English actor Bob Hoskins passed away today at the age of 71. His thespian accomplishments are too numerous to mention, although this writer particularly recommends seeing him in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) and in Mermaids (1990). I mention him here, however, because of his starring role in Dennis Potter’s 1978 television mini-series “Pennies from Heaven” as Arthur Parker, a traveling sheet music salesman, for which he won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor. That show reintroduced a younger generation to the British dance band music of the 1930s, and has notable actors miming original recordings, one of which is featured here for obvious reasons.
“Alone and Afraid.” Music by Jack Trent, words by Stan Leigh (1931). Recorded the same year by Jerry Hoey and His Band (Joe Leigh, vocalist), Jack Payne, and Arthur Lally (Maurice Elwin and Cavan O’Connor, vocalists). This song would be part of the soundtrack of the Stanley Lupino movie “The Love Race.”
Radio Parade (1933) is a variety film featuring such stars of the time as Clapham and Dwyer, Gert and Daisy, Reginald Gardiner, Florence Desmond, and Roy Fox, but it is most notable for showing, in reel 2,
ELSIE CARLISLE SINGING ON FILM FOR NEARLY EIGHT MINUTES!
Elsie sings such numbers as “It’s Great to Be in Love,” “He Raised His Hat,” “The Girl Next Door,” “Here Am I (Brokenhearted)” and “You’ve Got Me Crying Again,” and ends with a reprise of “It’s Great to Be in Love.” She descends stairs from a balcony wearing a fur-lined stole, engages in occasional banter with her nattily dressed band, sits on the piano and rocks back and forth fetchingly (fiddling constantly with a black silk scarf), takes off the stole, sings to a portrait (which she ultimately veils with the scarf), and ultimately returns to the balcony.
Radio Parade (1933) Reel 2 could justly be considered the Citizen Kane of Elsie Carlisle film shorts (of which there are four extant, to my knowledge). It is a precious reminder that Elsie was not just a consummately talented recording artist and radio celebrity; she was also the accomplished stage actress whom Cole Porter personally chose to sing “What Is This Thing Called Love?”1
UPDATE: Peter Wallace informs me that several of the musicians in this film worked for the Ambrose Orchestra; those with speaking parts include Max Goldberg on the trumpet and Bert Read on the piano. The latter wrote a moving tribute to Elsie shortly after her death.
Richard J. Johnson, “Elsie Carlisle (with a different style). Part Two.” Memory Lane 175 (2012): 40 ↩
Today we remember Al Bowlly, that unique interwar singer who was perhaps unrivaled in his ability to project vocally a persona of romance and sophistication. On April 16, 1941, Bowlly returned from giving a performance in High Wycombe and stayed up late reading, in spite of an intense Luftwaffe air raid. On the morning of April 17, a German parachute mine that had fallen outside his building exploded, killing him, amongst others. Bowlly was given a funeral at a Greek Orthodox Cathedral in London and buried in Hanwell Cemetery in a mass grave for bombing victims.
Al Bowlly and Elsie Carlisle sang a duet of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” in a medley in 1932:
From John Watt’s “Songs from the Shows” (recorded March 7, 1932. Decca K. 645. “My Baby Just Cares for Me” was composed by Walter Donaldson, with lyrics by Gus Kahn. Eddie Cantor made it famous in the film “Whoopee!”
On April 15, 1896, Elsie Carlisle was baptized in the parish of St. James’, Collyhurst, in Greater Manchester. The parish registry gives the date of the baptism and lists her birth as having occurred earlier in the same year, on January 28. Her parents’ names were James and Mary Ellen. They lived at 7 Whitehead St., and her father was described as a greengrocer.
And now, for a semi-topical musical interlude:
“His Majesty the Baby.” Music by Mabel Wayne, words by Neville Fleeson and Arthur Terker (1935). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with Ambrose and His Orchestra on January 11, 1935. Decca F. 5379.
His Majesty The Baby. Ambrose & His Orchestra. 1935.
Elsie recorded the song again the next day without Ambrose. Other versions made the very same month were by Henry Hall, Billy Merrin, the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra, Lou Preager, Harry Roy, Jay Wilbur, and Eddie Wood.
"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.