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Evelyn Laye Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (7)

Overview (3)

Born in Bloomsbury, London, England, UK
Died in London, England, UK  (respiratory failure)
Birth NameElsie Evelyn Lay

Mini Bio (1)

London-born Evelyn Laye, daughter of actor parents, was already treading the boards at the age of two. Her father managed the Palace Theatre in Brighton and this was where Evelyn first made a name for herself. A seasoned stage performer by the age of fifteen, she graduated to the London West End three years later in a small part in "The Beauty Spot". During the 1920's, she was one of England's most popular stars of musical revue and operetta, with hits in the aviation musical "Going Up" (1918-19), "Madame Pompadour" (1923), "Betty in Mayfair" (1925-26) and "Merely Molly" (1926-27), the last two at the Adelphi Theatre. She appeared, both in London and on Broadway, in Noël Coward's "Bitter Sweet" in 1929, her song "I'll See you Again" becoming her trademark signature piece. Her performance attracted the attention of producer Samuel Goldwyn, who promptly brought her to Hollywood.

Tagged (by Goldwyn) as "the Champagne Blonde", the lovely Evelyn made her American debut in the operetta, One Heavenly Night (1931), directed by the experienced George Fitzmaurice. The ridiculously contrived story and silly dialogue made this one of the worst flops of 1931, not helped by the wooden performance of Laye's co-star, John Boles. Although New York Times critic Mordaunt Hall, in his January 10 review reserved sole praise for Laye's singing and performance, Goldwyn washed his hands of the whole affair and Evelyn returned to England. She made another attempt at Hollywood, four years later, in The Night Is Young (1935), another continental operetta, co-starring Ramon Novarro, and featuring songs by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein. Reviewer Andre Sennwald (January 14) caustically described the picture as being technically well-made, but otherwise "without any distinguishing virtue". There were considerably better reviews for Evelyn's two British-Gaumont productions, Waltz Time (1933) and, without doubt her best motion picture, Evensong (1934), the story of the rise and decline of an Irish diva.

There was a three-decade long hiatus until Evelyn's return to the screen (though she had appeared as herself with then-husband, and fellow actor, Frank Lawton, in the TV sitcom My Husband and I (1956)). She was also rather incongruously cast in the horror film, Blood Fiend (1967). Three years later, Evelyn gave a strong performance as the mother of Jean Simmons in Say Hello to Yesterday (1971), a romance set in swinging 60's London. For the most part, she continued to act on the stage, which had always been her favourite medium, performing in plays like "Three Waltzes", "The School for Scandal", "Wedding in Paris", "The Marquise" and "The Amorous Prawn". One of her last plays was Noël Coward's "Semi-Monde" (1987-88), at the Royalty Theatre in London, with fellow cast members Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench. Retaining her popularity well into her nineties, Evelyn Laye made her farewell tour of Britain in 1992. She died three years later at the age of 95.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (2)

Frank Lawton (17 December 1934 - 10 June 1969) (his death)
Sonnie Hale (10 April 1926 - 12 July 1930) (divorced)

Trivia (7)

Popular singing star of the London light-opera stage in the twenties and thirties.
Spent the war years as entertainments director of the Royal Navy, performing frequently for the troops.
She was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1973 Queen's New Year Honours List for her services to drama. It was said that the Queen Mother, an avid fan of Evelyn's, wanted to make her a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1995, but Evelyn died before it could happen.
In 1992, still performing at the age of 92, she toured in a production at Drury Lane. Later that year, she was paid a tribute at the London Palladium, led by actor John Mills, deemed "the fairest prima donna this side of heaven".
Ex-sister-in-law of Binnie Hale.
Ex-daughter-in-law of Robert Hale.
Published her autobiography 'Boo To My Friends' in 1958.

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