( b. Jul 04, 1898 London, ENGLAND - d. Sep 06, 1952 New York, New York, USA ) Female
Gertrude Lawrence captivated theatre audiences on two continents for more than twenty-five years. The story of Miss Lawrence's life begins in the English music halls, where, at the age of 4, she sold programs while her parents performed. Noel Coward, with whom she later starred, remembered her as "a vivacious child with ringlets to whom I took an instant fancy."
Audiences in later years caught the same fancy, but for different reasons. The actress exuded gaiety, a light, rippling charm seasoned with sophistication in smart drawing-room comedies or with winsome frivolity in frothy musicals. She was not noted for her singing voice or for her dancing, but she did well enough to delight her admirers, who found her the personification of style.
Her reputation reached its height in two plays that Mr. Coward wrote for her - Private Lives and Tonight at 8:30. Among her biggest successes were in Rachel Crothers' Susan and God, which ran for a season in New York and on the road, and the musical, Lady in the Dark.
Young Gertrude studied dancing under Mme. Espinosa and elocution and acting at the Italia Conti Dancing Academy, first as a pupil and then as a student-teacher. Whenever she had a spare shilling she went to the theatre. Soon she began getting small parts.
Eventually, she attained London and a chorus girl's role in one of the earlier Charlot's Revues. Charlot soon signed a three-year contract with her for £3 a week for the first year and £6 for the next two. In return for this Miss Lawrence was to dance and sing and understudy a couple of parts - one of them that of Beatrice Lillie.
Miss Lillie broke her leg and, unwittingly, started Miss Lawrence on her career, for the young understudy took over her role so successfully that she was marked by many London managers as a new and refreshing stage personality. When Miss Lillie later left the show to be married, Miss Lawrence took her part for keeps. Rave notices and a salary increase were her rewards.
In 1924, Miss Lawrence came to New York. She appeared with Miss Lillie and Jack Buchanan in another Charlot's Revue. Singing a number called "Limehouse Blues," Miss Lawrence made a hit.
For the next five years, Miss Lawrence appeared in musical comedies on both sides of the Atlantic, among them Oh, Kay! and The International Revue. The musicals were followed by her first "straight" part, in a Viennese comedy called Candlelight. She also played a serious role in Owen Davis' Icebound.
When she toured in the United States in 1935 with John Golden's production of Susan and God, the play broke attendance records in virtually every city where it appeared. Critics gave her the sort of praise previously reserved for such actresses as Helen Hayes or Katharine Cornell.
Her last big American vehicle before The King and I was Lady in the Dark, in 1941, which ran for three years and in which she acted out a "dream life" in the course of a protracted psycho-analysis.
Miss Lawrence had been starring in the musical play, The King and I, at the St. James Theater. She was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 16 after a matinee performance, at her husband's insistence. She had been in pain for the four previous days but her ailment was believed to be minor. She was buried in her pink "Shall We Dance" gown from the second act of The King and I.
Source: The New York Times obituary
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