Angela Ryder - A Scrapbook

Born in Sheffield, and having danced from the age of four,  Angela  left school at sixteen, becoming one of the “Bluebell Girls” . She enjoyed a career that saw her perform in five West End Musicals, in Summer Seasons, television and pantomime.

During her career Angela appeared with Xavier Cougat and his orchestra in South America, toured in a double act in that continent for a year and a half, performed cabaret in India, Spain, fortunately she speaks four languages- and in numerous clubs in London’s West End. In Variety she worked alongside -and frequently acted as stooge- to comedians such as Dave King, Bob Monkhouse, Benny Hill, Mike and Bernie Winters and Albert Modley.

In Pantomime Angela worked with 60’s pop idol Billy Fury, Jean Bayless, Vic Oliver, Al Read and Lauri Lupino Lane among others. These are just a few items from her scrapbooks. I persuaded Angela that I’d like to share them on this site, and even though I’ve known this lovely lady for a good few years , it was a revelation to see some of the shows she’s been involved with, and the people she has worked alongside.

Puss In Boots 1954

Angela’s first job, as many dancer singers find today was in panto. At the age of sixteen she joined the chorus of  Puss In Boots” at The Theatre Royal Birmingham in 1954. Although her first professional job she understudied the Principal Boy.

Angela in 1954

This panto starred Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warris. They played Gilbert & Gussie the Miller’s sons. Their Brother, Colin was the Principal Boy played by Fay Lenore.

Jewell and Warris

Jewel & Warris  like Angela were born in Sheffield. They were the most famous double act of the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and were cousins. Jimmy’s Father had been a well known comedian and a set builder. He built many of Jimmy and Ben’s props and sets including their “Haunted Bedroom” scenery which was salvaged a few years back, having been discovered in a hall in East London, and is now at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford.

Jewel and Warris had been established since the mid 1930’s and together appeared in seven Royal Command performances, Summer Seasons and in Films. Their Radio Series “Up The Pole” ran from 1947 to 1952 making them the highest paid double act of their day.

The Royal in Birmingham seated 2,200 so the management, Tom Arnold and Emile Littler had no problems in meeting their salary! They remained together until 1966 when they went separate ways. Jimmy went on to achieve success in a TV series with Hylda Baker (they did not see eye to eye, and this came to the boil in Summer Seasons together where they failed to agree on billing). Jimmy went on to appear as an actor in plays and television- “Funny Man” was one of his big successes, and in films and the National Theatre. Jimmy did in 1995 having made a lot of money, and his cousin Ben died virtually penniless two years before.

Angela’s scrapbook shows a few production shots of Jimmy and Ben making their entrance, and one atmospheric photograph taken backstage in the chorus dressing room. Today you’d be lucky to see six girls in a pantomime chorus, but in 1954 the room is bursting to the seams!

“Puss In Boots” also featured veteran Dame Fred Kitchen as The Queen.

Fred Kitchen (Jnr) was the son of the famous Fred Kitchen who gave Charlie Chaplin a start in the business, teaching him a lot of his comic technique . Fred’s Father was one of Fred Karno’s leading comedians, and introduced the walk that was later to be Chaplin’s trademark in silent film. His son Fred appeared in this pantomime, and had a career on television through the next decade. He starred in “Theatre Royal” a TV Series and appeared the following year in the Norman Wisdom film “One Good Turn”.

“Puss In Boots” cast also included Ally Alberta in the role of “Puss” who transforms into “Puss In Boots” played by Nanette Dubray.  Ena Baguley was The Cat Queen, a balletic role.

Ena Baguley and June Rose

Fay Lenore who played Colin was an English born performer who was very popular in Scotland. She appeared as “boy” in the Scottish pantomime “A Wish For Jamie” and was a regular in the Howard & Wyndham “Five Past Eight” shows. Angela was very shortly to appear in these H&W productions in both Edinburgh and in Aberdeen.

Five Past Eight 1955

Angela spent the Summer Season in Scotland joining the popular revues “Five Past Eight” at the King’s Edinburgh – the revues changed on a Friday, and were swift and fast moving. The choreography was by Cherry Willoughby- Cherry provided the Dancers and choreographed the Grand Theatre Swansea pantomimes every year from 1964 for nineteen years!

The stars of Howard & Wyndhams “Five Past Eight” shows this season were Stanley Baxter and Harry Gordon. Stanley Baxter of course being one of the top pantomime Dames in the country, and famous for his television spectaculars between 1973 and 1886 in which he played most of the roles from a village postmistress to The Queen!

Stanley Baxter and Harry Gordon

Interestingly one review of the show in 1955 warned him “Don’t Stanley dress up as women too often. They’re good these acts, of course- but we’d rather see you as Mrs Thingummy-bob’s little boy, or the furniture man. Don’t try to be suave and polished- London audiences of course would love it, but until then Stanley, please stay our old Batty Baxter”

Harry Gordon , like Stanley, specialised in “character studies”, and was said to possess one of the largest collections of sketches and gags in the country. When Angela appeared with him he was sixty two, and had been Principal Comic for the Julian Wylie Pantomimes since 1929. While Stanley Baxter was a rising star aged twenty-nine, it was Gordon who was the Scots legend at this moment in time.

The revues also featured Hope Jackman and Phyllis Holden.

Phyllis Holden

Old King Cole 1955

In December of 1955 Angela returned to the Theatre Royal Birmingham for the pantomime “Old King Cole”. It was the last time she would appear there- the theatre only had a short while left before it closed it doors forever.

This panto was to be the last seen at the historic “Royal” in New Street Birmingham- after fifty years of pantomime it closed its doors in December 1956 and was demolished a year later.

The star of the show was Vic Oliver. At 56 he was at the height of his career having started as a classical musician and conductor in the 1920’s and switching to variety and becoming a comedian. His speciality in variety was his violin, hence the “King Cole” connection with his “Fiddlers Three”.

Born in Vienna, Vic Oliver starred in several West End successes at the Hippodrome and the Coliseum, and had his own Radio series in which he acted as both conductor and comedian. Victor Borge was greatly influenced by him.

In 1942 Vic Oliver was the first “castaway” to appear on “Desert Island Discs”.

He appeared in the Royal Variety Performance in 1945 and in 1948 starred in “Starlight Roof” at the London Hippodrome. This was the show that introduced the young Julie Andrews to London audiences. That same year he made his Panto debut in Emile Littlers “Humpty Dumpty” at the London Casino. (Now the Prince Edward).

By the time Angela was working with him, in 1955 Vic Oliver had divorced his actress wife, Sarah ten years previously. Sarah Churchill was the daughter of Winston Churchill, and met Oliver when he starred in “Follow The Sun” a revue. They married in 1936. Winston Churchill did not approve of his son-in-law, and in fact despised him. Sarah, an actress appeared in several films and stage plays with her husband.

In this panto Oliver appeared in a Haunted bedroom scene, played his violin and performed a piano speciality with Ultra Violet scenery and costumes. He played a dual role- that of Merry King Cole and his identical but wicked Brother, Rollo.

The Principal boy, a Gypsy boy called Nemo, was played by Sylvia Campbell, and Princess Melissa by Beryl Foley. With Vanda Vale as Fairy. Margot Field was the Gypsy Queen with Ernie Brooks as Jester. Also in the show were the speciality act Rayros Trio and Shirley Holmes.

The Dame- Aggie was played by Harry Shiels..Born in Edgbaston, Birmingham he was a local lad and the son of a Music Hall comedian of the same name. “Dame” Harry made his first appearance in 1928 at the Aston Hippodrome, and appeared often in his Father’s touring sketch revue “Everyday Life”. His billing in variety was “The Minister Of Enjoyment”. He was fifty years old in this production.

Mary Forbes was playing a Lady In Waiting  and doubling as Princess Mary. A week into the run Angela was asked to take over the two roles, and stepped out of the chorus and in to a principal part and also understudying The Fairy.

Variety and Summer Season

The 1950’s and ‘60’s were a time when foreign holidays and trips abroad were few and far between. The Great British public did what the Government today seem keen for us all to do- they stayed and played at home! While the likes of Stephen Fry and Julie Walters are on television adverts showing the delights of the Lake District or Bridlington, in the late 1950’s the public needed no such enticement. Holidays were spent at Scarborough, Whitby, Morecambe and most especially Blackpool!

When I began doing Summer Season in the mis to late 1970’s the death knell was already sounding. Britons were off to Spain and the sunnier climes when I did my Summer seasons (30 weeks often) in Scarborough, Filey and Rhyl.

                                                A co-incidence

I’ve known Angela for many years, but never had the pleasure of working alongside her. We did share a few friends and business associates in common without realising it though. Only when I was looking through the scrapbooks did I spot the name William Dickie in a programme for a summer season at Eastbourne that Angela was in.

Bill Dickie was Principal Baritone at Covent Garden Opera House, and at the Vienna State Opera and Sadlers Wells, and his Brother Murray Dickie was at La Scala Milan.

Bill Dickie appeared in variety and pantomime up until the time he became an Operatic Baritone in the great Opera Houses, and then returned to his roots to become a variety agent, joining Richard Stone in his agency.

It was Bill Dickie who got Angela a Summer Season job in the 1972 in a show presented by his great friend Paul Elliott-  “The Pig And Whistle” revue in Margate, and it was Bill Dickie who got me my Summer Season in Scarborough and Filey  in 1978. When Angela worked with Bill in Pantomime the Musical Director was Mary Dickie- Bill’s wife, and both Mary and her talented daughter Paddy Dickie costumed the summer show I did.

Paddy Dickie was to become the top pantomime costumier. She became the first choice of Dames such as Terry Scott, Stanley Baxter and Billy Dainty when it came to translating the designs of Terry Parsons into magical costumes. Bill, Mary and Paddy are all very sadly missed in this business.

George & Alfred Black’s “Summer Showboat” 1956

Angela joined this summer season company at the Palace Theatre Blackpool. By this time she was Head Girl,aged 17  and in charge of the large chorus, as well as taking part in sketches and routines. The headliner for this show was the hugely popular veteran comic Albert Modley.

Albert Modley was always billed as  “Lancashire’s favourite Yorkshireman”, and made famous his catchphrase “Eeeh, intit grand when you’re daft?” He was daft- gloriously daft, and was one of the most popular radio comedians of the time. He appeared in variety and in films during this period- titles like “Up For The Cup”, “Take Me To Paris” and “Bob’s Your Uncle”. He was a true comedians comedian, a close rival to Frank Randle.

Albert was for many years the star of the Bradford Alhambra Pantomimes (see our article on Francis Laidler) as well as countless radio shows. His famous story of the night he appeared in front of Royalty is true. Apparently the Opera House Blackpool at that time didn’t have a Royal Box. Just two blank walls. A Royal Box was built on one side, with an unoccupied one the other side. All the artistes made their formal bows to the Royal box. Not Albert.

“So the Queen and Duke were in this box and there’s another box at the other side of the theatre, built to balance things, and everyone comes on and bows to Her Majesty, but I don’t.I bows to the wrong box, and then I look up and say, Have they gone? “

Here is a sample of one of the great man’s gags:

http://www.turnipnet.com/whirligig/radio/vbb.htm

This photograph show Angela Ryder and the chorus with him onstage at Blackpool.

Also on the bill was “Lancashire’s own” Edna Savage, and a (then) lesser known comedy double act, in the mould of Jewel and Warris called Mike and Bernie Winters. Pip Hinton, later to present BBC’s “Crackerjack” was soubrette. “Paulette and her Trained Poodle, Renee” was a speciality. You don’t get many of those acts today!

Mike and Bernie Winters

On the subject of animal acts,  Barbara Newman appeared in sketches and routines.

Barbara Newman

Barbara Newman is forever in the Panto Hall Of Fame as being one of  the two principal “skin artistes” to play Goose in all the major theatres. Barbara, along with Kaye Lyle were both known as “The Goose Lady” and were employed every panto season in “Mother Goose”.

That season Angela and the other girls were earning about £7 to £8 a week for the Summer Season. Fortunately for Angela she was chosen along with other dancers from this show and other Blackpool shows to take on an extra job.

Angela

“Sunday Night At Blackpool” was on Television live every week, as it had been at the London Palladium, and Tommy Trinder brought the popular game “Beat The Clock” to the stage every Sunday.

Television, as it always has done pays higher wages than theatre, so Angela got paid £11.11s for each Sunday night- bringing her weekly wage to nearly £20! A princely sum in 1956.

At one point Angela won a lot more than that- one evening when her Parents and Brother Peter were in to see the Sunday show the jackpot had risen to £1,200 for “Beat The Clock”. All the contestants from the audience failed in the game, so it was thrown open to the cast! Angela stepped forward and managed to bat the ball into the basket enough times to win the jackpot. By prior consent the money went to charity, and she was presented with a portable radio!

Stars of the televised Sunday show included Ronnie Caroll, Hylda Baker, Frankie Vaughan, Alma Cogan and Eve Boswell. Angela kept one night’s Television running order in her scrapbook. Timed to the second!

The London Hippodrome 1956

Later in 1956 Angela didn’t do Pantomime, she was appearing in the West End for the first time at The London Hippodrome. This theatre in Leicester Square is currently being restored, but has had a  fascinating past life.

Originally built in 1900 it saw Charlie Chaplin’s early appearances alongside Music Hall star Little Tich. By 1909 the famous architect Matcham rebuilt the theatre and it became home to major musicals and revue. Julie Andrews made her West End debut here.

Between 1949 and 1951 the Hippodrome was the home of sequins and feathers- London’s version of The Folies Bergere, and when Angela arrived here to appear in The Dave King show in 1956 its life as a theatre complete with auditorium and proscenium arch  had only two years to run.

In 1958 the beautiful Matcham interior was partially demolished as the Hippodrome became a supper club,” The Talk Of The Town.”. cabaret floorshows with glamorous settings and stunning costumes were the order of the day. Angela’s friend Isobel Hurll appeared here for several seasons in floorshows that featured the biggest stars of the day. Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Ethel Merman, Engelbert Humperdink, Tom Jones and Judy Garland all made appearances here.

Isobel recalls that the theatre walls and ceiling- the Matcham designs were boarded over, and that mostly the circle was used for “Talk Of The Town” with the former stalls and proscenium removed to take the cabaret stage which rose on a hydraulic lift, and would descend at the end of the show to become a dance floor.

During the seasons Isobel performed there for The Delfont organisation  she earned £13 a week for twelve shows. At the end of the second show she would set off for Winston’s Club, or the Savoy and appear in their 1am floorshows, earning a further

£12 a week. Eighteen shows a week! The wages were good, but the hours were long.

At the present time the Hippodrome is being restored. Through the Eighties it was a nightclub, originally owned by Peter Stringfellow. It became “Cirque at The Hippodrome” presenting Burlesque in 2004 and closed its doors once again in 2005. Restored to as much of its Matcham glory as is possible it re-opens in May 2012 as a Casino/theatre.

The Dave King Show 1956

Angela came to the Hippodrome in a show that starred one of the top comics of the day- Dave King. There was a time in the late ‘fifties and ‘sixties when he seemed to be in everything on TV, with his own show, or guesting on someone else’s show- he was Entertainment gold.

Moss Empires Head Quarters were at the Hippodrome, and this was one of many shows presented by George & Alfred Black . It was directed by Alec Shanks, who also designed much of the scenery and costumes, and Joan Davis. Twice nightly- at 6.15 and 8.45 Dave King appeared alongside  Shani Wallis.

Shani Wallis was 23 years old when she appeared with Dave King. Already the veteran of  two major West End musicals- “Wonderful Town” in 1952 and “Call Me Madam” at the Coliseum Theatre in 1953 she was the star of revue and musical. She appeared in pantomime at Manchester with Tommy Cooper, and at Streatham with Hughie Green.

In 1956 It would be another twelve years before she would appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in America, and was “spotted” for the role she made famous- Nancy in the 1968 film of “Oliver!” starring alongside Ron Moody, Harry Secombe and Olver Reed.

Shani Wallis now resides in the States, and has made a major contribution to her industry. She has appeared in Film, on television and several musicals ranging from “42nd Street”, “Irma La Douce” and “Finian’s Rainbow” through to her last appearance in a London musical as Wallis Simpson’s Aunt Bessie in the ill fated “Always” which had a mercifully short run at the Victoria Palace in 1996.

Children today can hear the voice of Shani Wallis if they watch Disney’s “Pocahontas 2” or “Basil The Great Mouse Detective” on DVD.

In this show Shani appeared in several “scenas” like “Clowns In Clover” with The George Mitchell Singers, Pat Dahl, The Ballerinas and The Showladies. There was an “Eastern Magic” scene, an acrobatic turn by The Los Gatos Trio, and a spectacular scene involving Currie’s “Fountain Of Trevi”,a huge water effect before the interval.

Dave King appeared in two sketches and appeared in his own spot in both halves. Frank Winter designed some UV headdresses (he supplied Peter Robbins and myself with our first “Sister” headdresses in 1981) and the Russian/French designer Erte created the finale “Symphony In Pink”.

Dave King  had a lot going for him in the mid 1950’s. When his show opened at the Hippodrome he had already had a very successful series on the BBC the year before, and had several hit records in the charts. Four hit singles in fact. He would change over to ITV in 1958 and star in “The Dave King Show” series before setting off to America where he hosted the Kraft Music Hall no less than 19 times. Among his writers was Mel Brooks.

A comedian popular on both sides of the Atlantic, recording contracts and further trips to the States, he had his own series “The Dave King Show” in the USA in 1959. Upon his return he found that comedy styles had changed. By 1964 his ITV series “Dave’s Kingdom” was not as successful, and his style of singing had been overtaken by The Beatles.

Dave King forged yet a further career as a straight actor, appearing in films such as “The Ritz”, a comedy set in a New York bath house, and as a gangster in “The Long Good Friday” in 1980, and in “Reds” and “Revolution”.

He appeared in many TV shows such as “Heartbeat”, “Bergerac” and “Rumpole”. He made a big impression in the series of “Bleak House” in the late 1980’s and became known as Clifford Duckworth in “Coronation Street” in the mid ‘90’s

Angela notes in her scrapbook that during the times Dave King had to leave the show to do television work, he was replaced by a comedian called Benny Hill. Benny, like Dave before him was to find success in both Britain and America in later years. During the run there were times when Dave King was not appearing- Hylda Baker took over the lead for a week.

 Angela recalls that the management had problems with the comic’s use of swearwords during his act. He was given warnings about swearing o stage repeatedly, and a final warning- that was ignored, that if he continued the notice would be put up. He didn’t, they did and the show closed!

 

Angela

Light Up The Town 1957

Angela spent the summer of ’57 at the Royal Hippodrome Eastbourne in “Light Up The Town”, a show presented by Bernard Delfont starring Graham Stark and Billy Burden.

Graham Stark was a very familiar face to Television viewers at the time, and had a long pedigree in Radio Comedy stretching back to the War years. He appeared with Tony Hancock on Radio’s “Happy-Go-Lucky”, “Rays a Laugh” with Ted Ray and two years in “Educating Archie”, the curious radio series fronted by a not very good ventriloquist, Arthur Brough and his doll, Archie Andrews. Of course on radio Archie was hugely popular and Arthur was superb- it was when Archie left Radio and went onto the Television that the public realised Arthur simply wasn’t very good at not moving his lips! The show made stars of many of its regulars, including the comedian Graham Stark.

He was a close friend of Peter Sellers, and appeared in Seller’s TV shows, and with Benny Hill. He got his own series seven years after this Summer Show on the BBC. As a film actor he made countless film appearances between 1939 and his last in 1998.

Fans of “The Pink Panther” films would remember him as playing a different role in every one of the series.

Billy Burden played a “Yokelcharacter in variety and on television for most of his career. He made a huge hit on Kenneth Horne’s show “Camera One”, and appearances with fellow comedian Bill Maynard on TV’s “Mostly Maynard” in the 1950’s,

Each year for over six years he appeared with Clarkson Rose in his Summer Show “Twinkle” at Eastbourne. Clarkie as he was known was of course one of the country’s leading Pantomime Dames. Billy’s spot in this show was his usual “Country Yokel”, with a backcloth of fields and a five bar gate to lean on. He also appeared in sketches and routines with Graham Stark.

Billy was quite a character, and I’m sure there are many funny stories about him, and stories of his “careful” ways with money. My “Billy” story dates back to the early 1980’s. Peter Robbins and I were in “Hansel and Gretel”, a touring show we did often for Barrie Stacey.

By chance we were “at home”, at the Kenneth More Theatre one week. I was busy. While Peter played my Father “Ernst” each day at 10am and at 2pm then went home, I remained in the theatre to do a variety show in the evening, finally leaving the building at 10.30pm.

I think the Variety Show starred John Hanson, but it may have starred Tommy Trinder- either way Billy Burden did his Yokel act in the second half of the show, and went on at about 9.15pm. I did my piano act in the first half.

In the bar afterwards I was standing next to Billy when the stage manager came over to remind me that the show the next day was earlier- 9.45am in case I’d forgotten.

Next morning at 9.45am shivering in my lederhosen, Peter and I were standing in the wings about to go on and sing “How Do You Do, Good Morning” . The overture was playing Disney hits when we bumped into Billy in full Yokel smock, make-up and a straw in his mouth.

In his broad Dorset accent he said “I don’t recognise this music. Have they changed it?” In the nick of time Peter and I stopped him going onstage, and  ran on to do our opening number. I rushed back to the green room and explained to Billy that there were TWO shows daytime before “our” variety show that night.

He sat all day in the Green Room. Full costume. Full make-up. He sat from 10am until he went on at 9.15pm. “Billy”, I said “Why on earth don’t you go back to your digs? Or maybe go around the shops. At least take your make-up off?”

“Take it Orff? Take it Orff?” there was a pause as he sputtered. “ Oh deary me no. Costs a fortune this stuff does!”

Peter and I would sometimes be in the middle of putting on our “Sister Slap” years and years later, and one of us would suddenly cry out “Costs a fortune this stuff does!”

Angela noted in her scrapbook that during the run of “Light Up The Town” in 1957  Billy’s Mother died suddenly, and while he left the show to sort out her affairs, he was replaced by Gordon and Bunny Jay.

Panto enthusiasts will know that Gordon and Bunny played virtually every theatre in pantomime, including the London Palladium as Robbers, Chinese Policemen, As “Sisters”, and Gordon continued to direct for Paul Holman until he and his Brother Bunny retired a short while ago.

I was fortunate to be in Summer Season at Scarborough and Filey with them, and will forever be indebted to Gordon for everything he taught me about comedy. He and Bunny were supreme masters of timing, discipline and sticklers for tradition. The management who sent me to that Summer Season in Scarborough  twenty years after they appeared in Eastbourne, was William (Bill) Dickie. He too was appearing in “Light Up The Town”.

As mentioned earlier Bill was later to set up an agency with Richard Stone, part of Delfont’s original agency and looked after many top variety turns. His own company for Butlins Seasons was called “SADFU” and he presented the shows, directed often by Gordon Jay, and costumed by Paddy and Mary Dickie. A joyous family affair run from Netheravon Road in Chiswick!

The other featured performer in Angela’s Eastbourne show other than William Dickie was Cherry Lind, a musical comedy performer and regular BBC broadcaster, Bernard Riley, Norman Richards and Vola Vandere.

Clubland

London’s Nightlife

It seems hard to believe today that at one time London was bursting to the seams with nightclubs, supper clubs and cabaret venues. Performers would finish their West End shows and head straight to a nightclub, where at midnight they would appear in revue and cabaret before heading home around 4am!

Angela appeared in nightclubs and in cabaret throughout her career- in India, in the far east and in South America, and in the many clubs in London.

To get a taste of what London Night life was like in the 1960’s take a look at the “Spotlight On Danny La Rue” article here on the site. Angela didn’t appear at Danny’s club in Hanover Street, but interestingly she appeared in his rival’s club- the American artiste Ricky Renee’s club in Russell Street, Covent Garden. The revue starred the Miami born female impersonator, six days a week starting at 1am. The cast included Angela, Maria Charles, Melvin Hayes, Teddy Green and Anne Hamilton.

The clubs are mostly gone, although a few remain. In the ‘60’s you could visit The Embassy, The Stork Room, - where Angela took over as leading lady with Peta Pelham- The Continental, The Garrick, The Bagatelle, or call in for a drink and a show at the Celebrite, The Pink Elephant, The Colony, The Boulogne Club. In the wee small hours you could visit “Youngs” , L’Hirondelle, Murrays, The Establishment, or Pigalle,, The Georgian, for a quick drink and on to The Latin Quarter, Churchill’s or Danny La Rue’s club. This is to name but a few of the top clubs at the time!

Angela was leading The Astor Girls at the Astor Club, and a regular performer at “Embassy Follies” with the comedian Davy Kaye. In 1965 on a night out in London you might have seen Lynda Baron at “The Talk Of The Town”, Barry Cryer and Ronnie Corbett, and Toni Palmer  at Danny La Rue’s, and the Clarke Brothers at Churchills.

In 1966 Angela  “led The Glamour Parade” at the Embassy Follies with Jackie Sands, and appeared in cabaret through the country until the mid 1970’s in theatres , including The Famous City Varieties, and in clubs.

 

Aladdin 1965

“Aladdin” at the Oxford New Theatre was produced by Tom Arnold and had Billy Fury as top of the bill. In 1965 Billy Fury was one of the top popstars- his recording of “Halfway to Paradise” had spent 20 weeks in the charts, and his hits included “Jealousy” and “I’d never find another you”. A regular on “ Oh Boy! ”TV’s weekly pop show- the forerunner to “Top Of The Pops”, he was the pop idol of his day, with the looks and singing voice to match.

For more on Billy Fury and the rise of the popstar , take a look at our article “Popstars In Panto” on this site.

Angela had a leading role in this pantomime- she was the character usually known as Slave Of The Ring- Scheherazade. The Genie Of The Lamp was played by Darryl Stewart.

One of pantomime Royalty played Dame. Lauri Lupino Lane was Widow Twankey. The Lupino Lane family, like The Grimaldi family, had long associations with pantomime and variety. There had been Lupinos in British theatre from 1663.

Lauri, who often teamed up with George Truzzi in pantomime was the son of Lupino Lane, the performer who had a huge hit in “Me and My Girl” in the West End, and introduced “The Lambeth Walk” to the public. A relative of Lauri’s was the Hollywood actress Ida Lupino.

When Angela appeared with Lauri in this panto he was 44 years old, unusually young for a Dame, but like his Father before him, he had been performing since early childhood.

Five years later in 1970 he was at the London Palladium in “Aladdin” recreating one of his Father’s famous “slosh” routines which he had perfected. He appeared in one Carry On Film, and in the stage version “Carry On London” at the Victoria Palace, which opened in 1973.

The role of Princess was played by Cheryl Kennedy. aged eighteen. At the age of fifteen she had made a big impression in “What A Crazy World” at Stratford East Theatre, London. Later she would appear in a musical with another pop star, this time Tommy Steele in “Half A Sixpence”, and later still in “Flowers For Algernon” with Michael Crawford. In 1973 she would marry the actor Tom Courtney, later divorced and continued her career as a teacher of drama and a producer. She presented shows across the country, and  in recent times was responsible for presenting the prestigious Cannizaro Open Air Festival at Wimbledon.

Billy Fury played Aladdin and his brother, Wishee Washee was played by comedian and impressionist, Ray Fell.

Ray Fell appeared in the TV series “The Comedians” and two years after this panto he achieved success in “Three Of A Kind” in 1967. It was a song and sketch show starring Ray Fell, Lulu and Mike Yarwood. Ray also made records, and recorded for Fontana in the ‘60’s.

Dressing Room Shots - Oxford

A pop group, who recorded with Fury, “The Gamblers” from Newcastle appeared as the Chinese Police force, Sid Plummer was Abanazar, Peter Dixon the Vizier and Ron Richards Emperor of China. The Pan Yue Jen juggling troupe completed the line up.

The orchestra was led by Jack Morgan. In that orchestra was rehearsal pianist, violinist and sometime artist Gilbert Sommerlad. Early on in the run he made some caricature sketches from his seat in the orchestra pit, got them signed by some of the principals and, thanks to a donation to the Victoria & Albert Museum his sketch of those artistes are preserved in their store. Here, with thanks to the V&A’s excellent online collection, is that sketch from December 1965!

                        A change of cast in Peking!

Very soon into the pantomime run it became apparent that Billy Fury, inexperienced in stage performing, was having problems. In the days before radio microphones and sophisticated sound systems it was essential for the performers to project. It still is, in fact- although some people rely more heavily on the mikes than they should- but in Billy’s case he was having trouble being heard in that big barn of a theatre and was suffering from a hacking cough.

Billy, Angela recalls was the nicest man in the world, but was already suffering both from inexperience and ill health. He had contracted rheumatic fever as a child, and this led to heart conditions during his lifetime, and operations in the 1970’s. When he asked Angela for advice about being heard, she got him to face front more during scenes to project. As the pantomime progressed he was struggling with health problems. Rather than continue with a problem that would get worse as the gruelling twice daily schedule continued over a lengthy run, the management decided to release Billy Fury from the panto, and bring in another star. A female star to play the same role of “Aladdin”- with very little chance of full stage rehearsal, and watching the pantomime from “out front” several times- Enter Jean Bayless.

Ten years previously Jean Bayless had taken over from Julie Andrews in “The Boy Friend” on Broadway, playing Polly Browne, and played the role on Broadway and on tour in America for eighteen months.

Jean Bayless was the star of “The Sound Of Music”. In fact she was the first British actress to play Maria at the Palace Theatre for two years, through 1961 and ’62. The role on Broadway was created by Mary Martin. This year, 1965 was the year that Julie Andrews was to star in the film version.

Jean Bayless, Julie Andrews and Connie Fisher

When she took over the role of “Aladdin” here at Oxford she had already appeared in ”Humpty Dumpty” at the London Palladium in 1951 as Princess Miranda . She would return to the Palladium Panto in three years time to star in “Jack and The Beanstalk” with Arthur Askey as Dame and Jimmy Tarbuck.

Jean’s singing talents were to the fore in productions like “Lilac Time”, and in her tours of Korea and the Far East. She appeared and toured with with John Hanson in “The Words And Music of Ivor Novello”

In 1985 I had the pleasure of working with Jean. She and Simon Ward starred in the tour of “Perchance To Dream”. I designed the costumes. In fact, years later I bought them back for the Kenneth More theatre and to this day I have the Jean Bayless collection! As Lady Charlotte she was superb- a tiny very fashionable lady it was a joy to costume her- and she had many costumes. I have the list in front of me: Coral velvet dress and cape, Bronze lace Regency, Claret and black chiffon gown then Victorian Gunmetal poult gown, Yellow and Black lace, Mauve shot silk crinoline- I’m surprised she had time to breathe in that show between changing costumes!

Jean became known to millions of viewers in the 1970’s as a regular in the original “Crossroads” Motel for ATV. She played Cynthia Cunningham from 1971 to 1974 opposite the star of the show, and another Musical Comedy icon, Noelle Gordon.

During the “How do you solve a problem like Maria” television quest, Jean Bayless was courted for her opinions about the role. There is a lovely photograph of Jean, with Julie Andrews and Connie Fisher at the 02 attending Dame Julie’s show there recently. She has talked about the operation she had to her throat eighteen years ago that resulted in her voice not being what it once was. Dame Julie of course had a similar operation, and Jean commented that she had a similar result. Ironically very recently Connie Fisher too has suffered throat problems and received treatment. These three “Marias” have had very similar experiences and all survived with charm and humour.

Jean now lives in Birmingham and still helps out at her son’s shop in the centre of the city leading a very active and busy life.

During the summer of 1967 Angela  spent the season in The Mike and Bernie Winters show before taking her principal role in panto.

“Aladdin”  1967

A Tale Of Two Cities- Doncaster & Hanley

Angela Ryder was offered the title role in the pantomime this year- Principal Boy- playing Aladdin for Kennedy Street Productions.

The Pantomime was in two parts- Two weeks in Doncaster and Two weeks in Hanley.

The production opened at the Gaumont Cinema, Doncaster, which made use of the panto season to stage a live production for the fortnight, before the entire show packed up and transferred to the Theatre Royal, Hanley.

The pantomime starred Al Read and Clinton Ford. They played Wishee Washee and The Emperor Krispee Noodle respectively.

Born in Salford 1909, Al Read was one of the UK’s most popular radio comedians. He debuted at the BBC in 1950 and “The Al Read Show” was listened to by up to 35 million people a week!

His catchphrase- “Right Monkey!” can still be heard today. He created characters on the radio that can still be enjoyed by looking him up on youtube.

By the time he was appearing in “Aladdin” in 1967 he had recently appeared on ITV in his “Al Read says What A Life” series, and appeared in two Royal Variety Performances.

Born in 1931 Clinton Ford began his career as vocalist to the Kenny Ball Jazz Band in 1961. He became well known for a catalogue of music hall and thirties songs that he revived and made hits from- “Fanlight Fanny” was a good example. It had been a hit for George Formby in the 1930’s, almost forgotten, and then reintroduced by Ford in the ‘60’s. His version of “The Old Bazaar in Cairo”, (co-written with comedian Charlie Chester) was  a staple for Panto Musical Directors throughout the 1960’s and ‘70’s- especially in “Aladdin” when it could be used for “The Sand Dance” with the comic and dame.

Clinton Ford appeared in so many radio broadcasts that at one point there was an investigation and he found himself dropped for a few months! He made several appearances on BBC’s “The Good Old Days”, toured with Ken Dodd, and appeared on TV in Billy Cotton’s show and “Stars and Garters”.

In this “Aladdin” Clinton Ford sang “Run To The Door” ,which was in the charts that year,  “The Carnival Is Over”, “Fanlight Fanny” and “Memories that never die”.

He also took part in the Comedy Balloon Ballet which was performed here by the double act Chinese policemen, Clayton and Walker. Clinton Ford continued touring into the 1990’s and died at his home on the Isle Of Man in 2009.

Widow Twankey, Angela’s Mother was played by George Moon. That very same year his daughter Georgina was in Oxford Pantomime with comedian Dickie Henderson. She was aged eighteen, and would later achieve fame as an actress appearing in the UFO series, and in “Up Pompeii” with Frankie Howerd, and appearances with Liberace in his Televised stage show in the UK. She appeared in the West End musical “You’re a good man Charlie Brown” alongside Brian Godfrey in 1969.

George Moon was appearing in the film “Half A Sixpence” this year, and had several film roles to his credit. Audiences would have known him as Ginger Smart in the TV series “Shadow Squad” and “Skyport”. He would later appear in two Carry On Films, and countless television and stage appearances.

The posters claim that Tsai Chin was “The girl who killed James Bond!” the year this panto opened Tsai Chin was seen in the pre title credits of the Bond Film “You Only Live Twice” as Ling. Her character is used in the staging of Bond’s fake death.

Tsai Chin who played  opposite Angela as Princess had  had studied at RADA and starred in “The World Of Suzie Wong” on stage in London, in the London production of “South Pacific” and is well known to movie fans as the daughter of Dr. Fu Manchu in the series of films starring Christopher Lee. She was later to appear in her second Bond film, “Casino Royale”. She was 30 years old at the time “Aladdin” was at Doncaster.

Jo Scott choreographed the dancers and played Slave of the Ring, Virginia Lave played handmaiden So-Shi”, with Robert Scott as Abanazar. The Grand Vizier and slave was played by John McCombe.

The panto transferred to Stoke on Trent and played the final two weeks at Hanley’s Theatre Royal.

During the mid 1960’s Angela continued to work in Summer Seasons, a great deal of cabaret, on tour and in theatre. She made appearances on television throughout her career- these included early “Z Cars”, ATV’s “Sam & Janet” with John Junkin, and in Thames TV’s “The Best Of Enemies” with Tim Barrett, Derek Guyler and Robert Coote. She appeared in “Sultan’s Delight”, and “The Morecambe & Wise Show”, appeared with Ian Carmichael in “Batchelor Father”, in “Alcock and Gander”, and “Men of Affairs” with Brian Rix and Warren Mitchell.

 

The West End

From being a regular on the West End cabaret circuit, Angela entered the late 1960’s with a series of appearances in West End  Theatre- Musicals.

She had toured, and understudied the secretary, and a comedy part in a 1963 production of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. The show had been in London for a year and was sent out on tour afterwards.

In 1969 Angela travelled to The Alhambra Glasgow with a Hollywood Movie Star to open in a brand new show.

The show was called “The Piecefull Palace”, the first version had been called “Go For Your Gun”, (staged in Manchester in 1961) and re-written . The show opened, strange to tell on April Fool’s day 1969. The star was the legendary Betty Grable.

Betty Grable was 52 years old. Her fellow Hollywood star Ginger Rogers had made a great success in London with “Mame”, and  very hastily a show was put together to cash in on the success. When the Musical was in rehearsal there wasn’t yet a fixed West End  Theatre for it to go into. The backers didn’t even like the name of the show. There was scant time to arrange the massive publicity that had heralded the “tried and true” production of “Mame”, and hardly any publicity began until Betty Grable flew in from Los Angeles.

This Western Musical had characters from The Wild West book of legend. Betty Grable played Belle Star, saloon owner of the “Palace”, with Ray Chiarella as Jesse James, Blayne Barrington as Billy The Kid, Valerie Walsh as Calamity Jane and Michael Hawkins as “Killer” Malone. Angela’s character was named “Big Buttes”!

Included in the cast was Peter Honri, Marc Urquhart, Maggie Vickers and Mostyn Evans.

The show changed its name to “Belle Star” when it arrived in London at the Palace Theatre. It was a spectacular flop. Opening on April 30th it closed at the end of its second week.

 Betty Grable  said “the critics killed the show, but they have a right to their own opinion…Some of the things I had to say were absolutely embarrassing, jokes in very bad taste… but I want to get across I have never seen anyone work harder than the kids who form the cast. Any of them can be a star in his or her right”.

Angela has nothing but praise too for Betty Grable, who she describes as “Absolutely lovely and charming”, a true professional who worked non stop to try and save this show.

Angela did not have long to wait in the West End without a show. Like buses, another came along. This time it starred Dudley Moore. The Musical – “Play It Again Sam” by Woody Allen.

The show opened at  The Globe Theatre on September 11th 1969 having previewed at the Arts Theatre Cambridge for two weeks during August.

A bevy of beautiful actresses were cast as Dudley’s character, Allan Felix’s fantasies. The show also starred Bill Kerr as Humphrey Bogart, with Terence Edmond, Patricia Brake, Lorna Heilbron, Jennifer Clulow, Angela Ryder playing Vanessa,  Anne De Vigier, Juliette Kempson and , a year after leaving The Aida Foster Stage school, the young Vicki Michelle.

Dudley Moore was another true professional in Angela’s eyes, and she describes him as a “lovely man, extremely generous on stage . “ She was devastated at his final years and the personal and health problems that beset this hugely talented performer.

Pig & Whistle 1972

After Summer seasons and variety and cabaret tours, Angela appeared in 1972  in a Paul Elliott and Duncan Weldon Summer Season in Margate- “The Pig & Whistle” at the Winter Gardens-Queen’s Hall. This fast moving variety show starred Tom Mennard and Angela Ryder with Richard Avon, George May, Jean Combie, Jacqui Lewis, Janet Date and Sheila Simpson. Angela had been suggested to Paul Elliott by her former fellow actor William Dickie, now with the Richard Stone Agency. The show was directed and choreographed by Johnny Greenland. Angela returned the following year in 1973 with George Reibbit and Roy Sone.

The Wizard Of Oz 1972 Victoria Palace

Paul Elliott remembered Angela  later that year when casting “The Wizard Of Oz” at London’s Victoria Palace. Prior to the West End the show toured, and played through the Panto season in the West End.

Angela played The Sorceress Of The North and Virago, A Witch in this production. The Scarecrow was Frank Marlborough, The Tin Man, Sam Kelly with Geoffrey Hughes as The Lion and Diane Raynor as Dorothy.Tony Sympson played The Wizard.

Playing opposite Angela was Brian Hewitt-Jones as Wicked Witch Of The West. He was later to become a director of Paul Elliott’s E&B Pantomime company, and directed Peter Robbins and myself in two versions of “Cinderella”., and directed a great number of pantomimes. He later produced many shows around the UK.

Bordello: Queens Theatre 1974

Angela appeared in one more West End show before she left to marry, bring up children and add to the enormous collection of antique dolls that she’d been collecting. This show was called “Bordello” and opened on April 18th  at The Queen’s Theatre in 1974.

Based on the life and loves of the artist Toulous Lautrec, it starred Henry Wolf. Angela sang one of the show’s hit numbers- “Simple Pleasures”. The cast included Lynda Bellingham, Norma Dunbar and Stella Moray, Liz Whiting, Judy Cannon and Jacqui Toye.

If you’d like to explore all things Musical in the West End, take a look at my brother Vivyan Ellacott’s website www.overthefootlights.co.uk  for a wealth of information on not just musicals, but theatres!

 

Mother Goose 1974

That same year Angela appeared as Principal Boy in her final Pantomime: “Mother Goose” in Southwark at the Civic Centre. She played Jack, son of Mother Goose . The cast included  Len Keyes, Bobby Kingswell, Gina Caron, Derek Tobias and Terence Cowling.

Scrapbooks are treasured things- I am very grateful to Angela Ryder for allowing me to share her twenty years in “Show Business” here on IBY. Glimpses of pantomimes in the 50’s and 60’s with photographs not seen before of stars like Jewel & Warris, Al Read, Billy Fury and Lauri Lupino Lane, and a look at the five West End shows Angela was involved in- a brief look at the world of cabaret and the club circuit of London’s West End- its been a great journey. Thanks!

This page was last updated 10th May 2012

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