Beatrice Lillie

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Beatrice Lillie (29 May 1894-20 January 1989) was the outstanding comedic actress of her time.

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Beatrice Lillie

She was born Beatrice Gladys Lillie (not, as is sometimes claimed, as Constance Sylvia Munsfird) in Toronto, Ontario in Canada.

Beatrice Lillie began performing in Toronto and other Ontario towns as part of a family trio with her mother and older sister Muriel. Eventually, her mother took the two girls to England where she made her West End debut in 1914.

She was noted primarily for her stage work in revues and light comedies, frequently paired with Gertrude Lawrence, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley. Beatrice Lillie took advantage of her gift for witty satire that made her a stage success for more than 50 years. In her revues, she utilized sketches, songs, and parody that in her 1924 New York debut won her lavish praise from the New York Times.

In 1926 she returned to New York city to perform. While there, she starred in her first film, Exit Smiling, opposite fellow Canadian Jack Pickford. From then until the approach of World War II, Lillie repeatedly crisscrossed the Atlantic to perform on both continents.

Lillie is associated particularly with the works of Noel Coward, though Cole Porter also wrote songs for her. She made few appearances on film, appearing in a cameo role as a revivalist in Around the World in Eighty Days and as Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie. She won a Tony Award in 1953 for her revue An Evening With Beatrice Lillie and made her final stage appearance in High Spirits, the musical version of Coward's Blithe Spirit. After seeing An Evening with Beatrice Lillie, British critic Ronald Barker wrote, "Other generations may have their Mistinguett and their Marie Lloyd. We have our Beatrice Lillie and seldom have we seen such a display of perfect talent."

She married, on 20 January 1920 at the church of St. Paul, Drayton Bassett, Fazely, near Tamworth, Staffordshire, England to Sir Robert Peel, 5th Baronet and became Lady Peel. Their only child, Robert, the 6th Baronet, was killed in action aboard the HMS Tenedos in Colombo Harbour in 1942. She eventually separated from her husband but never divorced until he died in 1934.

In 1948, she met the singer/actor John Philip Huck, a gentleman 28 years her junior who became her friend and companion. She retired from the stage due to Alzheimer's disease and passed away in 1989 at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire in England. John Philip Huck died of a heart attack the day after her passing and is interred next to her in a cemetery near Peel Fold.

Beatrice Lillie has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Tony Awards:


  • Lillie, Beatrice, with John Philip and James Brough, Every Other Inch a Lady, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, New York, 1972. (A chatty but none-too-informative work).

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