when we see the film, we shall find that this has, in fact, been done. The coupling, Let it be Soon, is sung in the style which she has made so popular over the air, that is to say, a couple of vocal choruses and then a banjolele solo backed up by the orchestra—all very pleasing (Columbia DB2232).”

The CD compilation “Britain’s First Number Ones” (taken from Radio Luxemburg’s charts) opts for this version, which is rather more to my taste,

The Skyrockets Dance Orchestra cond. Paul Fenoulhet ( vocals Doreen Lundy) Oct-46  (HMV BD5945)

Doreen Lundy/Skyrockets

This band was  formed by Paul Fenhoulet when he was conductor of the Number One Balloon Barrage Centre Orchestra during the War. Wisely, a name change was shortly made and the Skyrockets became one of the two leading wartime outfits drawn from military personnel (the other was the Squadronaires). Doreen Lundy joined in 1944 and brought an Anne Shelton sound to the Skyrockets, whose repertoire consisted of uptempo swing numbers, novelty songs and sentimental ballads. Lundy is yet another forgotten name, but her style is very much of its historical moment and suitably evocative.

This brief profile of Doreen Lundy is from Don Wicks’ “The Ballad Years, a privately published discography that is much quoted on 50s music websites but seems a little hard to get hold of.

“She was born in Ireland on 4 November 1925 – came to England with her mother when she was eleven and settled in Pinner, Middlesex.  She grew up to become an attractive 5’3″ blue eyed brunette, and during the war she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.  Without any previous singing experience she persuaded, Paul Fenoulhet, the leader of the RAF Dance Band (aka The Skyrockets), to let her sing with the band.  Favourable audience response ensured a permanent place on the bandstand, and subsequently romance developed between Doreen and Paul – and they married on 28 March 1949.  Meanwhile she had been broadcasting and recording with the band regularly for HMV (in 1945, her first recording had been ‘Sentimental Journey’).  A couple of singles followed on the MGM label, and then in 1948 she joined Geraldo where further recordings were issued on Parlophone.  By 1949 she was freelancing, including a long residency at Ciro’s Club with Max Jaffa’s Band.  Recording, however tailed off.  One single with Peter Yorke on Columbia, one with Eddie Calvert on Melodisc, and finally a brief return in 1955 with a 78 on Oriole.  By the late 1950s, Doreen had scaled down her workload but still played the occasional week in variety, but thereafter the trail goes cold – so one assumes that she retired at that point”

Note the Geraldo connection and the residency at Ciro’s.

The 1946 line-up of the Skyrockets was as following

Saxophones: IZZY DUMAN, BILL APPS, PAT SMUTS, NORMAN IMPEY, MAX PHILLIPS.
Trombones: GEORGE ROWE, DON McCAFFER, ARTHUR VERREY, FRANK OSBORNE.
Trumpets: CHICK SMITH, LES LAMBERT, RON PRIEST, BILLY RIDDICK.
Violins: LEW WHITESON, JACK SMALLMAN, SID WILLIAMS, MARK SHANE, SID MARKS, BILLY SHULMAN, LEN LEE.
Piano: PAT DODD.
Bass: JOCK REID.
Harp: ARTHUR RAWSON.
Drums: GEORGE FIERSTONE.

( this is taken from April 1946 programme for “Hightime” – a show which featured Tessie O’Shea singing a Dick Hurran lyric)

Most of these musicians were veterans of the pre-War, West End danceband scene and would have been well-known to Hugh. Impey had played with Hutch, others with Debroy Somers and Tommy Kinsman, whose paths we have crossed before. George Fierstone, another with a long career, was an important tutor to several Modern Jazz drummers, including Martin Drew.Fenhoulet himself was a multi-instrumentalist (trombone, trumpet, French horn) and arranger who  had worked with Jack Hylton and then Carroll Gibbons throughout the 1930s. These characters were the engine-room of British popular music, mostly starting off as 1920s jazz enthusiasts but working mainly in “Light Entertainment” as that was where a living could be made. The Skyrockets became the “house band” at the London Palladium while Fenhoulet ended up leading the BBC Radio Orchestra.

The comedian, club-owner and “radio personality” Charlie Chester added his effort to the list.
‘Cheerful’ Charlie Chester and his Gang Nov-46  (Decca F8701)

The “Stand Easy” orchestra is a reference to Charlie Chester’s radio programme, one of the most popular of the period and which became, with only minor adaptations, one of the first post-war television programmes to have a real impact on the public, running, as “The Charlie Chester Show”, from 1949 to 1961. It introduced the public to Derek Guyler, for which I am grateful, and the cash-prize quiz, about which I am more ambivalent.

The acts so far mentioned, illustrate the extent to which Hugh Wade was operating very much within the mainstream of English popular culture, as a composer at least. Hugh’s world may have been a mixture of Soho and Chelsea, but it was the Soho of Denman Street music publishers and Archer Street musicians that dominated his professional life. To me this makes him a more substantial (and complex) person than the best-known accounts might suggest.

The next recording of “Let It Be Soon” is in many ways the most interesting, as it both harks back to an earlier era but takes us forward to the next generation.

Ted Heath and his Music (vocals Paul Carpenter) Jan-47  (Decca F8717)

Ted Heath/Paul Carpenter

Ted Heath, who had served his apprenticeship with the likes of Bert Firman, Jack Hylton and Ambrose (Elvira would have heard him at the Mayfair Hotel) , led the most successful of the post-war big bands. As a trombonist he was one of the more technically gifted of British dance-band soloists, learning much off visiting American musicians. From Bert Ambrose he learnt how to be a band leader – basically, employ the best ( jazz oriented) musicians but cater to the audience’s taste. As a result he dominated British popular music from the end of the War to the arrival of Rock and Roll.

Ted Heath Band 1945

The band for the “Let It Be Soon” session was,  in all likelihood, “Kenny Baker, Stan Roderick, Harry Letham, Alan Franks (tp), Harry Roche, Lad Busby, Jack Bentley, Jimmy Coombes (tb), Les Gilbert, Reg Owen, (as), Johnny Gray, Ronnie Scott (ts), Dave Shand (bs), Norman Stenfalt (p), Dave Goldberg (g), Charlie Short (b), Jack Parnell (d), Paul Carpenter (vcl).”

Some names stand out here. Kenny Baker is generally considered the best British jazz trumpeter of his era (and beyond); fans of 60s cinematic and “Lounge” music will affectionately recallHarry Roche (“Constellation”); Jack Parnell (nephew of Palladium legend,Val) was the most versatile and in-demand of drummers but is best-remembered as 1960s ATV musical director (think Golden Shot or The Benny Hill Show); and then there is Ronnie Scott, the godfather of British jazz modernism. It’s a classy line-up.


The vocalist, the Canadian Paul Carpenter, was the nearest thing to the sound of Frank Sinatra that late 40s English audiences could hear live. As such, he was very popular, with the young female audience particularly. He turned his attention to  TV and cinema in the 1950s and appears in the so bad it’s good “Fire Maidens from Outer Space”, along with some more worthy (but never more than workman-like) productions. There are some strange rumours about him – something of a hell-raiser apparently – and if anyone knows more, do let me know. He died in 1964, aged only 42.

Paul Carpenter

The lyrics to “Let It Be Soon” were by Dick (Dickie)  Hurran, who worked closely with people such as Bernard Delfont and Val Parnell as a production manager, as well as doing the odd bit of song-writing. An archetypal “showbiz” figure he helped launch Norman Wisdom’s career in the revue “Paris to Piccadilly” – a very “naughty” show in its day( see Paris to Piccadilly ). In the 1960s he was the main promoter of variety packages in Blackpool and in the 70s he was a judge on “New Faces”. It’s a long road from Chelsea parties to the Chuckle Brothers, but there you go.

OK – so much for the trawl around the highways and byways of the music business, what about the song itself? As with all Hugh Wade compositions, the melodic line is strong and the mood appropriate. Stylistically, everything is as it should but there is little in the way of experimentation.  Hugh’s compositions were tailored very much for the target audience, he had plenty of scope to express his individualism and keyboard virtuosity in his night-club act.

The lyrics are sentimental, bordering in places on the morbid, and could be dismissed as trite (Hurran was no Cole Porter)  if not for the historical context. The latter end of the War and the immediate post-war period saw a great demand for songs that expressed regret and loss as well as a hope for a new start. “In the Land of Beginning Again” or”Sentimental Journey” are good examples. The tone is melancholy, maudlin by modern standards, but it tapped into the psyche of a generation that had either lost its loved ones or had undergone long periods of enforced separation.  There is a fair amount of what we might now call “intertextuality” –  “don’t know where, don’t know when, let it be soon”, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye” etc. – and the whole composition exudes the atmosphere of late 1940s England.

It is for these reasons that the Imperial War Museum keeps a copy of the sheet music in its archives. That, in itself, is something not to be sneered at. If they were to hold a recorded version I would suggest the Doreen Lundy one as the most apt.

What Hugh Wade thought of it, we don’t know. At the very least , it reconnected him to a pre-war bunch of musicians he would have respected. I suspect he was quite pleased at its success and not a little proud to be making music that resonated with a public, most of whom would have had no inkling of the ups-and-downs of folk like Elizabeth Ponsonby or Elvira Barney.

I936 – Hugh Wade and Edgar Blatt

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”

 

 

Here are the details (swiped from http://users.bestweb.net/~foosie/cyril.htm) of the programme for the revue TO AND FRO – which opened at the Comedy Theatre and ran from November 26th to December 12th 1936. It was devised and largely written by Simon Carnes and Edgar Blatt. The ballet pieces were choreographed by Antony Tudor. The set designs were probably by Carnes but may have been by Sophie Fedorovitch as she was a close friend of Carnes (who is better known as Simon Fleet). Hugh Wade contributed the music to four songs, the most significant being “Haven’t Got A Heart”. This was sung by Hermione Baddeley and written by James Laver ( see https://elvirabarney.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/james-laver-iconographer/). It was the lament of a Bright Young Thing of 1926 – ten years on.

Hermione Baddeley in “To and Fro”

I will post separately on some of the cast as there are names here that should resonate more than they currently do. As an art form,the Revue, with its mixture of ballet, classical music, popular song and satire remains one of the most characteristic (and under-examined) aspects of inter-War West End culture. I would like to explore that further at some stage.

Lord Berners

For the time-being, note the presence of Lord Berners and Osbert Sitwell, the dancers Maude Lloyd and Hugh Laing, alongside stage and film stars such as Hermione Baddeley and Esme Percy.  Hugh Wade’s participation runs counter to the image of him as completely marginal to the creative and culturally productive aspects of 1930s stage and theatrical life.

Antony Tudor and Hugh Laing ( by Carl Van Vechten 1940)

With such an array of talent, you may wonder why the show was so short-lived. Unfortunately, the running joke that linked the various songs and sketches was the affair between Edward the Eighth and Wallis Simpson. With Edward’s abdication on the 11th of December the project was doomed.

Finally, I can’t help wondering about the running time of these revues. There are 44 separate items plus an interval. The opening night show, and I think most of the subsequent ones, started at midnight. If you throw in an after-show drink at the Florida or the 400, it is no wonder so many reminiscences of the period recall returning home after the dawn.

Title Authors Roles Performers
Out of the Cage Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr.
Jeunesses D’Orees Diana Morrison, Joan Griffiths, Peggy Shingleton, Pat Hurren, Cyril Wells, Bobby Tranter, Peter Moyes
Fantasies Towina Thomas, Sammy Samuels, Ella Marion, Trixie Scales, Mercy Carnell, Eva Thorn, Maisie Green, Betty Shepard, Biergit Nissen
By Day Animals–By Night Humans Hermione Baddeley, Cyril Ritchard, Esme Percy,  Viola Tree, Gerry Fitzgerald, Yvette Darnac, Maude Lloyd, Hugh Laing, Zoe Winn, Bill Kershaw and Entire Company
To and Fro Lyrics by Edgar Blatt; music by nat Ayer, Jr. The Entire Company; danced by Bobby Tranter and Cyril Wells
The Gallery Lyric by Simon Carnes; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. A Social Artist Billy Kershaw
Typist Trixie Scales
Shop Girl Towina Thomas
Titled Lady Diana Morrison
Boy About Town Peter Moyes
The Camera Never Lies Simon Carnes Compere Cyril Ritchard
a Joan Griffiths, Peggy Shingleton, Pat Hurren, Peter Moyes, Ian Hamilton-Smith  
b Cyril Ritchard
c Viola Tree
Je T’aime (after Watteau) Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Hugh Wade Yvette Darnac
At Any Dance Arthur Watkyns The Girl Hermione Baddeley
The Boy Cyril Wells
Caledonian Market Lyric by Simon Carnes; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Viola Tree, Cyril Ritchard
A French Lesson Aubrey Ensor Professor Esme Percy
Mother Diana Morrison
Daughter Pat Hurren
Father Cyril Wells
Maid Peggy Shingleton
Grandfather Peter Moyes
Waiting for Twilight to Fall Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Sung by Gerry Fitzgerald
Ballerina Maude Lloyd
Peggy Shingleton, Joan Griffith, Cyril Wells, Peter Moyes, Ian Hamilton-Smith and The Girls
Learning Dramatic Art Simon Carnes & Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Compere Viola Tree
Hermione Baddeley, Cyril Ritchard
Goodbye Romance Simon Carnes; lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Hugh Wade The Girl Hermione Baddeley
The Professor Esme Percy
Play Like I Like It Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Zoe Wynn, Cyril Wells, Bobby Tranter
Literary Widows Herbert Farjeon; music by Walter Leigh Viola Tree, Yvette Darnac, Hermione Baddeley
Wreckage Edgar Blatt She Zoe Wynn
He Cyril Ritchard
Artists’ Model Yates Mason; music by Geoffrey Wright Hermione Baddeley
Prelude Lord Berners She Maud Lloyd
He Hugh Laing
Duchesses The Girls
Art Knows No Nationality Osbert Sitwell The Impresario Esme Percy
The Artist Viola Tree
Haven’t Got a Heart Lyric by James Laver; music by Hugh Wade Hermione Baddeley
Political Hot-Pot Simon Carnes
Celebrated Empires Egypt Peggy Shingleton
Greece Joan Griffiths
China Diana Morrison
Rome Pat Hurren
Commissionaire Bobby Tranter
Pine for Peace The Boy Peter Moyes
The Girl Zoe Wynn
Old Tree Esme Percy
Young Tree Cyril Wells
Selling the Earth The Auctioneer Gerry Fitzgerald
A Foreign Lady Diana Morrison
A Bidder Alan Davis
On the Battlefield, tra-la Simon Carnes & Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. 1st General Esme Percy
2nd General Cyril Ritchard
Referee Billy Kershaw
Followers Cyril Wells, Bobby Tranter, Peter Moyes, Ian Hamilton-Smith
Russiska Yvette Darnac
Vivandieres Zoe Wynn, Towina Thomas
A Milk Maid Hermione Baddeley
A Crooner Gerry Fitzgerald
International Rhythm Lyric by Eric Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Gerry Fitzgerald and Entire Company

Interval

I’m Going to Challenge You Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Zoe Wynn, Peggy Shingleton, Joan Griffiths, Diana Morrison and the Girls
I’ve Balanced My Budget Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by nat Ayer, Jr. Billy Kershaw
The Party Spirit Edgar Blatt & J.M. Griffith Hilda Higgins Viola Tree
Alfred Higgins Cyril Ritchard
Ernest Hermione Baddeley
I’m On My Own Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Yvette Darnac
Dancers: Maude Lloyd, Hugh Laing and The Girls
Ridiculous Days Simon Carnes Mr. Biggleswade Esme Percy
Mrs. Biggleswade Viola Tree
The Big Black Horse Lyrics by Edgar Blatt & Simon Carnes; music by Leslie Southgate The Girl and Chatterton Hermione Baddeley
The Landlady of To-day Pat Hurren
The Landlady of Yesterday Viola Tree
Sir Horace Walpole Esme Percy
Member of the Book Society Cyril Ritchard
Song of the Book Society Herbert Farjeon Hermione Baddeley, Cyril Ritchard, Esme Percy, Viola Tree, Pat Hurren
Reprise–Play Like I Like It
Surrealists Archie Campbell in conjunction with Simon Carnes & Edgar Blatt The Mother Viola Tree
A Person Ian Hamilton-Smith
An Artist Cyril Wells
The Daughter Hermione Baddeley
A Thing Bobby Tranter
Symphonie Russe Music by Prokokief; suggested by Sophie Fedorovitch Maud Lloyd, Hugh Laing and The Girls
Entrancing Dancing Simon Carnes; music by Leonard Blackett The Maestro Esme Percy
The Woman of the Plains Cyril Ritchard
The Sower Cyril Wells
Let’s Take A Chance Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Hugh Wade Gerry Fitzgerald, Zoe Wynn, Billy Kershaw, Trixie Scales, Bobby Tranter, Towina Thomas
Something in the Movies Lyric by Gerrard Bryan; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Cyril Ritchard
Girl Guides Aubrey Ensor; music by Michael Sayer Miss Simpson Viola Tree
Daphne Davies Hermione Baddeley
The Bishop Osbert Sitwell Esme Percy
Compere Cyril Ritchard
Flats Simon Carnes & Viola Tree
The Bells Will Ring Lyric by Edgar Blatt; music by Nat Ayer, Jr. Cyril Ritchard, Zoe Wynn, Towina Thomas and Entire Company