I recommend her film "Climbing High."
Well all I can say is that I am an American who is an avid film buff but for some reason Jessie Matthews is entirely unknown over here, so I've only stumbled upon her recently. I've been able to hunt down most of her films, but am astonished to find that there is no "collected works" available, and apparently no interest in assembling one. How is she regarded in the UK? Why is her talent so overlooked in the US? Some films -- such as Man From Toronto, as well as all of her silent films -- are simply unavailable on video. She must be seen as some minor player but for the life of me I cannot imagine why.
I recommend her film "Climbing High."
That's true - I have heard of her but I have never seen her in anything.
"Friday the Thirteenth" is at Youtube where she plays opposite Ralph Richardson and dances in it.
Was she a cat lover does anyone know? This is the second movie I've seen where she's holding and petting a cat
Netflix has First a Girl (1935) and Sailing Along (1938), both good Jessie Matthews vehicles. I tend to like her earlier stuff; check out Out of the Blue (1931), There Goes the Bride (1932) (available streaming online), The Good Companions (1934) (on YouTube), It's Love Again (with Robert Young!, 1936), and of course her signature hit, Evergreen (1934). Where the heck is Midshipmaid Gob (1932) and The Man from Toronto (1933)?
You might be interested in the many other threads about Jessie especially this one
The Man from Toronto is available on ioffer (presumably these are copies of the British Classics Collection dvd)
Found The Man From Toronto on ioffer, thanks!
Was she the sister of Sir Stanley?!
When I saw the Thread title I was inclined to reply, Dead? .....
She used to be on the telly a lot when I was a kid... I think..... Big and bouncing and at the piano. I was a grown-up before I ever realised she had ever been in movies.
On reflection, I may be thinking of Tessie O'Shea. It can't be Winifred Attwell because I'm too young.......
So many names, so little memory.
Last edited by Moor Larkin; 30-04-12 at 01:14 PM. Reason: candidate for deletion... :-D
Here's the figment of my imagination..... Mrs. Mmmmmmmmmmills .......
Last edited by Moor Larkin; 30-04-12 at 02:32 PM. Reason: delete any time you like.... :-D
"I worry about Jim"
"I worry about Moor Larkin"! Confusing the svelte Jessie with the rotund ma Mills (well, Jessie was svelte in the 1930's).
I remember seeing her in the audience of some television show (can't recall the name now) a year or so before she passed on. She clearly had put on considerable weight but 'by gad sir, she was still a damned handsome woman'.
It seems she was the Susan Boyle of her day, but had no pressure on her to get slim back then, which may have been a shame as she died before she was 60. There's a very generous eulogy to her at imdb, I notice, and I was amazed to find she was in Abbey Road at the same moment as those other old-timers called The Beatles!!
If one was fortunate enough to know Mrs. Mills (or 'Glad' as she was affectionately known) they were privileged to have had as a friend one of the most lovable people in the world. So much of show business is show - wearing a mask of comedy or tragedy and hiding one's real self, but Mrs. Mills was exactly the same in private life as the 'happy go lucky' image she presented so naturally to the vast audiences, be it television, radio, or in the theatre. She was a jolly, overweight hunk of humanity, a real person whose only aim in life was to make the world that she inhabited a happier place.
She first came to the notice of the British public when she made her first record in December, 1961; this was an immediate hit, and Mrs. Mills, who was quite happily and securely working as a civil servant ("earning a little extra playing for dances on certain evenings") had to change the routine of her daily life and join show business, After that, she never looked back, appearing numerous times on television, contributing to hundreds of radio programmes, and playing every major theatre in the United Kingdom. She also appeared with tremendous success in Canada, South Africa, and Germany. Every LP she made was a best seller and her singles popular hits which were the party attractions in many homes.
From the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Mills [née Jordan], Gladys [performing name Mrs Mills] (1918–1978), pianist and popular entertainer
by Stephen Bourne
© Oxford University Press 2004–12 All rights reserved
Mills [née Jordan], Gladys [performing name Mrs Mills] (1918–1978), pianist and popular entertainer, was born on 29 August 1918 at 154 Beckton Road, Silvertown, Newham, Essex. She was the daughter of a Metropolitan police officer, Samuel Jordan, and his wife, Minnie Dixon. She took her first piano lesson when she was three and a half, but these came to an abrupt end when she was twelve. Gladys later explained that her piano teacher objected to her putting ‘twiddly bits’ into the classics, and the young girl tired of being rapped over the knuckles with a knitting needle. During the war, while working as a civil servant, she formed her own amateur concert party and toured Essex, entertaining the troops. After the war she often played at club dances, but never once considered becoming a professional.
On 24 February 1947 Gladys Jordan married Gilbert (Bert) Mills (b. 1902/3), a maintenance man with London Transport. At the age of forty-three she was supervising a civil service typing pool at the Treasury and earning a little extra in the evenings by playing for dances. When he heard her honky-tonk piano playing at a golf-club social event the manager of Frankie Vaughan, the popular singer, persuaded her to turn professional. Teamed with the record producer Norman Newell, who had helped launch the career of Russ Conway a few years earlier, Glad—as she was known to her family and friends—shot into the pop charts with the release of her début single, ‘Mrs Mills' Medley’, in December 1961. Overnight the world of the housewife and civil servant was turned upside down.
At first Gladys had no intention of leaving her job in the civil service. Determined to keep her feet firmly on the ground, she continued living with her husband in their modest maisonette in Loughton. But within a month of her first record's entering the charts offers of work piled in. She began making regular appearances on radio and television, and even took part in a concert at Buckingham Palace. But Gladys refused to be spoiled by her celebrity status. In 1962 she told Ramsden Greig in an interview in the Evening Standard (7 April) that she had been to the Dorchester Hotel to play the piano for the ‘nobs’, but would not feel right eating there. On another occasion she arrived at a recording studio, only to discover she was to play with a full orchestra. ‘I nearly died’, she told Patrick Doncaster of the Daily Mirror (4 January 1962).
I thought there would be only me at the piano and maybe a drummer and bass. A whole crowd arrived first. I thought they'd come to the wrong studio. They were only the string section, they said. Then another lot came in. They were the choir. Then more musicians arrived. I didn't know what to do. I told the recording manager: ‘You don't need me, do you? I'd rather sit back and listen to this lot!’
The piano has often been associated with good-time party fun—other successful entertainers at the piano from this time included Winifred Atwell, Russ Conway, and Joe ‘Mr Piano’ Henderson, but it was jolly Mrs Mills, a large middle-aged lady with a beaming smile, who had the ‘common touch’. By the mid-1960s she was one of Britain's most popular entertainers, and something of a working-class folk hero with her singalong medleys. She made regular appearances in television programmes such as The Billy Cotton Band Show, as well as in variety shows all over the country. Her down-to-earth personality appealed to audiences, and for many fans she personified the home-loving cockney mum. Tours of Canada, South Africa, and Germany took Gladys far away from her new home in the rural peace of Penn in the Buckinghamshire Chilterns.
In the early 1970s Gladys was still to be seen on television and did not object to having jokes made at her expense. After her memorable appearance in The Morecambe and Wise Show Eric Morecambe informed another guest, actor John Mills, ‘We've just had your grandmother on the show!’ In 1975 Eamonn Andrews surprised her with his famous red book for a well-deserved tribute in Thames Television's This is your Life.
In addition to her show business work, Gladys and her husband ran a sixteenth-century pub called the King's Arms in the village of Hathern just outside Leicester. She often pulled beer for the locals in her spare time, but they sold the pub after four years. ‘It got out of hand,’ she explained in an interview in The Sun (10 March 1971). ‘Too many people kept coming in and they made me feel like exhibit A.’
Ill health forced Gladys Mills to cut down her workload and on 24 February 1978 she died in St Joseph's Nursing Home in Beaconsfield after a prolonged illness. In the late 1990s renewed interest in ‘easy listening’ music—an interest often overlaid with irony—saw the re-release of her recordings on compact disc.
S. Bourne, ‘Working class hero’, The Stage (2 Nov 2000) · R. Greig, Evening Standard (7 April 1962) · P. Doncaster, Daily Mirror (4 Jan 1962) · The Times (1 March 1978) · The Times (5 July 1978) · The Sun (10 March 1971) · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.
Wealth at death
£105,364: The Times (5 July 1978)
© Oxford University Press 2004–12 All rights reserved
Stephen Bourne, ‘Mills , Gladys (1918–1978)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/74134, accessed 2 May 2012]
Gladys Mills (1918–1978): doi:10.1093/ref:dnb/74134
Lovely to see another thread about possibly my favourite film star, Jessie Matthews. I recommend watching this documentary about her life
As well as her own memoir, Over My Shoulder, and 'A biography' by Michael Thornton.
I agree with you, 8thman, that is is amazing no one has yet produced a Jessie Matthews boxset. But, sadly, she is very forgotten in the UK - her heyday was the 1930s, which is several lifetimes ago in cultural terms.
The fact is, she was a massive star in the 20s and 30s - not just in the UK, but the US as well - but for various reasons, her career declined. She did make a comeback in the 60s in the radio soap The Dales, but despite that she isn't a household name here. However, I became a convert to her charms just three years ago, and as far as I can gather, she does have a small but loyal following. I suspect if more people knew who she was, they would be fans too.
Her films haven't been shown on UK TV for years - whereas TCM US have shown Evergreen in the last year, I believe. So I think she is vaguely remembered over there.
I've seen all her films except the silent ones. I believe one is lost, but at any rate, her contributions to those films is negligent. (Not that I wouldn't jump at the chance to see them.) Oh, and I haven't seen her cameo in Hound of the Baskervilles (1979).
At least First a Girl is being issued on US R1 DVD by VCI soon - rejoice!
torinfan, I think she was an animal lover, certainly. She had a pet dalmatian, Psmith, and there are photos of her with a family cat in her memoir. I think this stems from her father looking after animals that were being used in local shows when she was growing up. Their home was filled with pets!
Anymore questions, I'll do my best to answer them (as a fellow fan and enthusiast)!
Any film with Alastair Sim as a leopard-skin loincloth-wearing Communist can't be anything other than completely marvellous
To add to what BE has said, she's definitely not as well remembered as Gracie Fields, her main rival in pre-war musicals though their film careers ended at much the same time.