9th November, 1938
His Majesty King George VI
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
Compere: George Black
Musical Director: Jack Frere
No one could have known it at the time, but the 1938 Royal Variety Performance – held at the Coliseum for the first time in ten years – was to be the last until after the War, in 1945. The finale to the show – involving around 250 artistes – was the biggest ever for a Royal Variety Show and seemed an appropriate if unintentionally grand way to signal the grim and desperate years ahead. Many of the performers were to provide vital work over the next years in boosting the morale of our troops all around the world.
After the show the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Clarendon, sent a letter to the organiser of the VABF Mr Harry Marlow. It said: ‘The King and Queen enjoyed the performance very much, and I am asked to convey to Sir Oswald Stoll and yourself. Their Majesties’ appreciation of all the excellent arrangements that were made.’
The high point of the show, ‘The Lambeth Walk’, from the show Me and My Girl, was nearly the disaster of the evening. The problem centred on the revolving stage which had taken virtually all day to set up. Lupino Lane was supposed to lead the company into the ‘Lambeth Walk’. However, the revolving stage started turning in the opposite direction, threatening to end Lane’s performance before it had begun! Luckily, the technical problems were sorted out at the last minute and the number was a great hit.
Who wants to be a producer when you can be in the ‘royal show’? Fourteen months prior to the Royal Varity Performance, Gene Gerrard was the producer of Me and My Girl, but resigned when there was a ‘friendly disagreement’ with Lupino Lane. All was forgiven and forgotten, however, for at this year’s show, Gerrard was given a walk-on part.
For the screen heart-throb Gary Cooper, who was invited to watch the show from the dress circle, having arrived at the theatre in dark glasses, there was only one star that night – the Queen. ‘I am only stopping here a week. I am going to Paris for three days and then racing back to work,’ he told reporters before adding, ‘It’s going to be the greatest thrill of my like to see the triumph the Queen will have in America’.
The 1939 Royal Varity Performance was scheduled to be held at the Palladium on 6 November. However, a couple of weeks following the declaration of war on 3 September of that year, Harry Marlow, the organising secretary of the then Variety Artistes’ Benevolent Fund, was officially informed by the Lord Chamberlain that, in view of the Government’s general policy in respect to large numbers of people assembling in a confined space, His Majesty had had no alternative but to cancel the performance.
The Two Leslies
Murray & Mooney
From Running Riot: Richard Hearne, Rosalind Atkinson
From These Foolish Things: The Stuart Morgan Dancers With Lita D'oray, Harold Hart, William Kat, Jack Payne's Orchestra, Peggy Cochrane, Mary Lee, Betty Kent, Biddy Barton, Teddy Foster, Ronnie Grearder, Rob Ashley, The Dagenham Girl Pipers, Three Aberdonians, Les Allen, Laurie Day, Roy Willis, Will Hatton, Ethel Manners.
Elsie & Doris Waters
The John Tiller Girls
From Me And My Girl: Lupino Lane, George Graves, Betty Frankiss, Teddy St Denis
Finale, The Lambeth Walk, With 250 Astistes Including: Jack Barty, George Carney, Clapham And Dwyer, Harry Claff, Harry Champion, Kate Carney, Will Fyffe, Florrie Forde, Gaston & Andree, Tommy Handley, Lupino Lane, G.S.Melvin, Talbot O'farrell, Gillie Porter, Harry Tate, Vesta Victoria, Bransby Williams, Anona Winn
Renee Houston & Donald Stewart
Ken Davidson And Hugh Forgie
9th November, 1938