Gertrude Lawrence
Overview
 
Gertrude Lawrence was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 actress, singer and musical comedy performer known for her stage appearances in the West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 theatre district of London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

.
Lawrence was born Gertrude Alice Dagmar Klasen, of English and Danish
Danes
Danish people or Danes are the nation and ethnic group that is native to Denmark, and who speak Danish.The first mention of Danes within the Danish territory is on the Jelling Rune Stone which mentions how Harald Bluetooth converted the Danes to Christianity in the 10th century...

 extraction, in the Newington
Newington, London
Newington is a district of London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It was an ancient parish and the site of the early administration of the county of Surrey...

 area of London Borough of Southwark
London Borough of Southwark
The London Borough of Southwark is a London borough in south east London, England. It is directly south of the River Thames and the City of London, and forms part of Inner London.-History:...

. Her father was a basso profundo
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...

 who performed under the name Arthur Lawrence. His heavy drinking led her mother Alice to leave him soon after Gertrude's birth.

In 1904, her stepfather took the family to Bognor
Bognor Regis
Bognor Regis is a seaside resort town and civil parish in the Arun district of West Sussex, on the south coast of England. It is south-south-west of London, west of Brighton, and south-east of the city of Chichester. Other nearby towns include Littlehampton east-north-east and Selsey to the...

 for the August bank holiday
Bank Holiday
A bank holiday is a public holiday in the United Kingdom or a colloquialism for public holiday in Ireland. There is no automatic right to time off on these days, although the majority of the population is granted time off work or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their contract...

.
Encyclopedia
Gertrude Lawrence was an English
English people
The English are a nation and ethnic group native to England, who speak English. The English identity is of early mediaeval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Anglecynn. England is now a country of the United Kingdom, and the majority of English people in England are British Citizens...

 actress, singer and musical comedy performer known for her stage appearances in the West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 theatre district of London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

.

Early life

Lawrence was born Gertrude Alice Dagmar Klasen, of English and Danish
Danes
Danish people or Danes are the nation and ethnic group that is native to Denmark, and who speak Danish.The first mention of Danes within the Danish territory is on the Jelling Rune Stone which mentions how Harald Bluetooth converted the Danes to Christianity in the 10th century...

 extraction, in the Newington
Newington, London
Newington is a district of London, England, and part of the London Borough of Southwark. It was an ancient parish and the site of the early administration of the county of Surrey...

 area of London Borough of Southwark
London Borough of Southwark
The London Borough of Southwark is a London borough in south east London, England. It is directly south of the River Thames and the City of London, and forms part of Inner London.-History:...

. Her father was a basso profundo
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...

 who performed under the name Arthur Lawrence. His heavy drinking led her mother Alice to leave him soon after Gertrude's birth.

In 1904, her stepfather took the family to Bognor
Bognor Regis
Bognor Regis is a seaside resort town and civil parish in the Arun district of West Sussex, on the south coast of England. It is south-south-west of London, west of Brighton, and south-east of the city of Chichester. Other nearby towns include Littlehampton east-north-east and Selsey to the...

 for the August bank holiday
Bank Holiday
A bank holiday is a public holiday in the United Kingdom or a colloquialism for public holiday in Ireland. There is no automatic right to time off on these days, although the majority of the population is granted time off work or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their contract...

. While there, they attended a concert where audience members were invited to entertain. At her mother's urging, young Gertrude sang a song and was rewarded with a gold sovereign for her effort. It was her first public performance.

In 1908, in order to augment the family's meager income, Alice accepted a job in the chorus of the Christmas pantomime
Pantomime
Pantomime — not to be confused with a mime artist, a theatrical performer of mime—is a musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa, India, Ireland, Gibraltar and Malta, and is mostly performed during the...

 at Brixton Theatre. A child who could sing and dance was needed to round out the troupe, and Alice volunteered her daughter. While working in the production Alice heard of Italia Conti, who taught dance, elocution, and the rudiments of acting. Gertrud auditioned for Conti, who thought the child was talented enough to warrant free lessons.

Her training led to appearances in Max Reinhardt
Max Reinhardt
----Max Reinhardt was an Austrian theater and film director and actor.-Biography:...

's The Miracle
The Miracle (play)
The Miracle was a 1911 play written by Karl Vollmöller and directed by Max Reinhardt, from which three movie versions were later adapted. The play first appeared as a spectacle-pantomime in Germany in 1911....

in London and Fifinella, directed by Basil Dean
Basil Dean
Basil Herbert Dean CBE was an English actor, writer, film producer/director and theatrical producer/director....

, for the Liverpool Repertory Theatre
Liverpool Playhouse
The Liverpool Playhouse is a theatre in Williamson Square in the city of Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It originated in 1866 as a music hall, and in 1911 developed into a repertory theatre. As such it nurtured the early careers of many actors and actresses, some of which went on to achieve...

. At some point during this period, the child decided to adopt her father's professional surname as her own. Dean then cast her in his next production, Gerhart Hauptmann
Gerhart Hauptmann
Gerhart Hauptmann was a German dramatist and novelist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1912.-Life and work:...

's Hannele
The Assumption of Hannele
The Assumption of Hannele , also known simply as Hannele, is an 1893 play by the German playwright Gerhart Hauptmann. In contrast to Hauptmann's naturalistic dramas, The Assumption of Hannele adopts a more symbolist dramaturgy and includes a dream sequence. The play is the first in world literature...

, where she first met Noël Coward
Noël Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...

. Their meeting was the start of a close and sometimes tempestuous friendship and the most important professional relationship in both their lives.

Early stage career

Following Hannele, Lawrence reconnected with her father, who was living with a chorus girl. They agreed to let her tour with them in two successive revue
Revue
A revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches. The revue has its roots in 19th century American popular entertainment and melodrama but grew into a substantial cultural presence of its own during its golden years from 1916 to 1932...

s, after which Arthur announced he had signed a year-long contract with a variety show in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, leaving the two young women to fend for themselves. Lawrence, now aged sixteen, opted to live at the Theatrical Girls' Club in Soho
Soho
Soho is an area of the City of Westminster and part of the West End of London. Long established as an entertainment district, for much of the 20th century Soho had a reputation for sex shops as well as night life and film industry. Since the early 1980s, the area has undergone considerable...

 rather than return to her mother and stepfather. She worked steadily with various touring companies until 1916, when she was hired by famed impresario
Impresario
An impresario is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to a film producer in filmmaking, television production and an angel investor in business...

 André Charlot
André Charlot
André Eugene Maurice Charlot was a French impresario known primarily for the highly successful musical revues he staged in London between 1912 and 1937...

 to understudy
Understudy
In theater, an understudy is a performer who learns the lines and blocking/choreography of a regular actor or actress in a play. Should the regular actor or actress be unable to appear on stage because of illness or emergencies, the understudy takes over the part...

 Beatrice Lillie
Beatrice Lillie
Beatrice Gladys "Bea" Lillie was an actress and comedic performer. Following her 1920 marriage to Sir Robert Peel in England, she was known in private life as Lady Peel.-Early career:...

 and appear in the chorus of his latest production in London's West End theater district. When it closed, she assumed Lillie's role on tour, then returned to London once again to understudy the star in another Charlot production, where she met dance director Francis Gordon-Howley. Although he was twenty years her senior, the two wed and soon after had a daughter Pamela, Lawrence's only child. The marriage was not a success, and Lawrence took Pamela with her to her mother's home in Clapham
Clapham
Clapham is a district in south London, England, within the London Borough of Lambeth.Clapham covers the postcodes of SW4 and parts of SW9, SW8 and SW12. Clapham Common is shared with the London Borough of Wandsworth, although Lambeth has responsibility for running the common as a whole. According...

. The couple remained separated but did not divorce until ten years later.

In 1918, Lawrence contracted lumbago and was given a fortnight to recuperate by Charlot, who then saw her at an opening night party at Ivor Novello's invitation two days before she was cleared to return to work by her doctor, and immediately fired her. When the apparent reason for her dismissal became common knowledge among other West End producers, she was unable to find work, and in early 1919 she accepted a job singing in the show at Murray's, a popular London nightclub
Nightclub
A nightclub is an entertainment venue which usually operates late into the night...

, where she remained for the better part of the next two years. While performing there she met Capt. Philip Astley, a member of the Household Cavalry
Household Cavalry
The term Household Cavalry is used across the Commonwealth to describe the cavalry of the Household Divisions, a country’s most elite or historically senior military groupings or those military groupings that provide functions associated directly with the Head of state.Canada's Governor General's...

. He became her friend, escort, and ultimately lover, and taught her how to dress and behave in high society. When Lawrence became involved with Wall Street
Financial District, Manhattan
The Financial District of New York City is a neighborhood on the southernmost section of the borough of Manhattan which comprises the offices and headquarters of many of the city's major financial institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York...

 banker Bert Taylor in 1927, Astley proposed marriage, an offer Lawrence refused because she knew Astley would expect her to leave the stage and settle in rural England. The two remained close until he married actress Madeleine Carroll
Madeleine Carroll
Edith Madeleine Carroll was an English actress, popular in the 1930s and 1940s.-Early life:Carroll was born at 32 Herbert Street in West Bromwich, England. She graduated from the University of Birmingham, England with a B.A. degree...

 in 1931. When Lawrence divorced Gordon-Howley, she and Taylor became engaged and remained so for two years, with each free to enjoy a social life separate from the other.

At the end of 1920, Lawrence left Murray's and began to ease her way back into legitimate theatre while touring in a music hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

 act as the partner of popular singer Walter Williams. In October 1921, Charlot asked her to replace an ailing Beatrice Lillie as star of his latest production, A to Z, opposite Jack Buchanan
Jack Buchanan
Walter John "Jack" Buchanan was a British theatre and film actor, singer, producer and director. He was known for three decades as the embodiment of the debonair man-about-town in the tradition of George Grossmith Jr., and was described by The Times as "the last of the knuts." He is best known in...

. In it the two introduced the song "Limehouse Blues
Limehouse Blues
Limehouse Blues is a world famous jazz standard , as well as a 1934 crime film is set in London's Chinese district and starring George Raft and Anna May Wong. The film is named after the tune...

", which went on to become one of Lawrence's signature tunes.

In 1923, Noël Coward
Noël Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...

 developed his first musical revue, London Calling!
London Calling!
London Calling! was a musical revue, produced by André Charlot with music and lyrics by Noël Coward, which opened at London's Duke of York's Theatre on September 4, 1923. It is famous for being Noël Coward's first publicly produced musical work and for the use of a 3-D stereoscopic shadowgraph as...

, specifically for Lawrence. Charlot agreed to produce it, but brought in more experienced writers and composers to work on the book and score. One of Coward's surviving songs was "Parisian Pierrot", a tune that would be identified closely with Lawrence throughout her career. The show's success led its producer to create André Charlot's London Revue of 1924, which he brought to Broadway with Lawrence, Lillie, Buchanan, and Constance Carpenter
Constance Carpenter
Constance Emmeline Carpenter was an English-born American film and musical theatre actress.-Biography:Born in Bath, Somerset, Carpenter was the daughter of vaudevillians and began performing at an early age....

. It was so successful it moved to a larger theater to accommodate the demand for tickets and extended its run. After it closed, the show toured the US and Canada, although Lawrence was forced to leave the cast when she contracted double pneumonia
Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

 and pleurisy
Pleurisy
Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, the lining of the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs. Among other things, infections are the most common cause of pleurisy....

 and was forced to spend fourteen weeks in a Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 hospital recuperating.

Charlot's Revue of 1926, starring Lawrence, Lillie, and Buchanan, opened on Broadway in late 1925. In his review, Alexander Woollcott
Alexander Woollcott
Alexander Humphreys Woollcott was an American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine and a member of the Algonquin Round Table....

 singled out Lawrence, calling her "the personification of style and sophistication" and "the ideal star." Like its predecessor, it toured following the Broadway run. It proved to be Lawrence's last project with Charlot. In November 1926, she became the first British performer to star in an American musical on Broadway when she opened in Oh, Kay!
Oh, Kay!
Oh, Kay! is a musical with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and a book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse. It is based on the play La Presidente by Maurice Hanniquin and Pierre Veber. The plot revolves around the adventures of the Duke of Durham and his sister, Lady Kay, English...

, with music by George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

, lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin was an American lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century....

, and a book by Guy Bolton
Guy Bolton
Guy Reginald Bolton was a British-American playwright and writer of musical comedies. Born in England and educated in France and the U.S., he trained as an architect but turned to writing. Bolton preferred working in collaboration with others, principally the English writers P. G...

 and P. G. Wodehouse
P. G. Wodehouse
Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE was an English humorist, whose body of work includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, song lyrics, and numerous pieces of journalism. He enjoyed enormous popular success during a career that lasted more than seventy years and his many writings continue to be...

. Following a run of 256 performances, the musical opened in the West End, where it ran for 213 performances.

In 1928, Lawrence returned to Broadway opposite Clifton Webb
Clifton Webb
Clifton Webb was an American actor, dancer, and singer known for his Oscar-nominated roles in such films as Laura, The Razor's Edge, and Sitting Pretty...

 in Treasure Girl
Treasure Girl
Treasure Girl is a musical with a book by Fred Thompson and Vincent Lawrence, music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The musical's best-known song is " Crush on You", which has been recorded by a number of artists, including Frank Sinatra.After a tryout in Philadelphia beginning on...

, a Gershwin work she was confident would be a huge hit. Anticipating a long run, she arrived in New York with her daughter Pamela, a personal maid, and two cars, and settled into an apartment on Park Avenue
Park Avenue (Manhattan)
Park Avenue is a wide boulevard that carries north and southbound traffic in New York City borough of Manhattan. Through most of its length, it runs parallel to Madison Avenue to the west and Lexington Avenue to the east....

. Her instincts about the musical were wrong; audiences had difficulty accepting her as an avaricious woman who double-crosses her lover, and it ran for only 68 performances. She starred opposite Leslie Howard
Leslie Howard (actor)
Leslie Howard was an English stage and film actor, director, and producer. Among his best-known roles was Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind and roles in Berkeley Square , Of Human Bondage , The Scarlet Pimpernel , The Petrified Forest , Pygmalion , Intermezzo , Pimpernel Smith...

 in Candle Light, an Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n play adapted by Wodehouse, in 1929, and in 1931 she and Noël Coward triumphed in his play Private Lives
Private Lives
Private Lives is a 1930 comedy of manners in three acts by Noël Coward. It focuses on a divorced couple who discover that they are honeymooning with their new spouses in neighbouring rooms at the same hotel. Despite a perpetually stormy relationship, they realise that they still have feelings for...

, first in the UK, and later on Broadway.

Later stage career

In 1936, Lawrence and Coward starred in Tonight at 8:30
Tonight at 8:30
Tonight at 8.30 is a cycle of ten one-act plays by Noël Coward. In the introduction to a published edition of the plays, Coward wrote, "A short play, having a great advantage over a long one in that it can sustain a mood without technical creaking or over padding, deserves a better fate, and if,...

, a cycle of ten one-act plays he had written specifically for the two of them. In 1937, she appeared in the Rachel Crothers
Rachel Crothers
Rachel Crothers was a prolific and successful American playwright and theater director, known for her well-crafted plays. One of the most famous was Susan and God , which was made into a film by MGM in 1940 starring Joan Crawford and Frederic March.Crothers was born in Bloomington, Illinois, USA...

 drama Susan and God
Susan and God
Susan and God is a 1940 comedy-drama film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring Joan Crawford and Fredric March in a story about a matron who finds religion. The screenplay by Anita Loos was based upon a 1937 play by Rachel Crothers. The film was directed by George Cukor and produced by Hunt...

, and in 1939 starred in Skylark, a comedy by Samson Raphaelson
Samson Raphaelson
Samson Raphaelson was an American screenwriter and playwright.Born in New York City, Raphaelson worked on nine films with Ernst Lubitsch, including Trouble in Paradise , The Shop Around the Corner , Heaven Can Wait , and That Lady in Ermine...

. Lawrence felt the play needed work prior to opening on Broadway, and a run at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts
Dennis, Massachusetts
Dennis is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States; located near the center of Cape Cod. The population was 14,207 at the 2010 census.The town encompasses five distinct villages, each of which has its own post office...

 was arranged. The theater was run by Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 graduate Richard Aldrich, and he and the actress became involved in a romantic relationship. The two wed on her birthday in 1940 and remained married until her death in 1952. They had homes in Dennis and in Turtle Bay, Manhattan
Turtle Bay, Manhattan
Turtle Bay is a neighborhood in New York City, on the east side of Midtown Manhattan. It extends between 41st and 54th Streets, and eastward from Lexington Avenue to the East River, across from Roosevelt Island...

.

In 1941 Lawrence's daughter Pamela married a New York doctor named Bill Cahan. Lawrence was friendly with her son-in-law but lost contact with him after he and Pamela divorced. Lawrence did not have any grandchildren during her lifetime.

Lawrence returned to the musical stage in Lady in the Dark
Lady in the Dark
Lady in the Dark is a musical with music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and book and direction by Moss Hart. It was produced by Sam Harris. The protagonist, Liza Elliott, is the unhappy female editor of a fashion magazine, Allure, who is undergoing psychoanalysis...

in 1941. It originally had been planned as a play with recurrent musical themes for Katharine Cornell
Katharine Cornell
Katharine Cornell was an American stage actress, writer, theater owner and producer. She was born to American parents and raised in Buffalo, New York.Cornell is known as the greatest American stage actress of the 20th century...

 by Moss Hart
Moss Hart
Moss Hart was an American playwright and theatre director, best known for his interpretations of musical theater on Broadway.-Early years:...

, Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill
Kurt Julian Weill was a German-Jewish composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht...

, and Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin
Ira Gershwin was an American lyricist who collaborated with his younger brother, composer George Gershwin, to create some of the most memorable songs of the 20th century....

, but by the time the first act was completed it was clear it was very much a musical Cornell agreed was beyond her capability as a performer. Soon after Hart met Lawrence at a rehearsal for a revue designed to raise funds for British War Relief
British War Relief Society
The British War Relief Society was a US-based humanitarian umbrella organisation dealing with the supply of non-military aid such as food, clothes, medical supplies and financial aid to people in Great Britain during the early years of the Second World War...

, and he offered her the role of Liza Elliott, a magazine editor undergoing psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 to better understand why both her professional and personal lives are filled with indecision. The show was very ambitious and stretched the star's talents for singing, dancing, and acting. Her performance prompted Richard Watts
Richard Watts
Sir Richard Watts was a successful businessman and MP for Rochester, Kent in the 1570s. He supplied rations for the English Navy as deputy victualler and supervised the construction of Upnor Castle...

 of the New York Herald Tribune
New York Herald Tribune
The New York Herald Tribune was a daily newspaper created in 1924 when the New York Tribune acquired the New York Herald.Other predecessors, which had earlier merged into the New York Tribune, included the original The New Yorker newsweekly , and the Whig Party's Log Cabin.The paper was home to...

to call her "the greatest feminine performer in the American theatre," and Brooks Atkinson
Brooks Atkinson
Justin Brooks Atkinson was an American theatre critic. He worked for The New York Times from 1925 to 1960...

 described her as "a goddess" in his review in the New York Times. She remained with the show throughout its Broadway run and its subsequent national tour over the next three years.

In 1945, Lawrence starred as Eliza Doolittle opposite Raymond Massey
Raymond Massey
Raymond Hart Massey was a Canadian/American actor.-Early life:Massey was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of Anna , who was born in Illinois, and Chester Daniel Massey, the wealthy owner of the Massey-Ferguson Tractor Company. Massey's family could trace their ancestry back to the American...

 as Henry Higgins in a revival of Pygmalion
Pygmalion (play)
Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts is a play by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of...

by George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

, who initially resisted the idea of Lawrence playing the role. Following the Broadway run, she toured the United States (including a stint in Washington, DC) and Canada in the play until May 1947.

Autobiography

In 1945, Lawrence published the autobiography
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 A Star Danced. Her longtime friend Noël Coward
Noël Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...

 later suggested it was a romanticized and less than wholly factual account of her life. Although Lawrence claimed the work was solely hers, many suspected her business manager and attorney Fanny Holtzmann
Fanny Holtzmann
Fanny E. Holtzmann was a pioneering female lawyer in the motion picture and theatre industry. Born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City, she was influenced by her immigrant grandfather, a Talmudic scholar who introduced her to the study of law.Although she dropped out of high school at the...

 had written much of it. The author embarked on a cross-country tour of the United States to publicize her book, the first person ever to engage in such a promotion.

World War II

Lawrence's second husband Richard Aldrich became a lieutenant in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, during which time Lawrence had a standing invitation to perform for British troops from the head of the UK's Entertainments National Service Association
Entertainments National Service Association
The Entertainments National Service Association or ENSA was an organisation set up in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel during World War II. ENSA operated as part of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes...

. Her chief obstacle was getting from her home in Dennis, Massachusetts
Dennis, Massachusetts
Dennis is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States; located near the center of Cape Cod. The population was 14,207 at the 2010 census.The town encompasses five distinct villages, each of which has its own post office...

 to England. Aldrich was overseas at the time. In her 1945 memoir A Star Danced, she recalled, "After weeks of more or less patient waiting, repeated timid, pleading, urgent, and finally importunate requests to the authorities who rule such matters in Washington and London, and a rapid-fire barrage of telegrams, cables, and telephone calls, it had happened. At last I had permission to do what I had been wanting desperately to do for four years—go to England and do my bit on a tour for E.N.S.A."

Lawrence's attorney booked the actress on a British Airways
British Airways
British Airways is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, based in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. British Airways is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations...

 charter flight from Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 to an airfield near London that lasted 36 hours, including two refueling stops. When Lawrence boarded the plane, she discovered that she, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, and Beatrice Lillie were among the few passengers without diplomatic passports. Lawrence and Lillie were the only female passengers. Hours after landing near London, she performed with E.N.S.A. for British and American troops who, it turned out, had been deployed for the imminent D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

 invasion at Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

. Aldrich was in one of the squadrons of the U.S. Navy.

Aldrich wrote in his 1954 biography of his recently deceased wife:
She went over with the first E.N.S.A. unit to go into France, making the crossing in an LST (Landing Ship, Tank). Others in the party included Ivor Novello
Ivor Novello
David Ivor Davies , better known as Ivor Novello, was a Welsh composer, singer and actor who became one of the most popular British entertainers of the first half of the 20th century. Born into a musical family, his first successes were as a songwriter...

, Margaret Rutherford
Margaret Rutherford
Dame Margaret Taylor Rutherford DBE was an English character actress, who first came to prominence following World War II in the film adaptations of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest...

, Diana Wynyard
Diana Wynyard
Diana Wynyard, CBE , whose birth name was Dorothy Isobel Cox, was an English stage and film actress.-Life and career:...

 and Bobbie Andrews. In her autobiography, A Star Danced, she has given a graphic account of their landing on Normandy Beach and of the progress of her unit through the wrecked towns, where there was still no water or electricity. Shows were given in shell-torn movie houses and hastily lighted casinos.


The physical discomforts -- the sleeping in attics, the total lack of sanitation, the scanty and poor food -- Gertrude could and did take as fortunes of war. What bothered her more was the breakdown in communications with me. Always dependent upon getting frequent letters from those she loved, she chafed and worried because no mail reached her.


As Allied forces scored more victories in the south Pacific
South West Pacific theatre of World War II
The South West Pacific Theatre, technically the South West Pacific Area, between 1942 and 1945, was one of two designated area commands and war theatres enumerated by the Combined Chiefs of Staff of World War II in the Pacific region....

 later that year, Lawrence endured long plane rides and dangerous conditions to perform for troops there. The Aldrich book includes a photograph of Lawrence and two unidentified performers standing next to a military plane in Angaur
Angaur
Angaur or Ngeaur is an island in the island nation of Palau. The island, which forms its own state, has an area of 8 km² . Its population is 188 . State capital is the village of Ngeremasch on the western side...

 that had just transported them there from Ulithi
Ulithi
Ulithi is an atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, about 191 km east of Yap. It consists of 40 islets totalling , surrounding a lagoon about long and up to wide—at one of the largest in the world. It is administered by the state of Yap in the Federated States of...

.

Professional and personal connection to Daphne du Maurier

In 1948, Lawrence returned to England to star in September Tide, a play written specifically for her by Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Maurier
Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning DBE was a British author and playwright.Many of her works have been adapted into films, including the novels Rebecca and Jamaica Inn and the short stories "The Birds" and "Don't Look Now". The first three were directed by Alfred Hitchcock.Her elder sister was...

. Her role was that of a middle-aged Cornish
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 woman whose son-in-law, a bohemian artist, falls in love with her. The playwright had intended her to open the play on Broadway, but Lawrence's husband thought it was too British for the American market. The London press paid scant attention to her return, and Lawrence was distressed to discover that in a country struggling to recover from the effects of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the public no longer was as interested in the private lives of stage stars as it once had been. Prior to opening in the West End theater district of London, the play toured Blackpool
Blackpool
Blackpool is a borough, seaside town, and unitary authority area of Lancashire, in North West England. It is situated along England's west coast by the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre estuaries, northwest of Preston, north of Liverpool, and northwest of Manchester...

, Leeds
Leeds
Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while the entire city has a population of 798,800 , making it the 30th-most populous city in the European Union.Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial...

, Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, and Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

, where the frequently sparse audiences consisted primarily of elderly people who remembered Lawrence from her heyday. While on the road, she underwent erratic mood swings and frequently clashed with her fellow cast members, including actors Michael Gough
Michael Gough
Michael Gough was an English character actor who appeared in over 150 films. He is perhaps best known to international audiences for his roles in the Hammer Horror films from 1958, and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four movies of the Burton/Schumacher Batman franchise,...

 and Bryan Forbes
Bryan Forbes
Bryan Forbes, CBE is an English film director, actor and writer.-Career:Bryan Forbes was born John Theobald Clarke on 22 July 1926 in Queen Mary's Hospital, Stratford, West Ham, Essex , and grew up at 43 Cranmer Road, Forest Gate, West Ham, Essex .Forbes trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of...

, and the crew. The play opened in London in mid-December 1948. Writing in Punch
Punch (magazine)
Punch, or the London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 50s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration...

, Eric Keown called her return "an occasion for rejoicing" but dismissed the play as "an artificial piece of conventional sentiment which leaves the actress's talents unused." She remained with the play until July 1949, then returned to the United States, where she performed her role for one week at her husband's theater in Dennis, Massachusetts
Dennis, Massachusetts
Dennis is a town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States; located near the center of Cape Cod. The population was 14,207 at the 2010 census.The town encompasses five distinct villages, each of which has its own post office...

.

According to an authorized 1993 biography of the author and playwright by Margaret Forster
Margaret Forster
Margaret Forster is a British author. She was born in Carlisle, England, where she attended Carlisle and County High School for Girls , and then won an Open Scholarship to read modern history at Somerville College, Oxford, from where she graduated in 1960.After a short period as a teacher at...

, Lawrence and du Maurier became close friends during the London production of September Tide. The nature of their relationship remained unclear following the 1989 death of du Maurier. Forster quotes du Maurier as saying the following about Lawrence circa 1949, "To be blatantly vulgar, anyone with a spice of imagination would prefer a divan with Gertrude to a double-bed with her."

Lawrence biographer Sheridan Morley
Sheridan Morley
Sheridan Morley was an English author, biographer, critic, director, actor and broadcaster. He was the eldest son of actor Robert Morley and grandson of actress Dame Gladys Cooper, and wrote biographies of both...

 interviewed du Maurier for his 1981 book Gertrude Lawrence. Du Maurier was quoted as saying she called Lawrence by the nickname "Cinders," short for Cinderella
Cinderella
"Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper" is a folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune...

. Either while negotiating to appear in September Tide or rehearsing it, Lawrence stayed in "a flat in London somewhere," according to what du Maurier told Morley decades later. Boiling water in her tea kettle for a visitor was stressful for Lawrence. Du Maurier also told the biographer that she had forgotten all the dialogue she had written for September Tide and that shortly before her interview with Morley she had "been searching my shelves for a copy of the play. ... I cannot remember how Cinders looked, what she wore, far less what she said." Du Maurier's contribution to the Morley biography of Lawrence consists of little more than that. Nothing about a personal connection between Gertrude Lawrence and Daphne du Maurier was published during Lawrence's lifetime. Two years after Lawrence's death, her widower Richard Aldrich had this to say in a bestselling book:
All her ingenuous traits, which could be annoying as well as endearing, would be swept away by her courage, her clear perception of truth, and the divine compassion which could flood her heart and lift her to the heights of nobility.


I am sure that she was frequently bewildered by the rapidity and mutability of her own impulses. Possessed, as she was, of an intuitive rather than an analytical intelligence, I doubt that she really understood herself clearly, any more than did most of those who thought they knew her intimately. An exception in this regard was Daphne du Maurier.


During those months in England [when September Tide was in production], Gertrude and Daphne formed a warm friendship, which continued unbroken after Gertrude's return to America. Daphne later returned the visit by being Gertrude's guest in New York. Daphne's subsequent best-selling novel Mary Anne was originally planned as a possible starring vehicle for Gertrude.


It was chiefly from comments made later by Daphne that I was able to reconstruct the full picture of Gertrude's inner conflict during her stay in London. Daphne spoke of Gertrude's moodiness, her variability, her sense of vague self-dissatisfaction. To other English friends, Gertrude talked wistfully of wanting to remain in England, "where I belong".

The King and I

In 1950, Lawrence's business manager and attorney Fanny Holtzmann was looking for a new property for her client when the 1944 Margaret Landon
Margaret Landon
Margaret Landon was an American writer best remembered for Anna and the King of Siam, her best-selling 1944 novel of the life of Anna Leonowens which eventually sold over a million copies and translated into more than twenty languages...

 book Anna and the King of Siam
Anna and the King of Siam (book)
Anna and the King of Siam is a 1944 semi-fictionalized biographical novel by Margaret Landon.In the early 1860s, Anna Leonowens, a widow with two young children, was invited to Siam by King Mongkut , who wanted her to teach his children and wives the English language and introduce them to British...

was sent to her by the William Morris
William Morris Agency
WME is the largest talent agency in the world, with offices in Beverly Hills, New York City, Nashville, London, and Miami. WME represents elite artists from all facets of the entertainment industry, including motion pictures, television, music, theatre, publishing, and physical production...

 agent who represented Landon. He thought a stage adaptation of the book would be an ideal vehicle for the actress. Holtzmann agreed, but proposed a musical version would be better. Lawrence wanted Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Albert Porter was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre...

 to write the score, but when he proved to be unenthused by the suggestion, Holtzmann sent the book to Richard Rodgers
Richard Rodgers
Richard Charles Rodgers was an American composer of music for more than 900 songs and for 43 Broadway musicals. He also composed music for films and television. He is best known for his songwriting partnerships with the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II...

 and Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost forty years. Hammerstein won eight Tony Awards and was twice awarded an Academy Award for "Best Original Song". Many of his songs are standard repertoire for...

. Rodgers initially demurred because he felt Lawrence's vocal range was limited and she had a tendency to sing flat. But he realized the story had strong potential, and the two men agreed to write what ultimately became The King and I
The King and I
The King and I is a stage musical, the fifth by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The work is based on the 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon and derives from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who became governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in...

.

It opened on Broadway in March 1951, and Lawrence won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. Her triumph was short-lived; her health deteriorated rapidly, forcing her to miss numerous performances until she finally was hospitalized. While bedridden in NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital is a prominent university hospital in New York City affiliated with two Ivy League medical schools: Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and Cornell University's Weill Medical College. It is composed of two distinct medical centers, Columbia...

, on Friday afternoon, September 5, 1952, less than 24 hours before her death, she instructed Holtzmann to arrange for co-star Yul Brynner
Yul Brynner
Yul Brynner was a Russian-born actor of stage and film. He was best known for his portrayal of Mongkut, king of Siam, in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for the film version; he also played the role more than 4,500 times on...

's name to be added to the marquee of the St. James Theatre
St. James Theatre
The St. James Theatre is located at 246 W. 44th St. Broadway, New York City, New York. It was built by Abraham L. Erlanger, theatrical producer and a founding member of the Theatrical Syndicate, on the site of the original Sardi's restaurant. It opened in 1927 as The Erlanger...

, which included only Lawrence's name at the time.

Film career

Over the course of twenty-one years, Lawrence appeared in only nine films. She made her screen debut in 1929 in The Battle of Paris, which featured two songs by Cole Porter. Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

 offered her the film shortly after the Broadway production of Treasure Girl unexpectedly closed and, with no prospects of stage work in the immediate future, she accepted the offer. The film, co-starring Arthur Treacher
Arthur Treacher
Arthur Veary Treacher was an English actor born in Brighton, East Sussex, England.Treacher was a veteran of World War I. After the war, he established a stage career and in 1928, he went to America as part of a musical-comedy revue called Great Temptations...

 and Charles Ruggles
Charles Ruggles
Charles Sherman “Charlie” Ruggles was a comic American actor. In a career spanning six decades, Ruggles appeared in close to 100 feature films. He was also the brother of director, producer, and silent actor Wesley Ruggles .-Background:Charlie Ruggles was born in Los Angeles, California in 1886...

, was shot in Paramount's small studio complex on Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

. Lawrence was cast as Georgie, an artist living in pre-World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, who becomes a cabaret
Cabaret
Cabaret is a form, or place, of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue: a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables watching the performance, as introduced by a master of ceremonies or...

 singer and falls in love with an American soldier. Publicity for the film emphasized Lawrence's songs and costumes rather than the story, which was so weak that director Robert Florey
Robert Florey
Robert Florey was a French screenwriter, director of short films, and actor who moved to Hollywood in 1921. In 1950, Florey was made a knight in the French Légion d'honneur....

 had threatened to resign midway through filming. Described by one critic as a "floperetta", it was not a success.

In 1932, she appeared in three features: an adaptation of the Frederick Lonsdale
Frederick Lonsdale
Frederick Lonsdale was an English dramatist.-Personal life:Lonsdale was born Lionel Frederick Leonard in St Helier, Jersey, the son of Susan and John Henry Leonard, a tobacconist. He began as a private soldier and worked for the London and South Western Railway...

 play Aren't We All?
Aren't We All?
Aren't We All? is a play by Frederick Lonsdale.At the core of the drawing room comedy's slim plot is the Hon. William Tatham who, having been consigned to the proverbial doghouse for a romantic indiscretion, is determined to catch his self-righteous wife in an extramarital kiss of her own, while a...

directed by Harry Lachman
Harry Lachman
Harry B. Lachman was an American artist, set designer, and film director.Born La Salle, Illinois, Lachman was educated at the University of Michigan before becoming a magazine and book illustrator, contributing 4 colour illustrations to the 1907 work John Smith, Gentleman Adventurer by Charles...

; Lord Camber's Ladies
Lord Camber's Ladies
Lord Camber's Ladies is a British drama film directed by Benn W. Levy, produced by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Gerald du Maurier, Gertrude Lawrence, Benita Hume, and Nigel Bruce.-Plot:...

, produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

, directed by Benn W. Levy, and co-starring Gerald du Maurier
Gerald du Maurier
Sir Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier was an English actor and manager. He was the son of the writer George du Maurier and brother of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. In 1902, he married the actress Muriel Beaumont with whom he had three daughters: Angela du Maurier , Daphne du Maurier and Jeanne...

; and No Funny Business with Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

. In 1935, she appeared in Mimi, based on La Vie de Bohème
La Vie de Bohème
La Vie de Bohème is a work by Henry Murger, published in 1851. Although it is commonly called a novel, it doesn't follow a standard novel form. Rather, it is a collection of loosely related stories, all set in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1840s, romanticizing bohemian life in a playful way...

. The following year she was cast opposite Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton was an English-American stage and film actor, screenwriter, producer and director.-Early life and career:...

 and Elsa Lanchester
Elsa Lanchester
Elsa Sullivan Lanchester was an English-American character actress with a long career in theatre, film and television....

 in Rembrandt and co-starred with Rex Harrison
Rex Harrison
Sir Reginald Carey “Rex” Harrison was an English actor of stage and screen. Harrison won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards.-Youth and stage career:...

 in Men are Not Gods, both produced by Alexander Korda
Alexander Korda
Sir Alexander Korda was a Hungarian-born British producer and film director. He was a leading figure in the British film industry, the founder of London Films and the owner of British Lion Films, a film distributing company.-Life and career:The elder brother of filmmakers Zoltán Korda and Vincent...

. In 1943, she filmed a short musical number for Stage Door Canteen
Stage Door Canteen
Stage Door Canteen is a musical film produced by Sol Lesser Productions and distributed by United Artists. It was directed by Frank Borzage and features many cameo appearances by celebrities, and the majority of the film is essentially a filmed concert although there is also a storyline to the...

, a wartime film featuring dozens of stars entertaining Allied soldiers on leave.

Lawrence's best-known American film role was that of Amanda Wingfield, the overbearing mother in The Glass Menagerie
The Glass Menagerie (1950 film)
The Glass Menagerie is a 1950 American drama film directed by Irving Rapper. The screenplay by Tennessee Williams and Peter Berneis is based on the 1944 Williams play of the same title. It was the first of his plays to be adapted for the screen.-Plot:...

(1950), which both Bette Davis
Bette Davis
Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress of film, television and theater. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional...

 and Tallulah Bankhead
Tallulah Bankhead
Tallulah Brockman Bankhead was an award-winning American actress of the stage and screen, talk-show host, and bonne vivante...

 had sought. The role required her to wear padding and affect a Southern
Southern American English
Southern American English is a group of dialects of the English language spoken throughout the Southern region of the United States, from Southern and Eastern Maryland, West Virginia and Kentucky to the Gulf Coast, and from the Atlantic coast to most of Texas and Oklahoma.The Southern dialects make...

 accent and friends and critics questioned her decision to accept it. Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III was an American writer who worked principally as a playwright in the American theater. He also wrote short stories, novels, poetry, essays, screenplays and a volume of memoirs...

, who had written the play, thought casting Lawrence was "a dismal error" and, after the film's release, called it the worst adaptation of his work he had seen thus far. Bosley Crowther
Bosley Crowther
Bosley Crowther was a journalist and author who was film critic for The New York Times for 27 years. His reviews and articles helped shape the careers of actors, directors and screenwriters, though his reviews, at times, were unnecessarily mean...

 of the New York Times called her Amanda "a farcically exaggerated shrew with the zeal of a burlesque comedienne" and "a perfect imitation of a nervous Mama in domestic comedy". Writing about her performance in Saturday Review, Richard Griffith was generous in his praise, saying "Not since Garbo
Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo , born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, was a Swedish film actress. Garbo was an international star and icon during Hollywood's silent and classic periods. Many of Garbo's films were sensational hits, and all but three were profitable...

 has there been anything like the naked eloquence of her face, with its amazing play of thought and emotion."

Television and radio

In 1938, Lawrence took a night off from Susan and God to perform scenes from the play for NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

's emerging television audience, which then consisted mostly of customers at bars, hotels and other public places in New York City. Probably less than 100 - 200 receivers could pick up the telecast, mostly belonging to NBC or its employees in the NYC vicinity. Live photos of the 1938 broadcast are featured in a major article in Life Magazine published a week after the experimental telecast, as it was one of the first full live plays done on television. In 1943, she hosted a weekly series of American radio shows, some of them featuring discussions with guests and others adaptations of Hollywood hit films. In 1947, she returned to NBC for a production of the 1913 Shaw play The Great Catherine. In order to promote The King and I, she appeared on various television programs, including the Ed Sullivan
Ed Sullivan
Edward Vincent "Ed" Sullivan was an American entertainment writer and television host, best known as the presenter of the TV variety show The Ed Sullivan Show. The show was broadcast from 1948 to 1971 , which made it one of the longest-running variety shows in U.S...

-hosted Toast of the Town, with Rodgers and Hammerstein joining her to perform selections from the show. Additionally, she appeared on several BBC Radio
BBC Radio
BBC Radio is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927. For a history of BBC radio prior to 1927 see British Broadcasting Company...

 interview and variety shows before and after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Financial difficulties

Throughout her adult life, except during World War II, Lawrence spent far more than she earned. Philip Astley had persuaded her to place £1000 in a trust fund for her daughter, but aside from that she had no savings of her own. During her engagement to Bert Taylor he managed her finances and encouraged her to invest in the productions in which she starred, but although she earned a considerable amount of money from Private Lives, she still was deeply in debt, at one point owing fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie
Hattie Carnegie
Hattie Carnegie was a fashion entrepreneur based in New York City from the 1920s to the 1960s. She was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary as Henrietta Kanengeiser....

 more than $10,000. She opened accounts with dozens of shop owners but assumed she had unlimited credit and paid little attention to the invoices they sent. Finally two London laundry owners, whose bills totalled just under £50, filed a writ demanding she declare bankruptcy
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

 if she was unable to settle her accounts, and Lawrence's financial affairs came under the scrutiny of the Official Receiver
Official Receiver
An officer of the Insolvency Service of the United Kingdom, the Official Receiver is an officer of the court to which he is attached. The OR is therefore answerable to the courts for carrying out the courts' orders and for fulfilling his duties under law...

. On February 26, 1935, The Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror is a British national daily tabloid newspaper which was founded in 1903. Twice in its history, from 1985 to 1987, and from 1997 to 2002, the title on its masthead was changed to read simply The Mirror, which is how the paper is often referred to in popular parlance. It had an...

reported her assets were valued at £1,879 but her liabilities were nearly £35,000, with an additional £10,000 owed to the Inland Revenue
Inland Revenue
The Inland Revenue was, until April 2005, a department of the British Government responsible for the collection of direct taxation, including income tax, national insurance contributions, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, corporation tax, petroleum revenue tax and stamp duty...

 on her earnings in the United States.

It was later discovered Lawrence had never paid American taxes either. Her apartment, cars, clothing, and jewelry were seized by the court, and Lawrence, her maid, and her dog were forced to move into a flat owned by her agent at the time. On November 8, 1935, accused of "gross extravagance," she was ordered to pay £50 per week to pay off her debts. (Holtzmann worked out an agreement whereby $150 would be deducted from her salary each week she worked in the States until her American tax debt was settled.) Refusing to lower her standard of living, she decided to take film work during the day, appear on stage at night, and perform in late-night cabarets in order to support her spending habits and, much to the distress of her agent, she purchased a country house and farm in Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire
Buckinghamshire is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan home county in South East England. The county town is Aylesbury, the largest town in the ceremonial county is Milton Keynes and largest town in the non-metropolitan county is High Wycombe....

, then left it vacant while she remained in the US for a lengthy stay. When her agent questioned the wisdom of such a move, she reportedly asked him to investigate the cost of a swimming pool installation on the property.

Columbia University

"Early in September [1951]", wrote Lawrence's widower, "she calmly announced that she had accepted an appointment to the Faculty of Columbia University, in the School of Dramatic Arts, of which Dr. Milton Smith was Director. Her particular post was to conduct Class 107 in the Study of Roles and Scenes. The class met on Thursday afternoons in the Brander Matthews Theatre on Morningside Heights."

"I shall be teaching an advanced, not an elementary course," Aldrich quoted her as saying in 1951. "Dr. Smith and I have screened all the students. They've had preliminary work in voice, speech, and pantomime. Many of them are already working professionally in radio and television. But, more than that, if I can find one person of real talent, and encourage and train him, I'll feel that I've done something worthwhile."
The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

reported on September 28, 1951 that Lawrence "suffered an attack of stage fright yesterday and refused to let reporters observe her in her new role of teacher at Columbia University."

She taught the class again in the spring 1952 semester at Columbia, this time allowing a The New York Times reporter and photographer to attend and take pictures.

Death and funeral

On August 16, 1952, Lawrence fainted backstage immediately after finishing a Saturday matinee of The King and I. After "a few days at home", she was admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for tests. Doctors said she was suffering from hepatitis
Hepatitis
Hepatitis is a medical condition defined by the inflammation of the liver and characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells in the tissue of the organ. The name is from the Greek hepar , the root being hepat- , meaning liver, and suffix -itis, meaning "inflammation"...

, and she was admitted to a room on the 16th floor. Her former son-in-law, Dr. Bill Cahan, suspected liver cancer
Hepatocellular carcinoma
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer. Most cases of HCC are secondary to either a viral hepatitide infection or cirrhosis .Compared to other cancers, HCC is quite a rare tumor in the United States...

 might be a more accurate diagnosis, and early on the morning of 6 September, doctors performed a biopsy of her liver. Lawrence slipped into a coma, and her husband called Cahan, who rushed to the hospital. Lawrence, who had not seen Cahan in years, briefly opened her eyes, seemed puzzled by his presence, and then died. A subsequent autopsy
Autopsy
An autopsy—also known as a post-mortem examination, necropsy , autopsia cadaverum, or obduction—is a highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present...

 confirmed that she did have cancer. Doctors performing the autopsy did not agree on whether the cancer had originated in the liver, but they did determine that she did have cancer, not hepatitis.

According to the New York Times, 5,000 people crowded the intersection of East 55th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, while 1,800 others, including Yul Brynner, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 Governor John Davis Lodge
John Davis Lodge
John Davis Lodge , was an American politician, and 79th Governor of Connecticut from 1951 to 1955. He was also an actor and U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Argentina and Switzerland.-Early life:Lodge was born in Washington, D.C....

, Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich was a German-American actress and singer.Dietrich remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically. In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films...

, Phil Silvers
Phil Silvers
Phil Silvers was an American entertainer and comedy actor, known as "The King of Chutzpah." He is best known for starring in The Phil Silvers Show, a 1950s sitcom set on a U.S...

, Luise Rainer
Luise Rainer
Luise Rainer is a former German film actress. Known as The "Viennese Teardrop", she was the first woman to win two Academy Awards, and the first person to win them consecutively. She was discovered by MGM talent scouts while acting on stage in Austria and Germany and after appearing in Austrian...

, Moss Hart
Moss Hart
Moss Hart was an American playwright and theatre director, best known for his interpretations of musical theater on Broadway.-Early years:...

 and his wife Kitty Carlisle, among others, filled Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church
The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is a large congregation of the Presbyterian Church . The church was founded in 1808 as the Cedar Street Presbyterian Church and has been located on Fifth Avenue at 55th Street in midtown Manhattan since 1875. It has approximately 3,250 members from a variety...

 for Lawrence's funeral. In his eulogy
Eulogy
A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially one recently deceased or retired. Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at services to maintain respect for traditions...

, Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Hammerstein II
Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II was an American librettist, theatrical producer, and theatre director of musicals for almost forty years. Hammerstein won eight Tony Awards and was twice awarded an Academy Award for "Best Original Song". Many of his songs are standard repertoire for...

 quoted from an essay on death written by poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore , sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali polymath who reshaped his region's literature and music. Author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse", he became the first non-European Nobel laureate by earning the 1913 Prize in Literature...

. Lawrence was buried in the champagne-colored gown worn for the "Shall We Dance?" number in the second act of The King and I, and she was interred in the Aldrich family plot in Lakeview Cemetery in Upton, Massachusetts
Upton, Massachusetts
Upton is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 7,542 at the 2010 census.For geographic and demographic information on the census-designated place Upton-West Upton, please see the article Upton-West Upton, Massachusetts....

.

Legacy

In early 1953, Lawrence's name was included on a list of Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 professors who had died the previous year and were honored with a memorial service and flags on the campus lowered to half-staff.

Richard Aldrich's biography of his late wife became a bestseller in late 1954 and 1955 and was purchased by Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s....

 during a period when she stayed exclusively in New York and Connecticut, not California.

Lawrence's biographer Sheridan Morley wrote in 1981 that throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, "...most traces of Gertrude Lawrence ... disappeared; she died before television had begun to immortalize its artists on [video]tape, before radio shows were regularly recorded, and though she made half a dozen films, her appearances in them are mostly undistinguished and give no clear impression of a radiance which could hold theatre audiences spellbound."

In 1968, Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews
Dame Julia Elizabeth Andrews, DBE is an English film and stage actress, singer, and author. She is the recipient of Golden Globe, Emmy, Grammy, BAFTA, People's Choice Award, Theatre World Award, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award honors...

 portrayed Lawrence in the musical biographical film
Biographical film
A biographical film, or biopic , is a film that dramatizes the life of an actual person or people. They differ from films “based on a true story” or “historical films” in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a person’s life story or at least the most historically important years of their...

 Star!
Star! (film)
Star! is a 1968 American musical film directed by Robert Wise. The screenplay by William Fairchild is based upon the life and career of British performer Gertrude Lawrence.-Plot:...

, loosely based on the period of her life from her days as an unknown aspiring performer until her wedding to Richard Aldrich. Richard Crenna
Richard Crenna
Richard Donald Crenna was an American motion picture, television, and radio actor and occasional television director. He starred in such motion pictures as The Sand Pebbles, Wait Until Dark, Body Heat, the first three Rambo movies, Hot Shots! Part Deux, and The Flamingo Kid...

 appeared as Aldrich. The real Aldrich, who in the 1960s no longer worked in the entertainment business, was a consultant on the film. Noël Coward was portrayed by Daniel Massey
Daniel Massey (actor)
Daniel Raymond Massey was an English actor and performer. He is possibly best known for his starring role in the British TV drama The Roads to Freedom, as Daniel, alongside Michael Bryant...

. Released at a time when the popularity of musical films was on the wane, it was a commercial failure; however, it was critically well received, and nominated for seven Academy Awards.

The Glass Menagerie, Lawrence's only movie that was a box-office success and in which she worked with an American studio and an entirely American cast (the director was an Englishman whose entire career was in American cinema), was rarely shown on American television until 1992. During that year, American Movie Classics
AMC (TV network)
AMC is a cable television specialty channel that primarily airs movies, along with a limited amount of original programming. The letters originally stood for American Movie Classics; however since 2002, the full name has been deemphasized as a result of a major shift in programming...

 revived it with an introduction and postscript from the channel's host Bob Dorian. He revealed information about Lawrence to viewers, many of whom were not familiar with her.

Janet McTeer
Janet McTeer
Janet McTeer, OBE is a British actress.-Life and career:McTeer was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom, the daughter of Jean and Alan McTeer...

 portrayed Lawrence opposite Geraldine Somerville
Geraldine Somerville
Geraldine Margaret Agnew-Somerville is a British actress best known for her roles as Detective Sergeant Jane "Panhandle" Penhaligon in Cracker, and Lily Potter in the Harry Potter film series.-Early life:...

 as Daphne Du Maurier and Malcolm Sinclair
Malcolm Sinclair
Malcolm Sinclair is a British stage and television actor. He is perhaps best known for his role as 'Assistant Chief Constable Freddy Fisher' in the television series Pie in the Sky , although he has an extensive number of film, television and theatre roles to his credit...

 as Noël Coward in Daphne, a 2007 television movie
Television movie
A television film is a feature film that is a television program produced for and originally distributed by a television network, in contrast to...

 broadcast by the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

.

Three years after Lawrence's death, her daughter Pamela gave birth to Benn Clatworthy, the first of Lawrence's three grandchildren. He is now a tenor saxophonist based in Los Angeles. Lawrence's other two grandchildren, Sarah Hunt and Tom Clatworthy, are both residents of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

.

Selected theatre credits

  • Some (West End, 1916)
  • Cheep! (West End, 1917)
  • A to Z (West End, 1921)
  • London Calling! (West End, 1923)
  • Andre Charlot's Revue of 1924 (Broadway, 1924)
  • Charlot Revue (West End, 1925)
  • Charlot's Revue of 1926 (Broadway and US tour, 1925–26)
  • Oh, Kay! (Broadway, 1926; West End, 1927)
  • Treasure Girl (Broadway, 1928)
  • Candle Light (Broadway, 1929)
  • The International Review (Broadway, 1930)
  • Private Lives (West End, 1930; Broadway, 1931)
  • Nymph Errant (West End, 1933)
  • Tonight at 8:30 (UK tour, 1935; West End and Broadway, 1936; US tour, 1947; Broadway revival, 1948)
  • Susan and God (Broadway, 1937; US tour, 1938)
  • Skylark (US tour and Broadway, 1939)
  • Lady in the Dark (Broadway, 1941)
  • Errand for Bernice (US tour, 1944)
  • Blithe Spirit
    Blithe Spirit (play)
    Blithe Spirit is a comic play written by Noël Coward which takes its title from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "To a Skylark" . The play concerns socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to...

    (Hawaii, 1945)
  • Pygmalion (Broadway, 1945; US tour, 1946)
  • September Tide (UK tour and West End, 1948–49; Cape Cod, 1949)
  • The King and I (Broadway, 1951)

Filmography

  • The Battle of Paris
    The Battle of Paris
    The Battle of Paris is a 1929 black and white American musical film.-Plot:Gertrude Lawrence plays a singer in Paris during World War I...

    (1929)
  • Aren't We All?
    Aren't We All? (film)
    Aren't We All? is a 1932 British comedy film directed by Harry Lachman and starring Gertrude Lawrence, Hugh Wakefield and Owen Nares. It is based on the play Aren't We All? by Frederick Lonsdale.-Cast:* Gertrude Lawrence - Margot...

    (1932)
  • Lord Camber's Ladies
    Lord Camber's Ladies
    Lord Camber's Ladies is a British drama film directed by Benn W. Levy, produced by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Gerald du Maurier, Gertrude Lawrence, Benita Hume, and Nigel Bruce.-Plot:...

    (1932)
  • No Funny Business
    No Funny Business
    No Funny Business is a 1933 British comedy film directed by Victor Hanbury and starring Laurence Olivier, Gertrude Lawrence, Jill Esmond and Edmund Breon. The film is based around a comedy of errors during a divorce case It was made at Ealing Studios...

    (1932)
  • Mimi
    Mimi (film)
    Mimi is a 1935 British romance directed by Paul L. Stein and starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gertrude Lawrence and Diana Napier. In nineteenth century Paris a composer is inspired by a young woman he encounters. It is based on the novel La Vie de Bohème by Henri Murger.-Cast:* Douglas Fairbanks Jr...

    (1935)
  • Rembrandt (1936)
  • Men Are Not Gods
    Men Are Not Gods
    Men Are Not Gods is a 1936 British film starring Miriam Hopkins and co-starring Gertrude Lawrence, Sebastian Shaw and Rex Harrison. It was a success in the UK when released largely due to the popularity of the two female stars Hopkins and Lawrence. This also brought to attention the talents of Rex...

    (1936)
  • Stage Door Canteen
    Stage Door Canteen
    Stage Door Canteen is a musical film produced by Sol Lesser Productions and distributed by United Artists. It was directed by Frank Borzage and features many cameo appearances by celebrities, and the majority of the film is essentially a filmed concert although there is also a storyline to the...

    (1943)
  • The Glass Menagerie
    The Glass Menagerie (1950 film)
    The Glass Menagerie is a 1950 American drama film directed by Irving Rapper. The screenplay by Tennessee Williams and Peter Berneis is based on the 1944 Williams play of the same title. It was the first of his plays to be adapted for the screen.-Plot:...

    (1950)

In popular culture

  • Lawrence's recording of the song Getting to Know You
    Getting to Know You (song)
    "Getting to Know You" is a show tune from the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. It was first sung by Gertrude Lawrence in the original Broadway production and later by Marni Nixon who dubbed for Deborah Kerr in the 1956 film adaptation...

    from The King and I was featured on the soundtrack of the sitcom The King of Queens
    The King of Queens
    The King of Queens is an American sitcom that originally ran on CBS from September 21, 1998, to May 14, 2007.This show was produced by Hanley Productions and CBS Productions , CBS Paramount Television ,and CBS Television Studios in association with Columbia TriStar Television , and Sony Pictures...

    in the episode "Arthur, Spooner." It was originally telecast in the United States on CBS
    CBS
    CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

     on September 23, 2002 as the season premiere. It has been repeated many times in syndication, on TBS (TV channel)
    TBS (TV channel)
    TBS , stylized in the logo as tbs, is an American cable television channel owned by Time Warner that shows a variety of programming, with a focus on comedy. TBS was originally known as WTCG, a UHF terrestrial television station that broadcast from Atlanta, Georgia, during the late 1970s...

     in the United States and is available on the DVD
    DVD
    A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

     for The Complete Fifth Season.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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