THE ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH STORY – PART ONE.

They fell in love, although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.

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Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth first met during the filming of The Faust Fantasy in 1934/35

Anne Ziegler, the widow and singing partner of Webster Booth, died in Llandudno, North Wales, on 13 October 2003, at the age of 93. Her death brought an end to an era in British entertainment before and after the Second World War. Her death brings an end to an era for me also.

I was seventeen when I first met them at the end of 1960. They were already middle-aged, in the same age group as my parents, their top-flight stage career in Britain behind them. I was too young to have seen them at the height of their fame, but even then I thought them a shining couple, as I still do over fifty-nine years later.

Although I was too young to have seen them on stage in the days of their great success in the forties and early fifties, I believe their success was due to the wonderful blend of the voices, creating a special, instantly recognisable sound, and their contrasting good looks, she beautifully gowned, he in full evening dress. Above all, they were instantly likeable with charming personalities, and possessed an elusive ability to make people adore them.

In their day, in the thirties, forties and fifties, Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were stars of stage, screen, radio, concert halls and variety theatres, and made over a thousand 78 rpms, either as duets or solos. Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and  Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.

Webster became a Mason, and was a proud member of the Savage Club, where he often sang at their legendary Saturday night entertainments. These entertainments were arranged by Joe Batten, the eminent sound recordist and producer at Columbia Records. When Webster had something important to do he always wore his distinctive striped Savage Club tie to bring him luck. While still in his early thirties, Webster was made a Life Governor of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.

Webster was also in demand as tenor soloist in oratorio: Handel’s Messiah, Jephtha, Samson, Acis and Galatea, Judas Maccabbeus, and  Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, to mention but a few. Before the Second World War, he had sung Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in full Native American costume, and in 1955 on the occasion of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s birthday concert, Sir Malcolm requested particularly that he should be the tenor soloist in the same work.

By the time he met Anne Ziegler during the filming of the colour film Faust in 1934, he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior. He had divorced his first wife, Winifred Keey in 1931 after she had deserted him and their small son, and married Paddy Prior, a talented dancer, comedienne and soubrette in October 1932. The couple’s marriage was  happy in the beginning and they appeared together in several concert parties, the Piccadilly Revels, Scarboroough in 1933 and Sunshine at Shanklin in 1934.

Shortly after he met Anne Ziegler he took the lead in an ill-fated production of Kurt Weill’s A Kingdom for a Cow at the Savoy Theatre. His leading lady was the well-known French singer Jacqueline Francel. In Anne and Webster’s joint autobiography, Duet, he said that the play was probably ahead of its time in its handling of complex social issues, which made it too heavy for audiences of the day, who expected lighter fare in musicals. Apart from the unusual subject matter, rehearsals were stormy and the direction contradictory, so despite Weill’s pleasing music and a strong cast, the play closed after just three weeks. The London Dramatic Critic from The Scotsman gave the piece a good review, and mentioned that “Mr Webster Booth as the hero also deserves praise for his fine singing”.

Webster and Paddy Prior, his second wife.

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Sadly, his marriage did not last after he met Anne. Paddy divorced him, naming Anne as co-respondent. He and Anne were married on Bonfire Night in 1938. Webster Booth soon formed a duet partnership with his wife in addition to his extensive recording, film, oratorio and concert work.

 

Webster was contracted to HMV for over twenty years and recorded more than a thousand solos, duets, trios and quartets. His lighter recordings include selections from Ivor Novello musicals with Helen Hill, Olive Gilbert and Stuart Robertson; Theatreland at Coronation Time with South African soprano Garda Hall, and Sam Costa; excerpts from Snow White with Nora Savage, conducted by George Scott-Wood, the composer of Shy Serenade. He made many anonymous recordings as a member of the HMV Light Opera Company. He was the “with vocal refrain” on a series of records made with Carlos Santana and his Accordion Band on the Brunswick label, and on a record of Chappell Ballads with Jack Hylton’s band. Carlos Santana was one of the many aliases used by Harry Bidgood. His better known alias was Primo Scala, the leader of another accordion band, but he did many other things like conducting film music and arranging music and while he was still at school he had written the music for his school song.

His recordings of the late nineteen-thirties and nineteen-forties encompassed oratorio, opera and ballads, as well as duets with Anne. Webster’s more serious recordings were often under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, Lawrance Collingwood, Basil Cameron or rwick Braithwaite with the Hallé, the Liverpool Philharmonic or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. His recordings with piano accompaniment were nearly always with the eminent accompanist Gerald Moore.

Webster enjoyed telling the story of a particular recording session with Gerald Moore. They had one more song to record before the session ended. The song was Phil, the Fluter’s Ball, and Gerald Moore suggested that they should see how fast he could play it and how fast Webster could sing it with clear diction. This was no problem for the finest accompanist in the world and for a singer who had spent four years performing Gilbert and Sullivan with the D’Oyly Carte Company. His oratorio recordings are particularly fine. The solos in Samson from the moving recitative O loss of sight and the following aria,Total Eclipse, to the fiery Why does the God of Israel sleep?, with its unrelenting Handelian runs, demonstrate how easily he moved from one mood to another, always singing with flawless technique and clear diction.

He made recordings with other distinguished singers of the day in operatic ensembles, such as the quartet from Rigoletto, with Noel Edie, Arnold Matters and Edith Coates, to the trio from Faust with Joan Cross and Norman Walker. He sang duets with soprano Joan Cross and baritone Dennis Noble from La Bohème and the Miserere from Il Trovatore with Joan Cross. He recorded duets with the baritone Dennis Noble from the Victorian and Edwardian Excelsior and Watchman, what of the night? to the brilliant extended scene in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. He recorded the duet in Madame Butterfly with Australian soprano Joan Hammond.

When Joan Hammond first arrived in England from Australia, she had a sweet lyrical soprano voice. She sang her first Messiah in England with Webster as tenor soloist under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. But by the time they recorded the Madame Butterfly duet, several years later, Joan Hammond had become a dramatic soprano and her voice was very much bigger than it had been when she first arrived in England. Joan had to stand much further away from the microphone than Webster in order for the sound engineer to get the balance for the duet right. Webster also sang excerpts from Carmen with the Sadler’s Wells chorus and orchestra, with Dennis Noble, and with Nancy Evans, Anne’s old friend from Liverpool, as Carmen.

At the beginning of the Second World War, he recorded The Lost Chord at the Kingsway Hall in London, accompanied by the organist Herbert Dawson. As they were reaching the end of the song, the All Clear siren sounded, which meant they had to redo the recording to cut out the sound of the siren. There had been no air raids at that early stage of the war so presumably the sirens were being given a trial run. The blitz was yet to come and would destroy Webster’s beloved Queen’s Hall.

ANNE ZIEGLER (1910 – 2003)


Anne was born Irené Frances Eastwood in Liverpool on 22 June 1910. 
From over two hundred other hopefuls she was chosen for the part of Marguerite for the film, the Faust Fantasy: no doubt her blonde good looks and charming personality counted for nearly as much as her attractive lyric soprano voice. It was in the making of this film, which commenced shooting in December 1934, that she met Webster Booth, playing opposite her as Faust.

During the making of the film they fell in love , although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior, and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage to Winifred Keey. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were married on Bonfire Night in 1938.

During those intervening four years, Anne was an overnight success on radio in The Chocolate Soldier, sang in a concert party in 1935 called  Summer Smiles during the summer season at Ryde, an engagement she did not really enjoy much. There she acquired her first devoted fan, a girl aged 15, who kept in close touch with her for the rest of her life. 

 She played principal boy in her first pantomime, Mother Goose, at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, which starred George Formby. In this pantomime she met Babs Wilson-Hill, the principal dancer in the show, who was to remain her closest friend for most of her life. During the 1936 pantomime season she and Babs appeared in another highly successful pantomime, Cinderella, in Edinburgh, this time with the Scottish comedian Will Fyffe as the star attraction.

Anne and Webster were both extremely popular and prolific broadcasters on the BBC, as well as the various European commercial broadcasting stations geared to the British market, such as Radio Lyons, Radio Luxembourg, Radio Normandy and Radio Eireann. Glancing through copies of The Radio Pictorial, commercial radio’s equivalent of The Radio Times, one sees frequent articles about them. Radio stars in the thirties obviously held the equivalent status of pop stars today.

Despite Anne’s success on stage and radio, recording companies had not shown any interest in putting her voice on record. She made a test recording of the Waltz Song from Merrie England in 1935, a recording which Webster managed to obtain from HMV. Eventually she did make a few solo recordings and sang in a Noel Coward medley with Joyce Grenfell and Graham Payn, but the bulk of her recordings were duets with Webster. My favourite solo recording of Anne’s is Raymond Loughborough’s A Song in the Night, which she sang on a Pathé film short in 1936.

Webster went to New York with her, hoping to find some stage work of his own, but, despite his great voice, he did not make any impact on the cut-throat American musical world. He attended various auditions in New York as an unknown, while in England he was already an established performer in oratorio, recording, films, and the West End stage. He returned to England, crestfallen at his lack of success, and resumed his numerous engagements. Anne, in the meantime, was hailed as a Broadway star and offered a film contract in Hollywood, with the idea that she would be the successor to Jeanette McDonald. The offer was tempting, but she turned it down to return to England and marry Webster Booth when his divorce from Paddy Prior was made final.

For most of her life Anne maintained that marriage to Webster meant more to her than any Hollywood contract, although in later years she sometimes reflected on what her life would have been like had she accepted the contract and become a Hollywood star.

Even before Webster’s divorce was made final they formed a duet partnership on stage, in addition to their solo work. From April 1938 they were singing together for Clarkson Rose. This is an advert from September of 1938, the month before Webster’s divorce was finalised.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 7-september-1938-with-twinkle.jpgThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 7-september-1938-azwb-pier-music-pavilion..png

Their first duet recording was made in the year after their marriage in 1939 –  If You were the Only Girl in the World, with A Paradise for Two on the flip side. Before this official recording she had sung with him as an anonymous soprano voice in a radio series in 1937 called The Voice of Romance. In this series he too was anonymous, but by this time, most people would have recognised his distinctive voice.

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In 1940 they accepted an offer from agent Julius Darewski to join the variety circuit. The money was good and they were well received on the variety halls, always doing their act without the aid of a microphone. If Webster Booth’s voice filled the Albert Hall when he sang the tenor part in Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha in Native American dress under the baton of Malcolm Sargent, the same voice, in harmony with his wife’s, filled the variety theatres from the London Palladium to all points of the United Kingdom.

They were the epitomé of glamour and romance. He was tall, dark and handsome. He was always in immaculate evening attire, she in a range of crinoline gowns, some designed by Norman Hartnell. Their act was interspersed with what seemed like off-the-cuff banter, but every word and move was meticulously planned, and the lighting plot carefully worked out for the most telling impact.

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Apart from the usual operatic arias and musical comedy duets, Anne and Webster sang and recorded a number of ballads, arranged as duets, and an interesting and difficult arrangement of Chopin’s famous Nocturne in C sharp minor, arranged by Maurice Besley. As often as not Webster would arrange the duet part himself if none had been written.

 

Jean Collen  COPYRIGHT 2005

Updated April 2019.
 

 
Join: The Webster Booth-Anne Ziegler Appreciation Group on Facebook.
 

Paddy Prior and Webster
Anne and Webster (1957)

PROGRAMMES AND ADVERTS (1923 – 1939)

Here is a copy of a letter sent from “Madeleine” who was on holiday on the Isle of Wight during the summer of 1934. She sent the letter and photograph
below to her friends Lily and Phil, who must have been
fans of Webster Booth.
Dear Lily and Phil,
Thought you would like a Photograph of Webster. We
went to see Sunshine the night before last – they were
great. The weather up to now has been very fine with a
strong wind blowing. I must say I like the Island very much, and I am enjoying myself very much indeed.
Best love to you both,
Madeleine.

November 1923 Professional debut in Yeomen of the Guard with D’Oyly Carte.
1930 West End Debut at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Webster Booth as the Duke of Buckingham in his West End Debut 16 April 1930
Webster Booth as the Duke of Buckingham in his West End Debut 16 April 1930 with Lilian Davies.
1933 Scarborough
1 February 1933- Galashiels Concert with Garda Hall and George Baker. 1 February 1933 This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019-03-14_213832.png Webster in The Invader with Buster Keaton (1934) Irené Eastwood in Holst’s The Wandering Scholar in Liverpool (1934) This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019-05-27_103847.png This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 12-october-1934-by-appointment-1934.png
February 1935 Radio People Anne
The Invader (1934) with Buster Keaton,
1935
A Kingdom for a Cow (Kurt Weill) 5 July 1936, Savoy Theatre with Jacqueline Francell
1936 The Robber Symphony
The Robber Symphony (film) with Magda Sonja
11 December 1935 Samson and Delilah, Hastings Choral union, Whiterock Pavilion.
December 1935
1935 Anne’s first Panto: Mother Goose Liverpool.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 10-april-1936-wb-good-friday-messiah-royal-albert-hall.png Webster’s first Good Friday Messiah – 10 April 1936. Hallé Messiah 17 December 1936
December 1936
Cinderella in Edinburgh, December 1936 with Will Fyffe. 11 February 1937
Hiawatha, June 1937
Hiawatha, June 1937
Hiawatha, June 1937
February 1938
Saturday Night Revue film “I love the moon”.
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden 1938
November 9 1938
December 17 1938
6 January 1939 concert, WB, Flotsam and Jetsam, Chesterfield
Concert Chesterfield 6 January 1939

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – MARCH 1963

They lend me some scores to practise my sightreading for next month. He gives me Acis and Galatea and Anne says, “Won’t you be needing it soon, darling?” He replies, “I won’t be singing it again in this life – maybe in the next!”

1 March –  Leslie Green says on the radio that he is going on a little jaunt next month – presumably he’s referring to the little jaunt with Anne! Roselle D sings Wouldn’t It be Loverly on Stars of Tomorrow.

2 March – I go to SS studio and work with Margaret and Elaine at dictation and ear tests and sing in the choir. Webster is great at night with his Great Voices and talks about his singing pupils saying that his young friends consider him a square – sweet!

3 March – Another very grim day today. I manage to listen to Leslie G in the afternoon and phone Ruth who enjoyed Breaking Point and is still depressed over her singing.

4 March – Work. Go to SABC at night and see numerous personalities. Nameless Afrikaans woman tells me that Anne walked out on the cast of the Merry Widow in Springs a week before it was due to open but came back for the opening night! Well, she did complain about their behaviour and told me she would never produce another thing in Springs again. Ruth and I sit together and she tells me she is going to see a throat specialist on 21st of this month and if it isn’t right she’ll have to give up singing.

5 March – Work. Go to singing and I’m there early so Webster asks me straight in. Anne is sitting sewing a rug. I admire all the decorations to the studio –it looks really lovely. We have tea and I sing well and they are pleased. She says that my breathing is a bit faulty so we work at it. He puts his hands around my waist so that I can push them away with my ribs – very romantic! She says that my voice has improved beyond all bounds. He says I must get rid of the “balloon” or else he won’t come to see me when I sing – honey!

6 March – Work hard and have lunch with Mum in Ansteys. I go to Mrs S’s but she’s attending a funeral and when she returns she is too upset to give me a lesson. I talk to Gill and Elaine but we don’t do much work.

8 March – Work. Go to studio where Lucille is having a lesson and singing the Maids of Cadiz. He goes with her to put 6d in the meter. I can imagine what is going on while he’s away! I sing scales and studies well and they are pleased. He makes tea and then we do Ein Schwan which goes really well and Open thy Blue Eyes. He says my breathing is very good indeed and he can’t see a balloon today!

9 March – I go to Mrs S today and work hard. When Elaine leaves I go out with her for a breather and meet Mary Harrison – she is terribly sweet and charming. I go back and sing in the ensemble and then we see Billy Budd which is very good. Listen to Webster at night.

10 March – Go to church and Mr R preaches well. See Doreen, Shorty etc. I listen to Leslie G and the Springbok’s G&S. Ruth doesn’t phone which is a bit hurtful.

11 March – Work very hard and go to the SABC at night. Ruth tells me that the Booths simply raved about my singing and say that my voice is settling down nicely. She says that she doesn’t hate Anne any more!

12 March – Work. Go to singing and meet Roselle. Webster answers door and dashes off to buy tea in Thrupps. Anne is sweet and I sing my scales well. Webster makes tea and I sing Zion and Open Thy Blue Eyes. Webster and I decide I must do it in French. They have their certificate from their Royal Command performance appearance in 1945 on the wall. Anne says that someone was being rather derisive about them as teachers so she felt it was time to bring the certificate into the studio. It is fabulous and a real honour for them to have it.

13 March – Work and go to the library and meet Frances de Vries Robbe there. She tells me of her plans to study singing in the UK and make it her career. I have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and then go to the SS studio and have a long gruelling lesson! Evidently we are doing the piano exam on 20th of April which will work in with my accompanying for Webster very well indeed.

15 March – Work and go to singing. Webster says he’s sure Lucille won’t pass her exam. It just shows that one needs something extra apart from an excellent voice! Anne records the French pronunciation on tape and I sing scales and I Attempt from Love’s Sickness to Fly. Webster sings this for me on my tape- I’m proud to have it. Anne discusses the unfairness of the SABC in auditioning Doris Bolton, a soprano originally from Staffordshire. Webster comes down on the lift with me and discusses his teeth which he hopes to get removed soon. I go to guild at night and we have an interesting talk on blood transfusions. See Ann and Brian Stratton.

16 March – I go to SS studio and work hard with Margaret and Elaine. In the afternoon we see Madame which is rather ghastly. I listen to Webster and he is great as usual. Plays recordings by John McCormack, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, and Anne, who is lovely.

17 March – Go to church and sit with Ann and Joan. Mr Taylor Cape (who christened me in Scotland) preaches well. The Diamonds come in the afternoon. Ruth phones and says she’s thinking of leaving the Booths after the exam. I think this is rather a pity. Evidently she cracked her head on the swimming pool last week and couldn’t go to the gala. Imagine – a year since the announcement of Drawing Room.

18 March – Work very hard. Go to SABC and Simon Swindell is very much in evidence. He says, “Night, night!” to everyone as he leaves. We have John Tyler as choirmaster tonight. He is excellent and amusing. I talk to Hester, Gill and Marie and remember to apologise for Ruth. We work hard at Creation.

19 March – Work. Go to singing in afternoon and meet Roselle on the bus. She tells me that she may be going back to the Booths next month. Webster answers the door and Anne goes out for a bit so I work with him. We go through exercises and studies. The first study drags a bit but the second is good. Anne comes back and we have tea together. She tells me how the SABC audition went for Doris. They lend me some scores to practise my sightreading for next month. He gives me Acis and Galatea and Anne says, “Won’t you be needing it soon, darling?” He replies, “I won’t be singing it again in this life – maybe in the next!”

20 March – Go to the library and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go up to SS studio and practise and then have long lesson with Mrs S – she says I’ve improved very much. I do ear tests with Elaine.

21 March – Go into town early and have my hair set in Ansteys by Mr Paul. I meet Doreen and Betty, have lunch with Mum and then come home and work hard at singing. It certainly doesn’t seem like a year since that heavenly Drawing Room evening.

22 March – Work. Go to studio and Webster discusses the aural tests with me and worries about how well Lucille will do in the forthcoming exams! Anne and he say that they like my hair very much. Anne tells me that Mabel Fenney is getting divorced as she now has a boyfriend in London called Maurice Perkin. Webster is mocking about this and says that it wouldn’t be so bad if his name was Perkins, but Perkin is beyond the pale! We work hard at exam pieces and they say I have nothing to worry about. Webster comes down with me on the lift and tells me that he likes a little break from the studio periodically to put money in the meter!

23 March – Go to Mrs S and work with Margaret and Elaine. Webster says on Great Voices that he was the first person to hear the test record of Jussi Bjoerling before the war – his favourite tenor.

24 March – Phone Ruth and she tells me she has to have her tonsils out at the end of the year. Anne is most upset about this as she herself had to have her tonsils out when she was in her forties. Ruth says she thinks Webster played Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair for me last night on Great Voices! Sweet, but most unlikely. We shall see each other tomorrow night at the SABC. We visit the Bullocks in the afternoon and see their new twins who are very sweet. Mr Bullock is my father’s work colleague.

25 March – Work hard and then go to the SABC at night and work hard again with Chris Lamprecht. Ruth tells me about the birthday celebrations for Caroline, and that she herself has failed 3 tests during this last week!

26 March – Work. Go into town and meet Roselle. Webster is in the studio by himself so he gives me a cuppa! Anne arrives and tells me she might have to go into hospital to have part of a diseased tonsil removed. She is very upset. Go through all exam work. Zion is the best thing I sing today. They give me two different scores for sight-reading practice. One has her old name on it – Irené Frances Eastwood.

27 March – Go to the library and lunch with Mum. Go to the SS studio where Frances runs down Anne and Webster. I give Corrie Bakker a lesson as Gill is at a funeral today. I have a gruelling lesson with Mrs S and work with Elaine.

28 March – Work hard. Leslie G mentions that he’s going to Cape Town on his jaunt with Anne soon, although he doesn’t mention her by name!

29 March – Work. Go to singing and I arrive first. We do scales to loosen my jaw. Webster arrives and they inform me that he is a “film star” at the moment in the Jim Reeves film Kimberley Jim as the innkeeper. He informs me that he has strained his shoulder on the set. We do Ein Schwan and studies and they go fairly well. Webster says I must be more abandoned! Selwyn (child following me) sings on Stars of Tomorrow.

As the innkeeper in Kimberley Jim.

30 March – Go to town with Mum and we see the Jim Reeves crowd there. We see a film with Stanley Baker as the star – Good. Webster’s Great Voices is very good. He and Anne are doing a recital a week on Monday with the SABC concert orchestra and Edgar Cree conducting.

EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – JUNE 1962

As Ruth had to return a record to them she went along after church last night still in her choir robes. She asked Anne if she could see him and Anne agreed reluctantly. She says she’s never seen anyone looking quite so ill in her life. There he was, lying with all the clothes pulled up over him and his hair hanging all over his face, his medicine bottles on one side, looking absolutely ghastly. Ruth says she felt like crying for him – he looked so ill.

1 June – Go to studio and Webster answers door wearing Wanderers Blazer. Christopher is having another unsuccessful lesson. He argues about opening throat and mouth and they argue back at him. Anne tells him that he will have to send his cheque and remember that there are 5 Fridays in the month.

Anne comes into the kitchen and talks to me. When Christopher leaves Anne goes to phone and Webster says in his possessive voice, “And how is Jean today?” I say, “Fine, and yourself?” He looks slightly pained and says, “Not too bad.”

We do exercises and he is impossible at trying to transpose on the piano, so I do it for him. He gets rather a shock. Must say that the piano is lovely. We carry on to his bad accompaniment.

Anne returns, complaining about the cold and all goes smoother. We do the unaccompanied piece and they say that it is good too and if I do go slightly sharp it is barely noticeable. He tells me to open my mouth wider and I say, “I can’t,” and he says “Oh, Jean, of course, you can!”

We also do My Mother on tape and this goes very nicely. Anne says that my tone and voice are lovely but, “Don’t be so stingy with it.”

They are very affable to me but jump down each other’s throats at an awful rate. “Put that cigarette out!” snaps Anne. As for the woman who comes after me, Anne says, “Oh, hello Mrs.. I shan’t be a moment.” She comes back to the studio and pulls a tortured face!

2 June – Go into town with Dad to fetch score of Tales of Hoffman from the music library and then go to Thrupps to meet Mum. While I am waiting there, who should come and look in the window but Leslie Green. I see that he goes into Polliacks Building presumably to the studio for tea – lucky creature!

In the SABC Bulletin there is an article mentioning the fortnightly programme Anne is to do starting about 19 June.

3 June – Play piano in Junior Sunday School today. Am given class of eight-year-olds including David Duly, a very sweet but ardent little boy.

In the G and S programme Webster plays his recording of The Lost Chord – about the third time he has played it but it is worth hearing more than once.

5 June – Listen to Leslie Green. He is going abroad soon and has had a yellow fever injection.

I go to a rehearsal at the Duncan Hall. Hartman and Company don’t turn up! I am livid as I had to drag poor Dad out for nothing.

6 June – Go to Doreen’s twenty-first birthday party at night and have good fun. Betty is there and also Mavis Knox. She has been learning singing for two years. She sang in this year’s eisteddfod but wasn’t placed. Peter is there and we dance and he tells me he’s leaving at the end of August to go to Sheffield for a year and isn’t really looking forward to it. Party finishes about midnight.

7 June – Go to town and have lunch with Mum. I go to the lunch hour concert in which Johan conducts, and Gert Potgieter is the soloist. I say hello to German cellist and meet a lady from the choir.

Outside of Ansteys I meet Mrs O in a skirt just like mine and a suede jacket. I tell her of the happenings of last night and she is disgusted. She says Johan might ask us to resign from the choir if we go into the opera, and the choir is better for us at this stage.

I buy a skirt after much searching and see Peter Spargo on the bus coming home.

Ruth phones to tell me that owing to the exams she is writing in August she feels it would be wiser to leave the opera. Says she had a very distressing lesson on Sunday and at the end of it she felt miserable. They told her that they criticise her because her voice is worth bothering about – there are only 6 or 7 pupils whose voices are worth worrying about and therefore they criticise them. They certainly criticise me. She says she’s sure I’m one of the chosen few!

Tells me that Alan (her boyfriend) had a car crash and is suffering from shock. The Parktown girls who were at the Stravinsky rehearsal put the event into the School magazine saying that she and Mrs S sang in the SABC choir!

I tell her about Anne making faces behind people’s backs and we agree that we ought to take what Anne says with a pinch of salt.

8 June  Have a last look at the theory for the exam and go to the studio. Webster answers the door and, as I have skates with me, he says, “Hello, what have we here? Been or going?” Anne tells me that she used to skate with some girlfriends until she nearly broke her neck.

I tell them about goings-on at the opera and they are quite disgusted. We see the crowns being removed from His Majesty’s buildings and I say perhaps they will replace them with heads of Dr Verwoerd. Anne says she really hates this country. She tells me they are also teaching in Boksburg now and she finds it rather tiring.

9 June – Go to write the theory exams at the Selbourne Hall. We sit in rows rather like the workhouse and Arnold Fulton regards us closely in case anyone cheats. All goes well.

In Pritchard Street I bump into a dreamy-eyed Ruth who tells me she’s been “with them” for an hour and ten minutes. They discussed Wednesday’s happenings and are furious and want someone – maybe Mr O – to write to the paper about it.

I go to the Old Girls Reunion with Betty and Doreen and see a number of old school friends and teachers there. I am developing laryngitis.

10 June – Remain in bed with laryngitis. Listen to G and S. Webster continues with Ruddigore and says that when they were in Ireland (just after the revolution) a small Union Jack was taken on stage. They had to crawl home to their lodgings to avoid the wrath of the irate Irish.

11 June – Still ill. Sir Malcolm “my old friend and colleague” is coming to South Africa next year.

12 June – Mum and I are both in bed with laryngitis! It is her birthday today.

13 June – Ruth phones. She talks of her sisters and tells me that they are both prettier than her. “My middle sister is a real classic beauty but she isn’t a very nice person!” She is busy with exams.

14 June – Go to lunch hour concert to allay boredom in the house. Norman Bailly, a baritone, sings and is really excellent. I see Andy Johnson, the drummer. Anton Hartman is the conductor.

15 June – Still a bit fluish but I go to my lesson anyway. Anne answers door dressed in “fly-away” coat and big orange hat! She is affable and I go into kitchenette and hear Christopher braying away having most unsuccessful lesson in which Anne asks him coldly, “Do you ever practise?” They are starting to paper the kitchen and are having the studio redecorated.

When I go in she goes to phone someone. Webster says to me, “Well, my lady, d’ye know what we’re going to do today? We’re going to record the exercises. Smile; make the adjudicator enjoy them and charm him at the same time!”

We do exercises which go very well and he is pleased but tells me to do them a bit quicker so that they sound jollier!

We go on to the studies and he says I’m still putting a few ‘hs’ into them and I must constantly think about not doing that! He says that maybe if I accent the ahs I’ll be able to get out of the habit. The Germans stick in “h” but, being English, he cannot tolerate the habit. In oratorio, it sounds awful and he is distressed that Jennifer Vyvyan does it. We do it again and it goes better.

Anne finishes phoning and comes out to tell him that as two people have ‘flu and can’t come, she’s put off the third one as well. He is delighted and says to me sardonically, “We love our work!”

We record the two exercises and although the tone is good, the tempo drags and I don’t observe the hairpins. He says that Ruth has exactly the same fault and we both have to learn the expression marks off by heart. He says I must think of it as a gay dance – even though it isn’t and must interpret the studies as I would songs. In the second study I mustn’t lag on the run and must practise it – also there’s a place where I must breathe where I don’t!

I certainly learn a lot today if it’s any consolation to me. Anne tells that their servant, Hilda has ‘flu too and is delirious and singing. He says he wishes he could have caught her singing.

He comes down with me on the lift to put 3d in the meter. We have to wait ages for it and spend time moaning about it. When it arrives he displays his excellent manners. The building worker comes on as well and he is most affable to him. He ushers me out, hand on my shoulder all the way, talks jovially to the worker about RCA, and tells me to have a look at the studies at home. He knows they aren’t particularly nice but I must have a good attitude of mind towards them. He smokes his famous Gold Flake and when he says goodbye to me he dashes up Pritchard street, still smoking.

16 June – Go into town in the morning and do various chores – library etc. Meet Dad in Galaxy and then we see Circle of Fire at the Empire – excellent.

Freddie Carlé plays Hear My Song, Violetta by my friends and says, “I hope Anne and Webster are listening up in Johannesburg. Greetings to you.”

17 June – Sunday school. Play piano and have a fresh collection of little boys to teach.

Listen to G and S at night and it is lovely. He starts playing the Yeomen of the Guard and bursts into I have a Song to Sing-O and plays a record made 40 years ago. “Listen to dear old Peter Dawson as he was when a very young man of 40!” Lovely.

18 June – Work hard during the day and go to the SABC at night. First person I meet is Andy Johnson. Sit with Anna-Marie and Hester, and see John Walker, Douggie Laws, Ken Espen and Hugh Rouse, also Harry Stanton. Quite a collection.

Go with Gill for dinner and when we come back Johan asks us to go to his office to collect the Stravinsky score. He is most affable and has a lovely comfortable office.

Ruth comes and tells me of a great calamity in Domestic Science over a misunderstanding about the “thrift article” she had to make this afternoon. She spent the afternoon crying while she was making it – poor Ruth.

We work on Ninth Symphony and Die Lied van Jong Suid Afrika – the latter for a commercial recording with an orphanage choir.

Ruth tells me at the interval that Anne has ‘flu so she had him on Saturday and had a wonderful time. Poor Anne. I was quite horrible about her on Friday and she was probably feeling ghastly. Ruth says she prefers having him to teach her. Anne’s fine as a friend but she doesn’t like having lessons with her. I come home with Iris Williams who is nice.

19 June – Practise in morning and then go into town for a photograph for an audition. Have lunch with Mum. Come home on bus with Gill Mc D.

21 June – Go to lunch hour concerts and guess who I have sitting next to me? Mr Ormond. He says that he had a feeling his secretary had asked to leave early to go to the concert so he was there to check up on her. He is very affable – talks about music, the opera, the Booths, and tells me they’re going to have tea in the mayoral parlour with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra soon and is delighted about it. He’s rather a snob but quite sweet. I say that I see Walter Mony is going to play and he says he isn’t good enough. I’ll swear WM was sitting in front of us so I feel awful.

Concert conducted by Edgar Cree is excellent and soloist, Helena van Heerden plays well. Go to Mrs S and have a good lesson. She says I have improved vastly. Listen to Leslie Green at home – he is going abroad tomorrow.

22 June Anne’s 52nd birthday. Go to studio and Anne answers door – still wearing a hat. Christopher is singing The Volga Boatman – very badly.

After his lesson I go in and say I heard she has had ‘flu. She says that she hasn’t had ‘flu but Webster has gone down with it and as he is supposed to go to Bulawayo on Monday to adjudicate at the eisteddfod there, she’s awfully worried. His temperature was 102 degrees. On Sunday he felt awful and couldn’t breathe and she thought he was having a coronary thrombosis. She tried to be calm and sent him to lie down and called the doctor. Antibiotics don’t work with him so the doctor said he was going to let him sweat it out. She says he looks really haggard – about ninety – and has lost a lot of weight.

“Poor darling, I do feel sorry for him, but what can I do?” She stops and then says, “Honestly, Jean, I’ve had more than I can stand with his abscessed tooth and now this. If I have any more trouble, I don’t know what I’ll do.” Her eyes fill with tears and I feel simply dreadful and terribly sorry for her.

She says that if he can’t go he wants her to go but she can’t leave the studio to him because he isn’t in a fit state to deal with it.

Sing all three songs and studies and they all go very well. I can sing much better when Webster isn’t there, although I adore him!

She is pleased with singing but tells me to sing through the vowels of Polly Oliver. She promises to look up the JV record to see from which county it comes. We talk about the studio where we will do the exam – shall be glad when it is over – and all is reasonably cheerful although I feel quite miserable about Webster.

I say goodbye and that I hope Webster will be all right and able to go to Rhodesia. Poor Anne. It is her birthday today but as I learnt this from the Stage Who’s Who I felt embarrassed about wishing her a happy birthday because she’d know then that I know her age. I wish I could have cheered her up today – she really is a darling no matter how insincere she is at times, and she is having a horrible time at the moment.

Go to guild at night – we have a debate about eugenics which is reasonably interesting if a bit depressing.

Webster arrives in Bulawayo to adjudicate the eisteddfod.

Anthony Quail in Stoep Talk wishes Anne a happy birthday and quotes a bit from the Stage Who’s Who!

Happy birthday to: Anne Ziegler, well-known for musical and romantic roles on stage and in films, was born in Liverpool, England.

Irené Eastwood, her real name, married Webster Booth, the well-known tenor in 1938 and two years later began their double act.

They have made extensive tours of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and have appeared at many of the leading theatres and music halls in London and the Provinces.

In 1956, due to the high rate of British taxation, the Booths settled in South Africa. A year later, Anne Ziegler played her first straight stage role in South Africa in Angels in Love at the then Reps theatre, and has since appeared in numerous plays, operas and SABC broadcasts.

23 June – Go into town with Mummy in the morning but I feel very ill and almost faint so am brought home again in a taxi! Feel absolutely ghastly for the rest of the day. However, we manage to get the SABC bulletin which tells of Anne’s new programmed called Music for Romance starting a week on Tuesday. There is an article about her in which she is very arch and talks about Boo! Imagine using that name in public!

24 June – Very weak today. I listen to Time to Remember at night presented by Leslie Bayley. Also listen to Life with the Lyons which I love.

Webster – poor darling – is wonderful tonight and goes on with Yeomen of the Guard – vamping, kissing and marrying with Martyn Green – all glorious.

25 June – Go to choir at night. Gill comes first and then Ruth. I talk to her beforehand and hear a story about poor Webster. As Ruth had to return a record to them she went along after church last night still in her choir robes. She asked Anne if she could see him and Anne agreed reluctantly. She says she’s never seen anyone looking quite so ill in her life. There he was, lying with all the clothes pulled up over him and his hair hanging all over his face, his medicine bottles on one side, looking absolutely ghastly. Ruth says she felt like crying for him – he looked so ill. Poor, poor sweet old Webster – Bless him!

Apparently, it is quite definite that he went to Bulawayo today.

We work hard and practise madly. Ruth is going on holiday and promises to write – I hope she will. No one could ever have a nicer friend than Ruth. We work hard again and then Gill, Iris and I go for coffee and Iris gives me a lift home.

I don’t honestly think I would have dared to ask Anne to see Webster when he was so sick. In fact, it was rather a cheek, but I can see Ruth’s point in a way. I know she adores and worships him and I’m afraid I do too.

27 June – Work in the morning and have lunch with Mum. Go up to Mrs S’s studio and Gill tells me she’s going to have clarinet lessons with delightful, handsome, bearded oboist, Gerrit Bon, who plays in the orchestra! We do ear exercises and sing and it is all rather fun. Svea and Elaine have very bad colds.

At night Anne phones and before I go to the phone I know it is her. She says she has an appointment on Friday afternoon. We both know this is a lie – and seeing there are 5 Fridays in the month, do I mind not having a lesson. She’ll make it up in July when the little boy before me goes on holiday. I say that’s all right and ask after Webster. She says he went to Bulawayo on Monday looking absolutely ghastly but perhaps the heat up there will cure him. I say that he probably needs to be taken out of himself and I hope he’ll be all right. As she is obviously phoning oodles of people we say goodbye – see you a week on Friday. She isn’t really a very good liar.

I’m going to listen to Make Mine Music to cheer me up!


28 June – Work in the morning and then have lunch with Mum and feel – I must admit – grim and depressed.

I go to the lunch hour concert. Johan conducts well but looks rather miserable also. The Lyra Vocal Quartet are soloists – Doris Brasch, Sarie Lamprecht, Gert Potgieter and Graham Burns. Gert P is the best singer. Sarie L looks and sings grimly. Doris B opens her mouth a mile and Graham B sings well but looks morose. They are very good as a whole.

30 June – Sleep late today. Ruth will be gone on holiday by now. Mum and Dad go to a party in the afternoon and we are going to pictures at night. We see Pollyanna with Hayley Mills and Jane Wyman. It is a really lovely show and a great tear-jerker. We have supper out afterwards.

ANNE ZIEGLER née IRENE FRANCES EASTWOOD (1910 – 2003)

Irené Frances Eastwood (Anne Ziegler) was born on 22 June 1910, the youngest child of Ernest and Eliza Frances Eastwood (née Doyle) of 13 Marmion Road, Sefton Park, Liverpool.  Her father was a cotton broker, and her mother, born in Bootle, was the daughter of James and Elizabeth Doyle. James was an architect, who had designed the Grand Hotel, Llandudno and other well-known buildings. Her sister, Phyllis, and brother, Cyril, were some years older than her, so Irené was almost an only child. At the time of her birth, her father was in Houston, Texas, buying cotton, so he did not see her until she was three months old.

Marmion Road, Sefton Park

Her father did not want her to risk the might of the Zeppelins, so she had a Scottish nursery governess to teach her reading, writing and basic arithmetic. Later she attended Belvedere School. Her sister, Phyll, had done well there, but Anne was only interested in music and dancing, so the staff at Belvedere often compared her unfavourably to her studious elder sister, who had become a pharmacist when she left school.

 Anne left school at the age of sixteen and continued playing the piano up to Grade VIII of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and began to study singing with the eminent teacher, John Tobin. In the nineteen-twenties a girl of her class had no need to work for a living. She was beautiful: tall and slim with emerald green eyes, fair hair and a fine bone structure. She became engaged – several times – to suitable young men, including a curate!

Anne

She sang in John Tobin’s female choir of twenty-four voices and took the part of the May Queen in an amateur production of Merrie England

Anne (seated) surrounded by cast members.

She won the gold medal at the Liverpool eisteddfod and sang at concerts in and around Liverpool. At this stage singing was a pleasant way of passing the time rather than a means of earning her living for a girl of her class had no need to work and earn money. Her father financed a vocal recital in Liverpool and a further recital at the Wigmore Hall under John Tobin’s tutelage. At the Wigmore Hall she sang everything from Handel’s He’ll say that for my love from Xerses to Roger Quilter’s Love’s Philosophy and Scheherzade, but neither of these recitals brought forth any professional singing engagements.

30 April 1934 Wigmore Hall recital.

Her family’s fortune took a downturn in the early thirties with the depression and the collapse of the cotton shares. For the first time in her life, she had to think seriously about earning a living to relieve her family’s finances. She was not trained to do anything as mundane as serving in a shop or typing, but she was attractive and she could sing. She and her friend, the mezzo-soprano, Nancy Evans, went to London to audition. Nancy didn’t find any work on that occasion, but Anne got the part of top voice in the octet of a musical play, By Appointment, starring the famous singer, Maggie Teyte, changed her name to the more glamorous Anne Ziegler, was accepted on the books of the theatrical agent Robert Layton, and was determined to establish herself on the stage and not become a financial burden to her father. 

By Appointment was not a success and lasted only three weeks but she found another job singing for Mr Joe Lyon’s organisation amidst the clatter of the restaurants of the Regent Palace and Cumberland Hotels, and the Trocadero. She auditioned for the part of Marguerite in a colour film version of Gounod’s Faust Fantasy. She had seen the opera as a child and was so enchanted with it that she determined she would play the role of Marguerite when she grew up.

From over two hundred other hopefuls she was chosen for the part: no doubt her blonde good looks and charming personality counted for nearly as much as her attractive lyric soprano voice. It was in the making of this film, which commenced shooting in December 1934, that she met Webster Booth, playing opposite her as Faust.

Anne and Webster in the “Faust Fantasy”

They fell in love almost at first sight, although at the time he was married to his second wife, Paddy Prior and had a son, Keith, by his first marriage. Four years later, after his divorce from Paddy in times when divorce was not as common or acceptable as it is today, Anne and Webster were eventually married on Bonfire Night in 1938.

In the intervening four years from the time Anne and Webster met and when they were free to marry, Anne was principal boy in her first pantomime, was an overnight success on radio in The Chocolate Soldier, sang in the early days of British television in 1936, and starred, under the name of Anne Booth, in the musical Virginia in New York. 

Anne had made a test recording for HMV  in 1935 but she made very few solo recordings for the company. It was only when she began singing duets with Webster that her recording career as a duettist was established in 1939. Here is her test recording from 1935:
The Waltz Song from Merrie England

At  the end of 1935, she was principal boy in Mother Goose, her first pantomime, at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool with George Formby and George Lacey. The following year she was principal boy in Cinderella in Scotland with the popular Scottish comedian, Will Fyffe. 

Will Fyffe

Will Fyffe sings Twelve and a tanner a bottle

July 1937. Anne was invited to go to the States to appear in the musical Virginia by Schwartz.  She decided to take the name of Anne Booth for her appearance there and made up a fictional life story to go with her new name! The show was presented at the Center Theater, New York, but it was not a great success, and Anne did not receive very good notices. She returned to the UK after the show ended although a film company in Hollywood had been interested in employing her.

8 October 1937 Virginia

Anne and Webster were married on 5 November 1938 and from then on their lives and careers were intertwined and in the 1940s they were to reach the top of the entertainment tree as duettists.

Anne and Webster wedding

 

Jean Collen 13 September 2018.

 

PADDY PRIOR – WEBSTER BOOTH’S SECOND WIFE

On 22 April 1948 she and Bettie Bucknelle sailed for Australia, where they intended to make a new life. Paddy’s brother had settled there some time earlier. It must have been upsetting for Paddy to see Webster and Anne as established stars while, despite her considerable talent, she had not made a big and lasting name for herself.

Paddy Prior in Newquay
Paddy Prior at the Old Vicarage, Newquay after World War 2

Webster Booth married his second wife, Dorothy Annie Alice Prior (stage name Paddy Prior) on 10 October 1932 at the Fulham Registry Office. He had married Winifred Keey there eight years earlier but had divorced her in 1931 after she deserted him and their small son, Keith, several years before.

Marriage Henderson Prior

Marriage certificate of Hubert Edward Prior and Annie Jane Henderson on 25 October 1902.

Paddy Prior, was born in December 1904, the daughter of Fulham ironmonger, Hubert and his wife, Annie Henderson. Paddy began her professional stage career while still a teenager. She was a talented soubrette, comedienne and dancer, and possessed a pleasant mezzo soprano voice into the bargain.

Paddy’s parents lived at Disbrowe Road when they were first married.

Disbrowe Road
Disbrowe Road, Fulham (today)

Paddy’s birthplace in Fulham. Her baptism on 29 January 1905 at St Peter, Fulham.

Baptismal certificate.
Baptismal certificate – Dorothy Annie Alice Prior.

1911 Census

1911 census Paddy Prior
1911 census

George William Henderson was a relative of Annie Jane Prior (nee Henderson).

In 1924, at the age of nineteen, Paddy spent nearly a year as a member of the travelling Rogues concert party from April to January 1925. In various reviews Paddy was praised for her comedy talent and her speciality dancing with comedian Fred Roper. They were appearing at Leas Pavilion, Folkestone in January 1925, but by the 5 February Paddy had left the Rogues to join the Gamblers and Their Tipster concert party at the same venue. This party also toured extensively, so before she was twenty-one, Paddy had seen much of the country and gained valuable professional experience into the bargain.

24 December 1924

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Whitehall Court, Fulham – Paddy’s home in the 1920s.

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In November 1925 Paddy appeared at the Taunton Lyceum in Little Miss Muffet as Dolly Dimple. The pantomime toured various towns until early 1926.

Little Miss Muffet (1925)
Little Miss Muffet – Paddy played Little Dolly Dimple.

By April Paddy was out of work and obliged to put an advertisement in The Stage as follows:

8 April 1926 PADDY PRIOR, SOUBRETTE AND DANCER, VACANT: First class offers for CP, Revue, and Musical Comedy. PA 37 Arundel Mansions, Fulham SW6

By July Paddy was working again, this time with Leslie Fuller’s Whitby Pedlars, and a review pointed out that, “Paddy Prior is a charming and dainty soubrette, who uses her mezzo voice effectively.”

The pattern of Paddy’s stage career was set: concert party, after-dinner entertainment, pantomime and musical comedy. Towards the end of the twenties she was also on television at Daventry, first in De Courville’s Hour in 1929.

Albert de Courville.

Albert de Courville

then in the early thirties in Philip Ridgeway’s series entitled The Ridgeway Parade, which included Janet Lind, Dorothy Dampier and Hermione Gingold in the cast. She starred in the Cicely Courtneidge role on a Scottish tour of Lido Lady in 1929.

31 January 1929 – Advertisement in The Stage. PADDY PRIOR – Playing Lead LIDO LADY Co. This week, Theatre Royal, Inverness, next His Majesty’s, Aberdeen

Selection from LIDO LADY

Stage adverts
Stage adverts

Cast of Ridgeway ParadeDress Rehearsal

The Ridgeway Parade – Regional Programme London, 7 October 1931 21.15 (New Series. No. I) Sweep Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical Arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN
Devised and Produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY
FRED CURTIS , BERTHA WILLMOTT, IRENE VERE, HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, SINCLAIR COLE, BERT MEREDITH, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON, LOLA GORDON, BEATRICE GALLEWAY, JACK HODGES, JOHN CHARLTON, PADDY PRIOR, ARTHUR JAY, WALLACE NORFORD. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA. PHILIP RIDGEWAY.

THE FIRST OF THE NEW SERIES OF RIDGEWAY PARADES – National Programme Daventry, 9 October 1931 20.00 SWEEP NIGHT – A song and dance show, written by Holt Marvell and Philip Ridgeway. Musical arrangements by Dorothy Hogben. Devised and produced by Philip Ridgeway. Fred Curtis, Bertha Wilmott, Irene Vere, Hermione Gingold, Gerald Osborne, Dorothy Dampier, Anna Day, Sinclair Cole, Bert Meredith, Douglas Pemberton, Lola Gordon, Beatrice Galleway, Jack Hodges, John Charlton, Paddy Prior, Arthur Jay, Wallace Norford, Dorothy Hogben and her Orchestra. Philip Ridgeway.

Singing, dancing, burlesque-and Mr. Ridgeway. The producer is the life and soul of his own shows. It is Philip Ridgeway who designed costumes for his Paraders to wear in the Studio, who makes his whole company dance furiously for a minute before the red light goes on in order that they should start their broadcast warmed up, who created and impersonated Joe Ramsbotham of Rawthenstall, of the unsteady Lancashire accent. These Parades, of which the present series is the third, are among the most generally popular light entertainments ever broadcast. They may lack the subtlety and satire of the revues of Gordon McConnel, John Watt, Denis Freeman; their aim is otherwise—broad humour, popular songs, vitality, rather than finesse. Many of the members of former Parade companies are taking part in the present series. Mr. Ridgeway’s musical director, Dorothy Hogben, is again in charge of the orchestra. Philip Ridgeway is well qualified to possess an acquaintance with the popular taste in entertainment. Still in his thirties, he has been connected with the theatre since he was a boy, as actor, author, producer and manager in turn. It is typical of his lively versatility that the two most widely acclaimed achievements of his career have been his introduction of Chekhov to London, at the Barnes Theatre, several years ago, and the invention last autumn of the Ridgeway Parades. Tonight he will be beside the microphone as usual, the inevitable flower in his buttonhole, waving his company on, a cross between Sir Henry Wood, Francois Descamps and Grock. So on with the show. We’re a lot of little songs to chase the blues, Dancing shoes to amuse. We’re the lightest and the brightest of revues, We’re the Ridgeway Parade.

The Ridgeway Parade – National Programme Daventry, 22 October 1931 20.00 (New Series-No. II) Sweetheart Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical Arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN. Devised and Produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY. DOROTHY DAMPIER, HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, FRED CURTIS, SINCLAIR COLE, BERT MEREDITH, LOLA GORDON, JOHN CHARLTON, PADDY PRIOR, JACK HODGES , DORIS YORKE, ALEXANDER HENDERSON, WALLACE MORFORD, BEATRICE GALLEWAY, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA.  PHILIP RIDGEWAY

The Ridgeway Parade – Regional Programme London, 4 November 1931 20.30 (New Series-No. Ill) – Old Soldiers’ Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical Arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN. Devised and Produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY. HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, BERT MEREDITH, SINCLAIR COLE, JOHN CHARLTON, FRED CURTIS, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON, LOLA GORDON, PADDY PRIOR, JACK HODGES, WALLACE MORFORD, DORIS YORKE, ALEXANDER HENDERSON, BEATRICE GALLEWAY.BL_0000381_19321224_010_0001

Ridgeway Parade2
Ridgeway Parade

The Ridgeway Parade— V Regional Programme London, 2 December 1931 20.00 (New Series) Typists’, Brunettes’, and Dukes’ Night – A Song and Dance Show Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP Ridgeway.  HERMIONEGINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, BERT MEREDITH, SINCLAIR COLE, JOHN CHARLTON, FRED CURTIS, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON, LOLA GORDON, BEATRlCE GALLEWAY,  ALEXANDER HENDERSON, PADDY PRIOR, JACK HODGES, WALLACE MORFORD, DORIS YORKE. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA, PHILIP RIDGEWAY.

The Ridgeway Parade – Regional Programme London, 16 December 1931 20.00 (New Series-No. VI) HAPPY NIGHT. A SONG AND DANCE SHOW Written by HOLT MARVELL and PHILIP RIDGEWAY. Musical arrangements by DOROTHY HOGBEN. Devised and produced by PHILIP RIDGEWAY.  HERMIONE GINGOLD, GERALD OSBORNE, IRENE VERE, BERTHA WILLMOTT, BERT MEREDITH, SINCLAIR COLE, JOHN CHARLTON. FRED CURTIS, DOROTHY DAMPIER, ANNA DAY, ALEXANDER HENDERSON , DORIS YORKE, WALLACE MORFORD, JACK HODGES, PADDY PRIOR, BEATRICE GALLEWAY, LOLA GORDON, DOUGLAS PEMBERTON. DOROTHY HOGBEN and her ORCHESTRA. PHILIP RIDGEWAY

MURRAY ASHFORD’S ENTERTAINERS – Regional Programme Midland, 17 June 1932 18.30 From THE PAVILION, JEPHSON GARDENS, LEAMINGTON SPA. WINIFRED SCOTT-BAXTER (Soprano), EDWARD WARD, (Baritone), CLIFFORD WARREN (Entertainer), PADDY PRIOR (Soubrette), MARIE GROS (Comedienne), DOROTHY BRADSHAW (at the Piano), FRANK RYDON (Light Comedian), WILBY LUNN and CONNIE HART (Living Marionettes).

MANY interesting personalities are associated with Murray Ashford’s Entertainers. Paddy Prior is familiar to admirers of the Ridgeway Parade, Marie Gros is the niece of the late Marie Lloyd and sings many of her songs, while Edward Ward has appeared in several Drury Lane successes.

Webster Booth divorced his first wife, Winifred Keey, in 1931.

DIVORCE NOTICE
Between Leslie Webster Booth (Petitioner) and Winifred Dorothy Booth (Respondent) and Trevor Davey (Co-respondent)

TAKE NOTICE that a Petition has been filed in this Division endorsed with Notice to you to appear and answer the charges in the Petition of Leslie Webster Booth of 151 Biggin Hill, Upper Norwood, in the County of London, praying for a dissolution of marriage. In default of your so appearing, you will not be allowed to address the Court, and the Court will proceed and hear the said Petition proved and pronounce sentence. AND TAKE FURTHER NOTICE THAT for the purpose of the aforesaid within one month after the date of this Publication an appearance must be entered at the Divorce Registry, Somerset in respect thereof AND TAKE FURTHER NOTICE THAT House, Strand, London. W INDERWICK, Registrar, Solicitors for the Petitioner:-W H Speed & Co., 18 Sackville Street, London, W1

Like Webster, Paddy was a member of the Concert Artistes’ Association, and it was there that she first heard Webster sing. In an interview with W.S. Meadmore in Gramophone in November 1935, Webster described his meeting with Paddy. He was singing One Alone from The Desert Song when his attention was drawn to her seated in the audience, obviously enjoying his singing. They were introduced after the concert and married on 10 October 1932.  They spent their honeymoon in Newquay, Cornwall.

Webster Booth and Paddy Prior appeared together at the Bellingham Club 5 months prior to their marriage.

Clacton Entertainers present Paddy with a wedding gift at the end of September 1932.

10 October 1932 – Marriage. Webster married Dorothy Annie Alice Prior on 10 October 1932 at Fulham Registry Office, the same registry office where he had married Winifred Keey in 1924.

While married to Dorothy (Paddy) Prior, the couple lived at 5 Crescent Court, Golders Green Crescent, NW11. They were listed separately in the telephone book as Webster Booth, tenor, Speedwell 6608; and Paddy Prior, soubrette-entertainer, Speedwell 6608

Although Webster was living with Anne at her flat in Lauderdale Mansions in 1937, Paddy and Webster remained listed in the telephone book at the same address until their divorce was made final in October 1938.

13 October 1932 – Wedding Bells. Paddy Prior and Webster Booth were married at the Fulham Register Office last Monday. A reception followed before the bride and bridegroom left for a honeymoon at Newquay, and several professional friends were in attendance to toast the happy couple.

One Alone

5 Crescent Court
5 Crescent Court, Golders Green Crescent, Golders Green

Paddy and Webster lived at Crescent Court, Golders Green Crescent, Golders Green during their marriage (pictured above).

May 1933 – Piccadilly Revels. Murray Ashford and Wilby Lunn’s Piccadilly Revels will open a fortnight’s engagement at the Pavilion, Bournemouth, next Monday, with a visit to the Argyle, Birkenhead, to follow. The company will start their long resident season at the Floral Hall, Scarborough, on Whit Saturday. The Western Brothers, Ena Broughton, Webster Booth, Paddy Prior, Violet Stevens, Edgar Sawyer, Andrée Conti, Isolde, Alexis and Carlo, and the Euphan Maclaren Girls form the cast.

Piccadilly Revels, Scarborough 1933

1933 Piccadilly Revelsa

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Piccadilly Revels. Webster is seated in middle row with Paddy to the left.

Paddy Prior (middle row left), Webster Booth (seated next to her)

In 1934 they were members of Powis Pinder’s Sunshine concert party at the Sunshine Theatre, Shanklin. Arthur Askey and Bernard Lee were also in this company.

Paddy Prior (extreme left) Webster Booth (standing behind Arthur Askey) Sunshine Concert Party, Shanklin 1934

Sunshine Shanklin 03
Sunshine, Shanklin.

At the end of 1934 Webster was chosen to play Faust in the film, The Faust Fantasy and Anne Ziegler was chosen to play Marguerite. Filming began in December and, according to Anne and Webster’s joint autobiography Duet, they fell in love almost at first sight. Paddy’s marriage to Webster was about to end before it had properly begun.

Filming Faust (1934/1935)

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Webster and Anne meet during the filming of Faust

1935 – Fred Hartley’s wedding. Mrs Webster Booth (Paddy) is mentioned as being one of the wedding guests present.

https://clyp.it/ovf2ai2i Roses of Picardy. Click on the link and listen to Webster singing this song with Fred Hartley’s quintet.

Fred Hartley's wedding 1935Mention of Mrs Webster Booth as one of the guests at the wedding.

In May 1935 Webster and Paddy did an extensive broadcast from Daventry entitled A Musical Comedy Pot-Pourri. Harry Bidgood and Sydney Jerome accompanied them on two pianos and played several piano duets. Paddy and Webster sang several duets together.

Webster Booth and Paddy Prior Daventry broadcast
Webster Booth and Paddy Prior Daventry broadcast – May 1935

So this is love
So this is love – Paddy and Webster sang Just Suppose as their first duet.

Two of the duets which Webster and Paddy sang in the broadcast were: Fancy Me Meeting You (Hit the Deck by Yeomans) sung here by Binnie Hale. Click on the link to listen.

Who? (Sunny by Jerome Kern) sung here by Binnie Hale and Jack Buchanan. Click on the link to listen.


As Binnie Hale is the archetypal soubrette, I dare say that Paddy’s mezzo soprano voice was similar to Binnie’s.

In October of the same year, Webster sang in an early broadcast with Anne Ziegler, several years before Paddy divorced him – the programme was called Musical Comedy Moments.

Broadcast from Daventry - Webster and Anne Ziegler
Broadcast from Daventry – Webster and Anne Ziegler

Webster and Paddy continued to work together for several years after his meeting with Anne. Their last  professional appearance was on 30 April 1936 when they performed together at the City Musical Union’s 84th Annual Dinner at the Holborn Restaurant. At the end of May they were guests at the wedding of their friends, Violet Stevens and Bryan Courage.

30 May 1936 Hastings and St Leonards pp
Special Concert in 1936

But in July 1937 Anne and Webster sailed for New York together, where Anne had been engaged to play in the musical, Virginia at the Center Theater. She had changed her name to Anne Booth for this production, after being advised that Americans disliked German-sounding names at that time also anticipating her eventual marriage to Webster. Webster returned to Southampton onboard the MV Georgic and gave his address as 74 Lauderdale Mansions, Maida Vale (Anne’s flat), although he was still listed in the telephone directory as living in Crescent Court, Golders Green, where he and Paddy had spent their short married life.

From the beginning of 1938 Anne and Webster began taking engagements together, while Paddy filed for divorce on 29 March 1938 “on the grounds of his adultery in April 1937, with Miss Irene Eastwood, otherwise Miss Anne Zeigler (sic), singer…”

29 March 1938 Decree nisi (1)
Decree nisi March 1938

In September 1938 before Webster’s divorce from Paddy had been finalised, Anne was featured on the cover of Radio Pictorial sporting an opulent diamond solitaire engagement ring:

Radio Pictorial

and on 7 October 1938 the absolute decree was granted to Paddy Prior against Webster Booth. Anne was named as the co-respondent in the divorce.

After the divorce Paddy moved to 14 Muswell Hill Road, sharing her new home with a young Welsh singer, Bettie Bucknelle, who had sung on the radio show, Band Waggon, which starred Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch. In January 1939 Bettie was featured in a show with Charlie Kunz and Denny Dennis.

Bettie Bucknelle
Bettie Bucknelle was singing with Denny Denis in a Charlie Kunz show on Radio Luxembourg and Radio Normandy in early 1939.

Bettie Bucknelle and Paddy Prior in Newquay shortly before they Bucknelle left for Australia.

Anne and Webster were married on 5 November 1938 and went on to even greater success as romantic duettists on the variety stage during the war. I always felt very sorry for Paddy having to watch Anne and Webster obtaining great fame in the theatre while she never achieved great fame despite being a talented and hard working performer.

Witcock and Rutherford’s WEST-END VANITIES  – Regional Programme London, 21 December 1938 16.30 Helen Hill, Paddy Prior, Jean Forbes-Macintyre, Lucas Bassett, Bradley Harris, Derek Moreland, Frank Wilcock, Tubby Harold. Introduced by Harry S. Pepper.

The Folkestone Bouquets. Paddy Prior, middle row  (2nd from the right) 1939.

Bouquets' concert party Paddy Prior

ROUND THE CONCERT PARTIES, No. – Regional Programme London, 28 July 1939 20.30 A composite programme of excerpts from three concert parties –DAZZLE Presented by Eric Ross from Pierrot Land, Bognor Regis – Ida Williams, John Lovering, Barbara Wells, Fred Gibson, Eric Ross, Ted Andrews, The Dazzle Girls, Joan Pendleton, Violet Shute, Beryl Pryer and Phyllis Revell.

SUMMER FOLLIES Presented by Will Catlin, Devised and produced by Harry Bright from the Arcadia Theatre, Llandudno. Phil Strickland, The Carlyle Cousins, Terry and Doris Kendall, Ross Eaves, Marion Francis, Sydney Snape, Vera Kitchen, Leslie Moorhouse, Joan Cowley, The Mayfair Dancers,Wagstaff’s Zelo Orchestra.

1939 FOLKESTONE BOUQUETS Presented by Wilby Lunn from the Marine Gardens Pavilion, Folkestone. Betty Pugh Bruce Clark, Dorothy Bradshaw, Harold Stead, Paddy Prior, Stock Wynn, George Carden, The Mariajanos, Marguerite Lome, Eileen Lome, Hylda Burdon, Ruby Savage, Wilby Lunn and Connie Hart.  The programme presented by Harry S. Pepper

A show in 1941.

1941 show

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Variety concert (1941)

Paddy continued with her theatrical career and when war broke out she joined ENSA. Here is a photograph of Paddy entertaining the troops during World War 2.

Paddy Prior (2)
Paddy entertaining the troops during World War 2

Signatures of Paddy and other members of ENSA after entertaining at

Clare Hall, South Mimms in 1943.ENSA Canadian Legion, Bolton Camp

Ensa signatures
ENSA signatures

7 November 1946 PPBB

bettie-bucknelle
So Deep is the Night, with Bettie Bucknelle’s photo on the cover

20 November 1945. Only a few weeks after Anne and Webster had sung at the Victory Royal Variety Performance, Paddy was the hostess at the CAA and Bettie Bucknelle was one of the performers at this concert. One could hardly blame Paddy for feeling rather bitter about Anne and Webster’s great success while she was doing much the same thing as always.

November 1946.

Paddy and Bettie Bucknelle entertained British forces in the Middle East and returned to England in 1946. In 1947 she did a summer season with the Oval Entertainers, Margate, where a reviewer described her as “a gay young lady with a sparkling sense of humour as fresh as Margate’s famous sea breezes.”.

1947 2012.04.16_22h35m44s_043

On 22 April 1948 she and Bettie Bucknelle sailed for Australia, where they intended to make a new life. Paddy’s brother had settled there some time earlier. It must have been upsetting for Paddy to see Webster and Anne as established stars while, despite her considerable talent, she had not made a big and lasting name for herself.

Bettie Bucknelle and Paddy Prior in Newquay shortly before they Bucknelle left for Australia.

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Extract from passenger list to Australia.

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Passenger list to Australia – April 1948. Bucknell and Booth

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A  newspaper photo regarding their arrival in Australia in 1948.

Later that year Anne and Webster made an extensive and triumphant concert tour of New Zealand and Australia. They heard that Paddy and Bettie had booked seats in the front row for one of their concerts in Sydney. Webster feared that they might be planning an unpleasant demonstration against them at this concert. He was asked whether he could recommend Paddy as understudy to Cicely Courtneidge in the play, Under the Counter, which meant she would have to leave for New Zealand to rehearse the understudy role. Paddy had played the lead in a Scottish tour of Lido Lady in the late twenties, the same role in which Cicely had starred in London a few years earlier. He had no hesitation in making this recommendation, so Paddy was not able to attend the concert as she had to go to New Zealand right away to begin understudy rehearsals.

There is evidence of Bettie Bucknelle singing in a number of broadcasts, including broadcasts with the famous bandleader Jay Wilbur, but I could not find out anything about Paddy’s Australian theatrical career. In a 1949 electoral register, she is listed as a housewife!

20-february-1949-bettie-bucknelle

Shortly after Anne and Webster returned to the UK from South Africa in 1978, a letter arrived for Webster from Paddy who was still living in Australia. She said he would be welcome to visit her if he ever decided to go out there. Anne did not show this letter to Webster!

I was pleased to hear from Paddy’s niece, Beverley June McLachlan (née Prior) and her daughter, Paddy’s great-niece, Cheryl Willits recently. Paddy married Harold Bradshaw and the couple lived in Hobart, Tasmania where Paddy continued to entertain at their bowling club, singing and doing comedy skits. Cheryl mentioned that Paddy had sung on the radio with Ross Higgins,

Ross Higgins
Ross Higgins, the well-known Australian actor and entertainer who died at the age of 86 in October 2016. I am happy to know that Paddy’s subsequent life in Australia was a happy one.

Comments from Cheryl Willits and Beverley McLachlan which appeared in the original post on my Jean Collen website.

Cheryl Willits, in reply to me: Hey there, My mother might be able to help you on this as she is Paddy’s niece. I am her great niece. If you would like any info feel free to email me and I could put you in touch with my mother. Reading the article has been a delight, Regards, Cheryl.

Beverley McLachlan: Paddy Prior did marry Harold Bradshaw. She was my aunt. My Father was Paddy’s brother. Paddy and Brad lived in Tasmania and still entertained at their bowling club, singing and comedy skits in Hobart, Tasmania.

Sadly, I did not hear any more from Beverly or Cheryl.

Jean Collen

April, 2016.

Updated: 24 August 2019