Adele Dixon

A versatile English actress and soprano of the 30s and 40s.
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Artist Biography

b. Adela Helena Dixon, 3 June 1908, Newington, London, England, d. 11 April 1992, Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, England. A versatile actress with a pleasing soprano voice who was equally at home in dramatic roles and musical comedies. Her trim figure, attractive red-brown hair, and commanding appearance also made an ideal pantomime Principal Boy. Dixon attended the Italia Conti stage school and made her London stage debut in 1921 at the age of 13 as the First Elf in Where The Rainbow Ends. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she toured in various Shakespearean roles before joining the Old Vic Company where she impressed opposite John Gielgud in Romeo And Juliet and Hamlet. In 1928 she attracted attention in her first singing role as Princess Beauty in Adam’s Opera. The music for that production was composed by Richard Addinsell, and three years later, when he wrote the songs for the stage adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s novel, The Good Companions, Dixon was cast - again opposite Gielgud - in the important role of Susie Dean, the young and enterprising soubrette. Shortly after appearing alongside the high-kicking Charlotte Greenwood in Robert Stoltz’s Wild Violets (1932), Dixon took over from Evelyn Laye in Give Me A Ring (1933), combining with John Mills (who had replaced Ernest Verebes) on the attractive ‘A Couple Of Fools In Love’. She survived the farcical goings-on in the Leslie Henson vehicle Lucky Break (1934), to co-star later in the year with Stanley Holloway, and again with Greenwood, in Three Sisters. Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s lovely score for this original musical, which was presented at Drury Lane, contained the future standard, ‘I Won’t Dance’, on which Dixon duetted with Richard Dolman. The song’s lyric was subsequently revised, and the new version featured in several films, including Roberta (1935) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and the 1952 remake, Lovely To Look At. In 1935 Dixon played Hope Harcourt in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, an American import full of good songs, and in the following year she introduced, with Eric Fawcett, the delightful ‘I Breathe On Windows’ in Charles B. Cochran’s production of Over She Goes, which also starred Stanley Lupino and Laddie Cliff. By this time Dixon was one of the West End’s best-loved leading ladies, and in November 1936 she became the first female performer to be seen in Britain on the new medium of television, being chosen to sing the specially composed ‘Television’ (‘Bringing Television To You’) when the BBC launched the world’s first regular service from Alexandra Palace on 2 November 1936. Her Broadway debut with Jack Buchanan and Evelyn Laye in Between The Devil (1937) was not so successful, in spite of a score by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz containing the superior ballad, ‘I See Your Face Before Me’, which was introduced by Laye, and reprised by Dixon and Buchanan. A further trip to New York in 1948 with Buchanan, to appear in the comedy, Don’t Listen Ladies!, also proved a disappointment. Back home in 1938, Dixon continued to triumph in the ‘musical frolic’, The Fleet’s Lit Up, which had a Vivian Ellis score, plus Frances Day, Lupino, and Ralph Reader, with whom she combined on ‘Hide And Seek’; and the revue, All Clear, in company with Bobby Howes, Beatrice Lillie, and Fred Emney. In December 1940 at the Sheffield Empire, Dixon made the first of more than a dozen appearances as Principal Boy in Christmas pantomime, playing Prince Charming to Jack Buchanan’s Buttons in Cinderella. Constantly mixing roles in both the straight and musical theatre, Dixon joined Sonnie Hale in the short-lived (10 performances at the Piccadilly Theatre) The Knight Was Bold in 1943, and said farewell to the London musical stage in an old fashioned romantic piece, with a score by Eric Maschwitz and Jack Strachey, entitled Belinda Fair (1949). Two years earlier, she had also concluded her occasional film career, which had included the musical, Calling The Tune (1936), featuring guest artists Sir Henry Wood and Reginald Forsyth. West End audiences saw Dixon for the last time as Prince Charming in the 1953 production of Cinderella, which starred Julie Andrews just prior to her ascendancy to superstardom on Broadway via The Boy Friend and My Fair Lady. Thereafter Dixon made several forays into the provincial theatre before retiring in the late 50s. Her husband of nearly 50 years, jewel expert Ernest Schwaiger, died in 1976, and some 10 years later Dixon moved from London to a retirement home in Sale, Greater Manchester.