Hermione Baddeley

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A distinguished English actress and singer and one of the finest intimate revue artists the West End has ever seen.
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b. Hermione Clinton-Baddeley, 13 November 1906, Broseley, Shropshire, England, d. 19 August 1986, Los Angeles, California, USA. A distinguished actress and singer, Baddeley joined Margaret Morrison’s School of Dancing when she was quite young, and then travelled with the Arts League of Service for three years. She had already established herself as a fine dramatic actress when she made her musical stage debut in May 1924 at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre in Archie de Bear’s revue Punch Bowl. From then on, as well as continuing to appear in the straight theatre, she became one of the finest, and funniest, intimate revue artists ever seen in the West End. In September 1924 she joined The Co-Optimists at the Palace Theatre, and a few months later was in Noël Coward’s On With The Dance (1925). This was followed by Still Dancing (1925), Cochran’s Revue (1926), Queen High (a book show by Buddy De Sylva and Laurence Schwab), The Five O’Clock Girl (1929, a Guy Bolton - Fred Thompson book show), After Dinner (1932), Ballyhoo (1932), and Floodlight (1937). She is thought to have reached her peak during the next few years in two supremely witty Herbert Farjeon revues, Nine Sharp (1938) and The Little Revue (1939), as well as Rise Above It (1941), in which she ‘sparked off’ another mistress of the genre, Hermione Gingold. After World War II, during which Baddeley spent long periods abroad entertaining the troops with ENSA, she returned to the London stage in The Gaieties (1945) with Leslie Henson, and then bade farewell to revue in great style with Alan Melville’s A La Carte (1948) and At The Lyric (1953, later revised as Going To Town). In 1961 she went to America, and played on Broadway, toured with plays such as Canterbury Tales (1969), in which she played the Wife of Bath, and appeared in cabaret. She spent most of the rest of her life in the USA, returning occasionally to Britain, where she was in a revival of The Threepenny Opera (1972) as Mrs. Peachum. In America, Baddeley also starred frequently on television, and was particularly successful in The Good Life (1971) and Maude (1974-77). She also extended a film career that had begun with her taking the role of Calamity Kate in the comedy A Daughter In Revolt (1927), and eventually included the musicals Expresso Bongo (1959), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), Mary Poppins (1964), The Happiest Millionaire (1967), and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1959 for her role in Room At The Top. She was renowned for her portrayal of cheerful, yet somewhat eccentric, ‘ordinary’ women, who were able to rise above their problems.

One of her elder sisters was Angela Baddeley (b. 4 July 1904, d. 22 February 1976), who also had a long career as an actress, and is probably best remembered in both the UK and USA as housekeeper Mrs. Bridges in the 70s television series Upstairs Downstairs.