Dorothy Ward (1890–1987)

 

 

Dorothy Ward (Norris Collection) Dorothy Ward (Bert Feldman)
 
(Bert Feldman sheet music cover)


Birmingham-born comedienne, actress, and singer Dorothy Ward was one of the mainstays of British Music Hall and Variety for decades. She made her stage debut at the Alexandra Palace, Birmingham, at the age of 15, and appeared in many London shows before settling largely into a career in pantomime in the 1920s. Ward was married to Shaun Glenville, a Music Hall and pantomime star in his own right. The couple frequently performed together in “panto,” she as one of the best Principal Boys and he as a renowned Dame. Their son Peter Glenville (1913–96), a childhood friend of the author’s mother (Fred Godfrey’s youngest daughter, Peggie), became an actor, film director (for example, “The Comedians,” starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor), and producer of Broadway shows (including “Take Me Along,” for which Jackie Gleason won a Tony in 1960).

Music Hall historian W. Macqueen-Pope describes Dorothy Ward as

a handsome and striking woman, with auburn hair, wonderful carriage and fine figure....Tights become her, they are second nature to her and she understands pantomime and its topsy turviness. To see her as “Jack” in Jack and the Beanstalk defy the giant outside his castle, wearing shining armour and then join in mortal combat with him in his own kitchen, clad in trailing clouds of gauze and silk, is to witness true pantomime....[She] left the halls plenty of fine songs.1

Open Your Heart And Let The Sunshine InWard remained one of Britain’s most popular Variety stars through the 1930s. Her off-stage life had an element of notoriety about it, and she was linked romantically to, among others, the Scottish aviator Jim Mollison.2

For details about the lives and careers of Dorothy Ward and Shaun Glenville, as well as a collection of interesting photographs, see the website: http://www.its-behind-you.com/wardglenville.html.

Dorothy Ward and Shaun Glenville were good friends of Fred Godfrey’s, and both sang his songs — she was just seventeen when she performed his Meet Me Jenny When The Sun Goes Down in pantomime in Belfast. Ward is known to have recorded four Godfrey songs: Blue Eyes (Regal G-7170, 1915); Tommy’s Learning French (Regal G-7219, 1915); I Love My Motherland (Regal G-7418, 1916); and, most famously of all, Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty (Regal G-7398, 1916), which she said Godfrey wrote for her in her living room.3

In addition, from sheet music covers and other sources, Ward performed Godfrey’s Meet Me Jenny When The Sun Goes Down (1908); It’s The Way They Have In The Navy (1914, pre-war); I’m Coming Back To Old Kilkenny (1915); Take Me Back To Your Heart (1915); You Were The First One To Teach Me To Love (1916); Down Texas Way (1917); Open Your Heart And Let The Sunshine In (1920); Till You Come Back Again (1926); Arm In Arm Together (1931); and There Is Always A Silver Lining (1939) — a span of more than thirty years of featuring Godfrey’s songs in her act, surely a rarity in the entertainment world on either side of the Atlantic. .

In February 1916, The Era reported; “Miss Dorothy Ward continues to make an enormous success with the Star’s beautiful number, ‘You were the first one to teach me to love,’ by Fred Godfrey, Ronald F. Wakley, and Bennett Scott at the Grand, Leeds, where she plays principal boy in the very successful pantomime. Mr. Shaun Glenville, both as a sham musical director, and in other comedy business, does much to enhance the attractiveness of this big vocal hit.4

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Notes

1  W. MacQueen-Pope, The Melodies Linger On: The Story of Music Hall (London: W.H. Allen, 1950), pp. 339–40. 
2  See David Luff, Mollison, the Flying Scotsman: The Life of Pioneer Aviator James Allan Mollison (Washington, DC: Smithsonian
    Institution Press, 1993).
3  Dorothy Ward, “Live, love and laugh.” Daily Sketch (London), 10 May 1932, p. 10.
4  “Star Co.’s Songs and Singers,” The Era, 2 February 1916, p. 7.