EVERGREEN MELODIES – ANNE ZIEGLER AND WEBSTER BOOTH

I am including this article by Brian Martin which appeared in Evergreen in 1994. There are several errors of fact in it and I have marked these in bold. This article is not intended for public consumption but is protected by a password which will be made available to a select few who are interested in the Booths and wish to read it.

I am including this article by Brian Martin which appeared in Evergreen in 1994. There are several errors of fact in it and I have marked these in bold. Do not copy any part of the article.

Evergreen Melodies – Winter 1994

Shared affection… a fine photographic portrait of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth at the peak of their career.

They met while filming Faust in 1934.

Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were singers in love… off stage and on. For almost 50 years, wherever they appeared all over the world, they sang to wildly appreciative audiences – their hands entwined in a gentle caress. Anne, who wore delightful gowns (which were often designed by Norman Hartnell, the Queen’s dressmaker) sang like a dream. Webster, tall and handsome, possessed a tenor voice that soared, effortlessly to the heights.

Anne and Webster were married for 45 years, each basking in the warm glow of their shared happiness. Yet there was often sadness behind the smiles. Hard times and personal grief occasionally tarnished those gold years. As Anne Ziegler (now 84 and living in North Wales) admits, the stairway to the stars had many pitfalls.

Webster, hailed as one of the finest lyric tenors of our time, died in June 1984, but Anne’s small house within sight of the sea is still filled with memories of him and the star-studded life they shared. Photographs of Webster show him cloaked dashingly as The Vagabond King or wearing a full Red Indian head-dress for a performance of Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s mighty choral extravaganza Hiawatha. But the photographs that really catch the eye are those of Webster, immaculate in evening dress, with Anne, charming in crinoline— two lives forever intertwined.

Anne remains a spry survivor. Her back is as straight as ever (a tribute to correct posture) and those lively eyes still sparkle. It’s easy to imagine the young Irené Frances Eastwood (as she was born) playing in the garden of the family home in the leafy Liverpool suburb of Sefton Park and dreaming of being a star. “When I was about nine my mother took me to the theatre to see a performance of Faust and I whispered: ‘I’m going to be Marguerite when I’m grown-up!’ And I did sing Marguerite 15 years later – with Webster as Faust!”

Webster was nine years older. His full name was Leslie Webster Booth (he was known by his first name to family and friends), the youngest of three brothers in a family of six. He was born in Handsworth, Birmingham where his father was a hairdresser, and one of his brothers, Norman, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, recalled how all the Booth youngsters helped out in the barber shop, including taking the money from customers!

Cheery tunes played on a street organ (complete with monkey!) fired Webster’s enthusiasm for music, and at the age of nine he won a scholarship to Lincoln Cathedral choir school where he was taught by the dreaded Dr Bennett who would ram a broken baton into a pupil’s mouth and bellow, “Get that tongue down!” to encourage good singing. Yet Webster never required this shock treatment; his remarkable technique seems to have been innate.

“His tone was coming straight out of the throat,” said Anne. “There was no obstruction. It was a pure flow of air. That was probably why his voice lasted so long.” His only danger was that he might strain it shouting for his favourite team at Aston Villa home matches. Throughout his life he was a keen football supporter..

Webster trained as an accountant but his singing voice had developed into a glorious ringing tenor. He faced a major dilemma; should he continue in accountancy (dull but lucrative) or make singing his profession? Fate took a hand. He was asked to attend an interview in London. (he had already auditioned in Birmingham) with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company – on the same day that he was due to carry out an audit in Merthyr Tydfil. Which should he choose? He opted for London – and soon he was singing with the D’Oyly Carte chorus in The Yeomen of the Guard at Brighton, the first of many touring productions. His career was also on course for a meeting with Anne.

Elocution coaching by renowned Shakespearian actor Robert Atkins helped Webster lose his Birmingham accent and his voice eventually became famous for its tone quality, pitch and diction – “He was rightly in love with his voice and used to tape all his records,” Anne recalls. “It was a light voice with an exceptionally high range, ideal for opera.”

Fred Hartley

Incredibly, he was once told by a technician at Edison Records that his voice “would not record”, yet he was eventually asked to make a test recording for the Columbia Gramophone Company, which was heard at a party by the great Australian bass-baritione Peter Dawson. Dawson was so impressed that he used his influence at HMV to get the young singer a contract and Webster’s first record was that delightful ballad A Brown Bird Singing, made in 1929 with Ray Noble’s orchestra and accompanied by suitable bird effects! There was some confusion because Cavan O’Connor brought out a similar record (also with Ray Noble) at the same time, but soon Webster was making more recordings for HMV than any other singer apart from Bing Crosby!

His first important London engagement was in The Three Musketeers at Drury Lane in March 1930. He also broadcast with Fred Hartley’s Sextet and made a film, called The Invader, with Buster Keaton (the movie was a talkie, but Keaton didn’t say a word!). It was when he was asked to sing in a performance of Handel’s Messiah, conducted by the great Sir Malcolm Sargent (at that time still Doctor Malcolm Sargent), that he knew his talents had been fully recognized. This was musical appreciation of the highest order. He would phone friends excitedly: “I’m on the radio tonight… in a classical concert!”

Throughout his career he mainly chose to sing in English, recording duets with such well-known opera stars as Joan Cross and Joan Hammond. Many admirers were sorry that Webster did not pursue an operatic career, but he always said that he much preferred recording and broadcasting.

Meanwhile Anne was making her own way to the top. The daughter of a cotton merchant, she trained in music and dance and starred in several shows before heading south: “My mother was mad on music, and music was also my life. I had no time for sport or anything else.”

Offered a leading part (the top part in an octet!) in a London show, she was advised by her music teacher to change her name to something more attractive for the bill-boards. One day she was scanning the Liverpool telephone directory in the hope of finding a suitable replacement surname when, on the very last page , she noticed the name of Ziegler. There was a family connection… Mr Ziegler was a distant relative of her father’s who owned Landicane Farm, then an extensive property on the Wirral peninsula in Cheshire. The sound of the name had the required romantic ring and it merely took the addition of a single shorter first name to complete the task. From now on she would be Anne Ziegler; it was a name destined to beam brightly from the finest theatres in the land.

By 1934 she was a rising star, tipped for Hollywood, and the Press had dubbed her The Radio Nightingale. Webster was called The Voice of Romance and the two met during the filming of Faust in December 1934. When Evergreen visited her this autumn, Anne was excited because an admirer in Ireland had recently obtained a copy of the original film, which was made in Spectracolour. “It will be the first time I have seen it since the 1930s,” she added.

When the two met on the set of Faust, Anne admitted she liked Webster straight away. “He had marvellous, compelling brown eyes and a youthful face. But he was married and we weren’t supposed to be showing a lot of interest in each other… though he tried to attract my attention by balancing a small ivory pig on the top of a piano lid. It kept falling over, which gave him the excuse to ask me if I could make the pig stand up. Of course, I couldn’t either, but it started a conversation! I think our affection grew from that. It was only six months later, when he was in a musical comedy at London’s Savoy Theatre that I was watching that I found myself getting rather jealous because he had a French leading lady!”

Anne was an attractive 23-year-old – Webster was 32, a divorcee who was already on his second marriage. His career was blooming but his personal life was in tatters. His first marriage had been to Winifred Key (Keey), daughter of the principal of the college in Birmingham where he had studied accountancy. They had a son, Keith (now a retired farmer (flower grower), living in the North of England) but one day Winifred walked out, leaving Webster to bring up the baby boy (aged six) alone. He combed the country trying to find her, often using the journey to a concert venue as a chance to find out where she was. Yet the two were never reunited.

In their autobiography Duet which he wrote with Anne in 1951, Webster remembered those days as a giggle. Anne recalls: “Much of the money we earned then had to be used to support my parents. My father had failed in business and needed help. Later there was alimony to pay from the break-up of Webster’s second marriage and money was required for Keith’s education.” (Webster stopped paying alimony to Paddy a few years after the divorce in 1938).

By the time Anne met Webster he had divorced Winifred and married again, this time to comedienne Paddy Prior – but that marriage was also crumbling. With Anne he sensed a last chance for happiness. She had already appeared in pantomime with George Formby at Liverpool in 1935 and had also become something of a household word herself through her success in the operetta Love Needs a Waltz.

Anne and Webster recorded their first duet in 1937 (1939!) (fittingly it was If You Were the Only Girl in the World) and sang together in a memorable performance of Messiah with the mighty Huddersfield Choral Society and Liverpool Philharmonic under Sir Malcolm Sargent. (This performance took place in 1944!) In 1938 Anne – described by Radio Pictorial magazine as “The young Liverpool girl who made good in musical comedy” – took a leading role, as played on stage by Anna Neagle, for a BBC broadcast of the musical comedy Princess Charming; Webster (“an excellent actor”) played the romantic Ruritanian sea captain who seeks the princess’s hand in marriage.

Then Anne was invited to America by composer Arthur Schwartz to appear in his new musical, Virginia. This was her big break, and there was talk of her being the new Jeanette MacDonald. Webster also came over but, says Anne, was treated disgracefully” by some Americans who found his voice too refined. “If you got no piano player, buddy, stand in line!” he was told at one audition. He promptly walked out.

Webster returned to Britain, to face the problems of his second marriage and also his health. Anne (now singing as Anne Booth) swiftly cut short a possible Hollywood career to be with him. “When Virginia closed in October 1937 I returned home to be with the man I loved,” she now explains. “I often wonder what might have happened if I had stayed in America but I don’t think I could have stood some of the things that were going on.”

When Webster was taken violently ill with blood-poisoning, she was by his side. In desperation, doctors tried an experimental drug… (M and B) and it saved his life. “I’m convinced he would have died without it,” she says. After Webster’s second divorce was finalised, he married Anne at Harrow Road register office, Paddington, on 5 November, 1938, with the blessing held at the ancient church of St Ethelburga’s (recently wrecked by an IRA bomb) in the City of London. Ahead of them lay scores of personal appearances, studio broadcasts, concert performances, records, films and shows.

Radio Pictorial. September 1938. Two months before their marriage.

During the war, while based in Bristol, they also performed in hangars, warehouses and half-darkened halls, with top musicians like Albert Sandler and Moura Lympany, and there was rapturous applause from adoring wartime audiences. They appeared at the Palladium in 1941 with Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon, were selected for the first post-war Royal Command Performance and appeared before the Royal Family at their own chapel in the grounds of the Royal Lodge, Windsor. On stage they starred in a very successful revival of The Vagabond King (1943) and Sweet Yesterday (1945) and their films together included Waltz Time (1945 – not 1942), Demobbed (1944) and a costume favourite, The Laughing Lady (1946). For years they starred in summer season at Blackpool, proving even more popular than the legendary Joseph Locke. As one showbiz writer put it: “They were now as much a double act as Marks and Spencer or Crosse and Blackwell.”

Their life was a whirl: a wild romantic blend of Johann Strauss, Rudolf Friml, Ivor Novello and Sigmund Romberg. They serenaded each other on stage and in recording studios with everlasting classics – Deep in My Heart, Dear, Love’s Old Sweet Song, Only a Rose, We’ll Gather Lilacs, and many others. It was a world of gentle colours, sweet nothings and telling glances.

Their main accompanist was the faithful (and ever polite) Charles Forwood. “If, at the end of a concert, he smiled and said, ‘Well done’, that was praise indeed,” Webster once recalled. “But if he just put the music away quietly, and didn’t say a word, we knew we hadn’t gone too well.” Together they were ideal ambassadors, transporting the flavour and refinement of more graceful, cherished times from the Arctic chill of Canada to the heavy heat of Aden and Egypt. Always they were immaculate.

Anne made her final solo appearance in pantomime at the King’s Theatre Hammersmith in 1954 and two years later she and Webster moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where they quickly settled, relishing the warmer climate. They continued to sing, recording many of their songs in the Afrikaans language, and Webster played the part of Tommy Handley in an hilarious radio version of ITMA. Together they taught singing and stagecraft, helping many talented pupils on the path to success. It was a two-way process: “It was amazing how much more I learned about singing technique by teaching,” says Anne. “My pupils actually taught me something. Now I can look at an opera or hear a record, and pick out certain faults almost instinctively.”

The Golden Years.

In June 1978 they returned to Britain, setting up home in North Wales. They continued to teach and were still as much in demand as ever for concerts, but Webster had a debilitating illness and was growing more forgetful. The end came slowly and he died the day before Anne’s seventy-fourth birthday.

Webster has his memorial in the form of a bursary for young singers called the Esso Webster Booth/Anne Ziegler Awards which are presented annually at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester “to keep alive the memory of a golden voice of the past while encouraging another generation in the best traditions of English singing”. Each year Anne travels to Manchester to present the prizes with Mrs Jean Buckley who originally started the bursary.

Still remarkably sprightly and attractive – her appearance belies her age – Anne enjoys the company of her wide circle of friends, corresponds regularly with her many admirers, and walks her beloved 11-year-old Yorkshire terrier Bonnie each morning, as well as doing a little gardening “before I stiffen up completely!” She still has her memories, and her regrets. “Of all the songs we sang I have no particular favourites. They were all beautiful, but I would have loved to have sung more Gilbert and Sullivan… and much more Mozart!”

Then she thinks of Webster and smiles. “You know, he really had the most beautiful voice. I was just another soprano, six a penny,” she jokes endearingly, “but his voice was exceptional. To me he will remain one of the finest British singers of this century… and the love of my life.”

Anne with Bonnie (aged 84)

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BRIAN MARTIN.

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BACK HOME AGAIN (1980 – 1984)

The early 1980s were still busy years for the Booths. They appeared in several TV talk shows. The studio audiences were made up of many of their old fans who were delighted to see their favourites still looking very glamorous indeed. Anne turned 70 in 1980, while Webster was 78. It looked as though they were as much in love then as the day they married in 1938. In late 1981 Webster’s health began to fail. He had to wait until January before he could have surgery done at the Royal Liverpool Hospital on 15 January 1982. He was not looking forward to spending his eightieth birthday in hospital.

The early 1980s were still busy years for the Booths. They appeared in several TV talk shows. The studio audiences were made up of many of their old fans who were delighted to see their favourites still looking very glamorous indeed. Anne turned 70 in 1980, while Webster was 78. It looked as though they were as much in love then as the day they married in 1938. In late 1981 Webster’s health began to fail. He had to wait until January before he could have surgery done at the Royal Liverpool Hospital on 15 January 1982. He was not looking forward to spending his eightieth birthday in hospital.

At home. 1980.
10 February 1980 – with Jess Yates and his girlfriend, Katie Brooks.
May 1980
3 to 10 May 1980. 35th anniversary of Victory in Europe.
30 June 1980. Report by Gordon Irving in South African newspapers.
This was a popular presentation which Anne and Webster presented around the country. Each took a turn to tell their individual life story and sang a few songs together to round the evening off.
19 September 1980 – Anne and Webster had coached Peter and Jackie while they were appearing in a summer show in Llandudno.
September 1980
29 January 1981 on the Russell Harty show. Webster had just had his 78th birthday a week earlier.
Some of the elderly fans in the studio audience.
6 February 1981 – Report from Gordon Irving in South African newspapers.
8 January 1982. In a letter to me, Webster referred to the article by Gordon Irving.
5 March 1981 – another appearance on Russell Harty’s TV show.
29 May 1981. Royal Variety Performance, Blackpool.
After the performance. Webster can be seen in the far left of the photo. When they were presented to Prince Charles he asked whether they were married!
13 August 1981. The Time of Your Life.
At the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party for Jean and Maurice Buckley – 1981. I used this photo for the cover of my book, Sweethearts of Song.
Webster at the Buckley’s Silver Anniversary party, North Wales.
September 1981
1982 – review of a reissue of The Gondoliers from 1932.
1983 Border Television
Only a Rose TV interview 1983 Penrhyn Bay and Llandudno.
1983 Only a Rose TV interview
With the Firmanis – Only a Rose TV interview 1983.
Visiting the Buckleys. 1983.

Early on 22 June, Anne’s seventy-fourth birthday I received a call from Janet Swart, whom I had first encountered as Janet Goldsborough, singing in Mrs MacDonald-Rouse’s concert party. She was a regular listener to BBC World Service and knew of my association with Anne and Webster. She was thoughtful enough to let me know that it had been announced on News about Britain that morning that Webster had died in the early hours of the 21 June. I will always be grateful to Janet for making that call to me, as I would have been completely devastated to have heard such news in the media. I had been expecting him to die sooner or later, but it was still a great shock and deep sadness to me to hear the sad news of his death.

Webster had been at home for five or six weeks when he tripped on the doorstep as he was hurrying to get into the car with Anne to drive to the local park to take Bonnie for a walk. He suffered a severe blow to his head and was bleeding profusely. Anne struggled to get him into the car to take him to hospital, where he was treated in Casualty and sent home again, much to Anne’s consternation as she thought he should have been admitted to hospital after his fall.


During the night he developed pneumonia. She phoned the doctor who refused to make a night call to see him, so it was only in the morning that he was indeed admitted into hospital, as he should have been on the previous day. Anne stayed with him throughout the day. When she left in the evening she asked the staff to let her know at once if he was deteriorating so that she could return to the hospital right away. Sadly nobody phoned her when his condition deteriorated. She had spent a sleepless night, and phoned the hospital herself in the early hours of the morning, only to be told that his condition had worsened and he would probably not last until she reached the hospital.

Webster Booth, one of Britain’s finest tenors, died alone in his hospital bed in the early hours of 21 June 1984. Anne was devastated at his death, and furious at the poor medical treatment he had received during his last illness. The only thing that kept her going in the dark days after his death was Bonnie, the beloved Yorkshire terrier who had to be fed and walked each day.

22 June 1984.
25 June 1984. Obituary. Times
25 June 1984 – Rand Daily Mail.
28 June 1984 The Stage.
Write-up in the North Wales Weekly news – 28 June 1984, mentioning Jean Buckley who, at that time was a close friend and had done a great deal to help Anne during Webster’s final illness.

Babs Wilson-Hill was abroad at the time of Webster’s death so Anne delayed the cremation service until she arrived home. This placed an extra strain on Anne as she waited for the funeral to take place. Obituaries appeared in the national newspapers and once again there were mountains of post, this time with letters of condolence from friends and fans who remembered Webster with affection. There were far too many letters to answer personally so Anne had a letter of thanks printed to be sent to everyone who had written and it was Jean and Maurice who helped her to address all these letters

Peter Firmani, a tenor from Rotherham whom they had coached, sang I’ll Walk Beside You at the cremation service. Webster’s son Keith was heartbroken at his father’s death and found the service very harrowing. Jean and Maurice Buckley held a reception at their home for those who had attended the funeral.

The Star – 29 June 1984 – Gordon Irving, the UK correspondent for the Star Tonight wrote the obituary. He had it wrong about Webster being divorced by his first wife. In fact, he was divorced by his second wife with the stage name of Paddy Prior, whose name was indeed Dorothy Annie Alice Prior. He had divorced his first wife, mother of his son, Keith, Winifred Keey, in 1931 due to her adultery.
21 July 1984 – Only a Rose repeated.
Memorial Service. St Paul’s Covent Garden.
30 October 1984 – Memorial Service, St Paul’s -Anne and Evelyn Laye.
30 October 1984 – Memorial Service, St Paul’s -Anne and Evelyn Laye.

A memorial service was arranged for Webster at noon on 20 October 1984 at St Paul’s Church, the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden. Evelyn Laye read the lesson; David Welsby a BBC producer from Pebble Mill, Birmingham, with whom they had worked, did the Appreciation; Peter Firmani sang I’ll Walk Beside You once again. Despite Jean and Maurice’s kindness to Anne and Webster, they were not invited to this service.

The Reverend John Arrowsmith officiated at the service, assisted by the Precentor of Lincoln Cathedral, Canon David Rutter, who represented the choir school where Webster had spent his youth as a chorister. Webster’s ashes were buried in the ground of the Garden of Remembrance at St Paul’s. Keith, who had been so upset at the cremation service, decided not to attend the Memorial Service as he could not bear to go through another harrowing farewell to his father. Pictures of Anne and Evelyn Laye appeared in several national newspapers. Anne said that it was only when Webster’s ashes were buried in the grounds of the Churchyard that she finally realised that he was indeed dead and would never return.

Anne and Webster’s names had been linked for nearly fifty years. They had been married for forty-five years and, unlike most married couples who worked in different places, they had hardly spent any time apart. There were no children from the marriage. Anne was to live on her own in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay for another nineteen years.

Jean Collen 27 May 2019.

All extracts in this post are taken from my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth.

Updated by Jean Collen on 26 July 2019.

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.

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)

THE FAUST FANTASY (1935)

film (about half an hour) on DVD recently and have posted some stills of it to the photos in the group. I quite enjoyed it but generally critics (both contemporary and present-day) were not kind.

I received extracts of this film (about half an hour) on DVD recently and have posted some stills of it to the photos in the group. I quite enjoyed it but generally critics (both contemporary and present-day) were not kind.

December 1934 – Shooting of the film, Faust Fantasy. Anne (Marguerite) and Webster (Faust) began filming the Faust Fantasy. Webster had been married to Paddy Prior for just over two years, but his meeting with Anne spelt the end of this marriage almost before it had begun. He had taken several joint engagements with Paddy and these continued for some time after he met Anne. As late as 28 May 1936 he and Paddy attended Vi Stevens and Bryan Courage’s wedding. As soon as he met Anne he recommended her to the BBC, and less than a month later she sang in the broadcast of Kenneth Leslie-Smith’s Love Needs a Waltz. (extract from my book, A Scattered Garland: Gleanings of the Lives of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler)

Mephistopheles and Faust.

14 March 1935 – The Times. Faust Fantasy. A further experiment in the use of colour on the screen was demonstrated yesterday.

Faust Fantasy is almost a full length film – it lasts for over three-quarters of an hour – and while it cannot claim that it has solved the problem of flesh-tints and such reds as are in the glow of torches, and the leaping flames of a fire still undergo a curious metamorphosis once they are photographed, it is an interesting and by no means unsuccessful experiment. It has in its favour its circumspection in avoiding those colours which up to now have consistently repulsed the advances of the camera with the result that some of the “shots” have not only the composition necessary for a well-painted picture but some of the tone and colouring as well. Progress in turning the black-and-white of the screen into colour has been slow, however, and it still remains the medium for fantasy and not for realism. Mr Webster Booth, Mr Dennis Hoey, and Miss Ann Zeigler (sic) play Faust, Mephistopheles and Marguerite, and the hint of strain and hardness in their singing is probably due to the fact that it comes to us second-hand.

Extract from the book OPERA ON FILM by Richard Fawkes

One of Britain’s contributions to filmed opera at this time was an hour-long version of Gounod’s Faust. This was shot at Bushey Studios on the outskirts of London and was produced and directed by Albert Hopkins. It was one of the earliest colour films made in Britain (using the Spectracolour system), but not even that distinction could save it from being dire. Faust has gone down as being the worst operatic film ever made. The singing is quite acceptable. Webster Booth, a former member of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, is a smooth-voiced Faust and Anne Ziegler, whom he met on the set and was later to become his third wife, is an attractive Marguerite, but Dennis Hoey plays Mephistopheles as a pantomime villain, the production is cheap and looks it, and the direction is non-existent. The camera is often high to disguise the fact that there is virtually no set. Most scenes are shot against a wall, although there is a risible duel scene filmed in a wood. The final scene when Faust and Mephistopheles visit Marguerite in her cell (she has killed her baby) is a gem of dreadful acting and unimaginative film making.

The Faust Fantasy

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

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.

 

FANS

They attracted a legion of adoring fans. Many followed them ardently from one engagement to another and listened to all their broadcasts on the radio. One of their fans was Gladys Reed, seen below with Anne at the stage door of the London Palladium in 1942. You can see how delighted she was to have her photo taken with her idol! Anne wrote a letter to Gladys telling her to give their regards to the “gang” – probably referring to the devoted fans who followed them around from one engagement to the other.

2019-05-25_101919Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler were very popular and attracted a legion of fans who followed them for a variety of reasons.

Before he began working with Anne, Webster attracted many female fans who admired him, not only for his beautiful voice, but for his smouldering good looks. He told me that he often singled out the most attractive girl in the audience and sang for her alone. Invariably she would be waiting at the stage door after the show, either to ask shyly for his autograph, hoping for a few kind words from her hero, or hoping, better still, that he would ask her out for a drink! He had attractive photos made to hand out to his fans, such as this one, signed at Shanklin in 1931, and the same photo later signed to Elaine in 1933.

2019-04-30_152223

His practised seduction technique led directly to his second marriage with soubrette, Paddy Prior. He had been singing at a Monday evening concert at the Concert Artistes Association when he noticed an attractive young woman sitting in the audience obviously enjoying his singing. When he sang One Alone he directed his attention to her alone. After the concert, he was introduced to her and they were married after his divorce from his first wife, Winifred Keey, was finalised. Sadly, his marriage to Paddy did not last very long after he met Anne Ziegler during the filming of the Faust Fantasy at the end of 1934.

In July 1934, Madeleine wrote a note to her friends, Lily and Phil, from Shanklin on the Isle of Wight where Webster was appearing in the Sunshine summer show there.July 1934 July Letter about Webster Sunshine

1934 WBHe valued his fans and treated them with kindness and consideration. He answered fan mail himself, such as in these letters, dated September and December 1936:

1936 letters

During the 1990s Anne wrote to me and told me that her very first fan had visited her recently in Penrhyn Bay. The girl had been fifteen years of age in 1935 and saw Anne in a summer show in Ryde when Anne herself was only twenty-five years of age. She had been a fan of Anne’s ever since and kept in touch with her over the years.

Even before Webster’s divorce to Paddy Prior was finalised, he and Anne began singing together on the concert platform. They were an instant success. Both were very attractive with charming personalities. He wore an evening suit with a gardenia in his lapel; Anne was beautifully dressed. As their popularity grew, she had crinoline gowns designed for her, some by the Queen Mother’s dress-designer, Norman Hartnell.

By the 1940s when they appeared on the Variety circuit and starred in a revival of The Vagabond King they were able to afford their own manager and persuaded Mr F.W.J Gladwell, who was Tom Arnold’s manager in 1943 when they were appearing in the show, to join them. While they occasionally still answered fan mail themselves, it was often left to Gladdie to do it for them. Here is an example of a letter he wrote to a fan in 1953:This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1-april-1953-from-fw-gladwell.jpg

GLADYS REED

They attracted a legion of adoring fans. Many followed them ardently from one engagement to another and listened to all their broadcasts on the radio. One of their fans was Gladys Reed, seen below with Anne at the stage door of the London Palladium in 1942. You can see how delighted she was to have her photo taken with her idol! Anne wrote a letter to Gladys telling her to give their regards to the “gang” – probably referring to the devoted fans who followed them around from one engagement to the other.

13 November 1942 bPalladium

Letters to Gladys 1942 and 1943 73006830_10159010237985760_3900519904717045760_o

I think Gladys must have been a special fan as she had met them at the stage door of the London Palladium and had her photograph taken with them and written to them several times. Anne mentions “the gang” in her letter. No doubt there were a number of their fans who went to most of the shows together and met them at the stage door afterwards. I remember the same thing happening in the 1960s where a number of Tom Round fans got to know each other and went to all his performances.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 18-november-1943-to-gladys-reed.jpg Imagine how Anne and Webster’s fairytale act must have lightened the lives of their fans during the difficult war years. No wonder they attracted so many people at that time. 

JEAN BUCKLEY

In 1943, Jean Buckley (née Newman) was thirteen years of age, living in wartime Manchester and she and her mother spending many nights in an air raid shelter with bombs dropping around them, keeping them from sleep. She and her mother attended many of their concerts and broadcasts in the city for Jean was enchanted by their act. She and her mother always went backstage to see the couple and Jean saved her pocket money and collected coupons so that she could buy gifts to present to Anne whenever they went backstage after a show. Anne and Webster saw Jean so often that they often sent her complimentary tickets for their shows.

Jean was very upset when they decided to move to South Africa in 1956 but they kept in touch and she sent them copies of The Stage while they were living there. When they returned to the UK in 1978 they lived near Jean and her husband Maurice and spent a lot of time with them. Jean said that Webster enjoyed watching cricket on TV with Maurice.

When Webster became ill and was admitted to a nursing home, Jean visited him in the afternoon when she finished work and took him out occasionally to give him a break from the dull routine of the nursing home. After his death, Jean did a great deal for Anne in one way and another. She and Maurice raised money to inaugurate a prize in Webster’s name at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Jean was very hurt when Anne’s friend, Babs Wilson Hill condescendingly introduced her as “Anne’s greatest fan.” Jean replied, “I think I might be considered Anne’s greatest friend.” Sadly, Anne and Jean fell out over a trivial matter several years before Anne’s death and they were never reconciled. I corresponded with Jean for over ten years and I am sad that she has lost her sight and is now living in a frail care home at the age of eighty-seven.

Update on Jean Buckley Sadly, Jean died in July of 2017. Not only was she blind but she suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and I can only imagine how confused she must have felt to be living in a frail care home, unable to see and not really knowing what was happening to her. I was surprised when lawyers contacted me to let me know that she had left me a sum of money in her will because of our friendship. I may never have met her in person, but we had a lot in common because of our friendship with Anne and Webster. I will never forget her.

Anne and Jean in Penrhyn Bay before going to the Royal Northern College, Manchester for prize winners’ concert for the Webster Booth prize.

Before attending  the RNCM concert (1990s)

Jean Buckley, Anne and Babs Wilson Hill in the 1990s They were all dog lovers!

PAMELA DAVIES

Another fan was Pamela Davies (née James). She mentioned in her book Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? that she and her fellow teaching students gathered round the radio to listen to the Victory Royal Command Performance in November 1945 to hear Anne and Webster singing. She made extensive notes of all their radio appearances and the concerts she attended.

When Anne and Webster returned to the UK in 1978 she wrote to them to say how pleased she was that they had returned to the country. Thus began a regular correspondence with Anne which resulted in Pam and her husband Walter taking Anne out to lunch whenever they went to North Wales.

I “met” Pam when she contacted me after Anne’s death in 2003 as she had read one of my articles on the internet. At the time I was writing my book, Sweethearts of Song: A Personal Memoir of Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth. She too had hoped to write a book about her association with them. We decided to collaborate and her book Do You Remember Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth? was published at the same time as mine in 2006. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is do-you-remember-december-cover-01.jpg This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2019-12-11_132513.jpg

We kept in touch with each other after the books were published and corresponded with Jean Buckley at the same time. Unfortunately the postal system in South Africa was failing and Pam was not computer-literate so our correspondence faltered slightly until she obtained a tablet and gradually learnt to use it.  Pam was a gifted linguist, fluent in French and German. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is church-house05.jpg

Church House, Great Comberton.

Eventually Pam left her beautiful cottage in Great Comberton and moved into a frail care home recently. She had a very bad fall and died a few days ago, at the age of 93. I will treasure all the beautiful letters she wrote to me when the postal system in South Africa was more reliable than it is today. I will always remember her with love.

Her funeral was held on 13 January 2020. Her relative, Nigel Withyman told me about it in an email:

The event was well attended by  couple of dozen relatives, friends and neighbours some of whom had travelled a considerable distance; even further than had I coming 200 miles from Chelmsford, Essex! 
 
The introductory music to the funeral was Elgar’s Nimrod and the outgoing piece – Puccini’s Nessun Dorma from Turandot sung by Pavarotti.  There was no singing and the service was interwoven with an account of Pam’s life including her travels and work abroad, her interests in European languages (fluent in French, German and Italian) and mention was of course made to WB and AZ. One of their songs was played during the service.

MARGARET RICHARDSON

Anne and Webster went on an extensive concert tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1948. Anne wrote in Duet: “I had an admirer in Christchurch who brought me flowers every day we were there. They were freesias, of the beautiful big New Zealand variety. Her name was Margaret Richardson, and she has since come over to England and obtained a job in New Zealand House.”

Margaret Richardson returned to New Zealand and she and Anne kept in touch over the years. Unfortunately, Margaret died shortly before Anne, so she did not receive the photos Anne had allocated to her in her will.

Excerpt from the JOHN BULL article:

John Bull 1952

I wonder where these children are now and what they thought of their mother’s choice of names for them!

THE THIRD CAREER

When they returned to the UK in 1978, aged 68 and 76, they expected to lead a quiet life in semi-retirement. They had been doing very little work in South Africa for years so it came as a surprise to them to find that they were in great demand in the UK. Many of their fans from the good old days were still alive. Soon they were travelling around the country, singing in concerts, giving talks, appearing on TV and presenting radio programmes. In 1975 they had given a farewell concert in Somerset West and they had not intended to sing again, but they gave in to public demand when they went back to the UK. Anne was still in fairly good voice but Webster’s voice had deteriorated and I thought it was very sad that he should have had to sing in public again when he was past his best. But they needed the money and so their performances continued longer than they should have done. I don’t think their elderly fans were very critical – they were only too happy to see their favourites on stage once again.

On TV 1980

JOAN TAPPER

Joan Tapper, a piano teacher, had been a life-long fan of the couple and when they sang in Mold, North Wales, she presented them with a gift after the concert. This led to a friendship which lasted until Anne’s death in 2003.

Anne and her fan and friend, the late Joan Tapper. I corresponded with Joan and she sent me Welsh toffee every Christmas. She died several years after Anne.

Webster’s health deteriorated and after a disastrous performance in Bridlington when he forgot the words of one of their most popular duets, Anne realised that this had been their swansong and they would never be able to sing together again.

Webster died in 1984, and Anne lived alone in the bungalow in Penrhyn Bay, North Wales for another nineteen years. The bungalow was owned by Babs Wilson Hill, who had been Anne’s friend and admirer since they appeared in pantomime together in Liverpool in 1935, although by the end of their lives they were not as close as they had been in earlier times. They died within a few weeks of one another.

Happier times – Jean, Anne and Babs

It is very sad to think that all the fans and friends of Anne and Webster are dead now – except me and Dudley Holmes. As long as we are alive they will always be fondly loved and remembered.

Jean Collen © 22 June 2017

Revised 25 January 2020