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Sunday 30th December 2007
Obituary | PAT KIRKWOOD

Buy Theatre Tickets from Ticketmaster Written by Patrick Newley
Pat Kirkwood | 24 February 1921 - 25 December 2007

Pat Kirkwood was one of the West End's greatest musical comedy stars. Her career spanned 60 years and she originated the leading roles in musicals written by NoŽl Coward, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein. Her fabulous legs were once acclaimed by Kenneth Tynan as 'the eighth wonder of the world'.

Born on 24 February, 1921, she made her professional debut as a 14-year-old singer in BBC Radio's The Children's Hour and in 1936 made her stage debut in variety at the Royal Hippodrome, Salford. The same year she appeared in her first pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, at the New Theatre, Cardiff.

Her powerful voice and magnificent legs made her ideal casting for principal boy and in 1937 she made her London stage debut as Dandini in Cinderella at the Princes Theatre. The same year she won the lead in her first film, Save a Little Sunshine, followed by leads in three other films, Me and My Pal, Come on George, and Band Waggon.

A string of top West End shows followed such as Black Velvet (London Hippodrome 1939), in which she stopped the show with her rendition of 'My Heart Belongs to Daddy', and Top of the World (London Palladium 1940). In 1950, NoŽl Coward wrote the West End musical Ace of Clubs specially for her, providing her with the hit song, 'Chase Me Charlie', and the following year she topped the bill with Donald O'Connor at the Palladium and co-starred with Tommy Trinder in the revue Fancy Free (Prince of Wales Theatre).

In 1953, she scored one of her greatest successes as music hall star Marie Lloyd, in Our Marie on BBC TV, and played the title role in Peter Pan on the London stage, with Evelyn Laye, Donald Wolfit and Richard Vernon. Leonard Bernstein offered her the role of Ruth Sherwood in the London production of his musical Wonderful Town (1955) and in 1958, Kirkwood and her third husband, Hubert Gregg, co-starred in the West End musical Chrysanthemum (Prince of Wales Theatre).

She appeared regularly in cabaret in the West End and several straight roles and many provincial pantomimes. In 1973, at the age of 52, she made her farewell bow as principal boy in the title role of Aladdin (Theatre Royal, Newcastle). She appeared at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1994 for ten weeks in NoŽl/Cole - Let's Do It and on the opening night was the subject of TV's This Is Your Life. She published an outspoken autobiography, The Time of Your Life, in 1999.

She died in a nursing home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire on Christmas Day 2007. Her funeral will take place on Monday 7 January 2008 at All Saints Parish Church, Bingley, Yorkshire at 11.00am. All are welcome.

Patrick Newley © 2007

 
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