Leslie Henson

b. 3 August 1891, Notting Hill, London, England, d. 2 December 1957, Harrow Weald, Middlesex, England. An actor, director, manager, and producer, Henson, with his bulging eyes, facial contortions ("which…
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Artist Biography

b. 3 August 1891, Notting Hill, London, England, d. 2 December 1957, Harrow Weald, Middlesex, England. An actor, director, manager, and producer, Henson, with his bulging eyes, facial contortions ("which resembled a mandarin about to sneeze") and croaky voice, was one of the outstanding comedians in British musical comedy in the first half of the twentieth century. He attended drama school while in his teens, and toured with concert parties from around 1910. Four years later he went to New York and appeared on Broadway in the musical farce Tonight's The Night, and returned with it to the West End in 1915. In 1916 he scored a tremendous personal success in Theodore And Company, that was followed by satisfying runs in Yes, Uncle!, Kissing Time, A Night Out, Sally, The Cabaret Girl, The Beauty Prize, Primrose, Tell Me More, and Kid Boots (1926). Most of the shows were presented at the Winter Garden for one of London's leading producers, George Grossmith Jnr. From 1927 Henson also served as a manager, director and/or co-producer for a wide variety of shows, including those in which he appeared himself. Among the latter in the late 20s were Lady Luck, Funny Face, Follow Thru, Nice Goings On, and Lucky Break (1934).

In 1935 he and Firth Shephard took over control of the Gaiety Theatre and produced four of the comedian's biggest hit shows, Seeing Stars, Swing Along, Going Greek, and Running Riot (1938). Following the outbreak of World War II, Henson returned to the UK from a tour of South Africa and, together with Basil Deans, formed the British Forces entertainments unit ENSA (the troops called it "Every Night Something Awful"), which set up its headquarters in the Drury Lane Theatre, recently vacated by Ivor Novello's musical, The Dancing Years. Throughout World War II Henson entertained troops in Europe, the Middle East, and Far East, returning to star in London revues such as Up And Doing, Fine And Dandy, and Leslie Henson's Gaieties.

After the war, at the age of 57 he went back to musical comedy in the smash-hit Bob's Your Uncle (1948), and then appeared as Samuel Pepys, complete with full-bottomed wig, in And So To Bed (1951). His many and various theatrical roles left little time for films, but he did make a few, including The Sport Of Kings (1930), A Warm Corner (1934), The Demi-Paradise (1943), and Home And Away (1956).