Tom Arnold

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An important producer and manager of musicals and spectacular events in London’s West End for many years.
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b. Thomas Charles Arnold, 19 August 1893, Richmond, Yorkshire, England, d. 2 February 1969, London, England. An important producer and manager of musicals and other lavish and spectacular events in London’s West End and the provinces for many years. While still in his twenties, Arnold toured revues such as The Showbox and The Vanity Box, as well as a variety of other shows, including Tom Arnold’s Circus, before presenting Folies Bergere at the London Palladium in 1925. From then on, until the late 30s, he continued to tour musicals, revues, and other kinds of productions at a phenomenal rate at home and in countries such as South Africa and Australia. These included Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s One Dam Thing After Another, Charles B. Cochran and Noël Coward’s This Year Of Grace!, Vivian Ellis and A.P. Herbert’s Streamline, Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, and Eric Maschwitz, George Posford, and Bernard Grun’s hit, Balalaika. In 1938, Arnold presented Henry V at Drury Lane, with Ivor Novello as the King. This association flourished in the future, with the producer mounting Novello’s series of highly successful musicals, The Dancing Years (1939 in the West End, its regional tour, and the 1942 revival), Arc De Triomphe (1943), Perchance To Dream (1945), King’s Rhapsody (1949), and Gay’s The Word (1951) - the latter starring Cicely Courtneidge. Arnold had previously managed several of her earlier showcases, such as Clowns In Clover, Full Swing, Something In The Air, and Under The Counter.

In keeping with his policy of working in many contrasting areas of showbusiness, in the early 50s Arnold presented Noël Coward’s startlingly different ‘revue-musical’ Ace Of Clubs, as well as staging lavish spectacles such as Rose Marie On Ice at Harringay, Dick Whittington On Ice at Wembley, and the usual pantomimes. He had previously inaugurated Tom Arnold’s Harringay Circus Annual at Christmas 1947 and Latin Quarter (1949) at the London Casino. During the rest of the 50s, Arnold mixed dramatic theatre with his other interests, which included the Moscow State Circus. In August 1960, he opened a revival of Rose Marie at the Victoria Palace, with singer David Whitfield, and then presented three brand new musicals: the conventional Pickwick (1963) and Our Man Crichton (1964), along with Lionel Bart and Alun Owen’s dramatically different Maggie May. He also handled the West End transfer of the Broadway musical Little Me, which gave comedian Bruce Forsyth the opportunity to shine. After that, there were no major musical productions for Arnold, although he continued producing his annual spectaculars, and was awarded the OBE a few weeks before he died in 1969.

His son, Tom Arnold (b. Thomas Richard Arnold, 25 January 1947, London, England), also became a producing manager after being educated in Switzerland and at Pembroke College, Oxford. His projects included ice pantomimes at London’s Wembley Arena, as well as West End presentations and regional tours of shows starring artists such as Danny La Rue, and plays and musicals including The King And I, The Sunshine Boys, and Peter Pan. He became a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1974, and was knighted in 1990.