of SOUTH AMERICAN GEORGE, 1941
by Eleanor Dugan
She doesn't remember any bruises -- although Linden Travers is uniquely
energetic among the routinely decorous and decorative Formby heroines.
In SOUTH AMERICAN GEORGE, she is tossed in the air, tumbled to the floor,
and landed on by George himself -- although, as an experienced horsewoman,
she barely noticed.
Ms. Travers plays Carol Dean, stylish and sophisticated press agent,
business manager, and legal advisor to a temperamental Italian tenor.
Sidewalk-busker George meets her when he is drafted to replace a missing
spear carrier at the opera house. Soon "Miss Carol" drafts
George and trains him to replace the missing tenor (also played by Formby)
who has gone off for a romantic rendezvous in violation of his contract.
George, of course, is smitten and happily complies.
Ms. Travers must deliver the requisite "You were wonderful!"
line to George, she is distinctive among Formby heroines in other
ways besides athletic prowess: she plays a proactive career woman;
her actions, not George's, control the plot; though she "talks
posh" like all his leading ladies, she twice drops into Lancashire
dialect to George's enormous delight; and, almost unheard of among
his leading ladies, she gets to deliver a punchline. When Jacques
Brown, as the unscrupulous impresario Riccardo, introduces shyster-lawyer
Felix Aylmer as "one of my friends," she quips, "You
must bring the OTHER one up sometime."
SOUTH AMERICAN GEORGE was the fifteenth of Linden Traver's two dozen
films (and George's first film for Columbia Studios after seven years
with ATP/Ealing). Although the tradition of non-communication between
Formby and his leading lady continued -- "I did not have any
conversations with George, except in the make-up room", she recalls
-- Beryl Formby was uncharacteristically cordial: "She was always
helpful and charming to me. She helped me with my clothes during the
film." (Since the script required George to kiss vamp Enid Stamp
Taylor but not leading lady Travers, this may have aided Beryl's benevolent
Linden Travers was born Florence
Lindon [sic] Travers at Houghton-le-Spring, Durham on May 27, 1913,
the daughter of William Halton Lindon-Travers and his wife Florence
(Wheatley). It was a family brimming with talent. Her thespian relatives
include her brother Bill Travers, her daughter Susan (Lucas) Travers,
nephew Richard Morant, and Penelope Wilton, wife of Sir Ian Holm.
Always multi-talented, she was engaged to teach younger classmates
elocution, drama, painting, and sketching while still a student at
the Convent de la Sagesse. Her first professional stage appearances
were in repertory with the Playhouse, Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1933. The
following year she played the ingenue lead in Ivor Novello's MURDER
IN MAYFAIR at the Globe in London. There she met her future first
husband, Guy Leon, whose sister was in the cast. Their daughter, Jennifer
Susan, was born in 1939.
Soon Ms. Travers was alternating between stage and
screen and between femme fatale rôles (like Cecil Parker's mistress
in THE LADY VANISHES) and light comedies.
"I seem to have jumped out of being mistresses to playing with
the comics -- Tommy Trinder, Arthur Askey, and then George Formby,"
she told interviewer Brian McFarland. "Beryl, his wife, controlled
him. She was his manager, and she wasn't inclined to encourage any
girls hanging around who were attractive. I wouldn't have been interested
in George anyway, although he was nice to work with and very professional.
She looked after him all the time. She and I eventually became good
friends, and she helped me a lot with my clothes. She was very good
for him, and I think she realized that she had helped to put him where
he was and didn't feel that someone younger and prettier than she
was should get hold of him. I think she was very sensible. In his
time, he was terribly funny, and he played his ukelele so well."
Although Linden Travers often portrayed errant or unstable characters,
McFarland feels her innate grace and style may have hindered her career:
"She was simply gorgeous, and a film industry less bedeviled
by gentility would have made her a great star."
During the war years, Ms. Travers starred in three major London stage
productions including NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH. She would later
repeat the title rôle in the cult-classic film version and recalls
it as her favorite part. In the post-war film industry renaissance,
she appeared in eight films in four years, including QUARTET, THE
BAD LORD BYRON, and CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS in which poor Columbus (Frederic
March) can't get an appointment because King Ferdinand (Francis Lister)
is too busy chasing Ms. Travers. Quite believably, her charms nearly
change the course of history.
After Ms. Linden's marriage to James Holman in 1948, and the birth
of their daughter, Sally Linden, the following year, she limited herself
to occasional television appearances. She had never stopped painting
and drawing, and, in 1969, she and her sisters, Alice and Pearl, opened
the Travers Gallery in Kensington. It closed in 1972 after Alice died.
Two years later, her husband died of a heart attack following 26 years
of marriage. The couple had always enjoyed traveling, and Linden Travers
spent the next few years visiting Thailand, Egypt, India, and Nepal.
In the early 1980s, she became a credentialed and practicing hypnotist
Now living in Cornwall, she no longer performs. But on May 30, 1999,
Linden Travers appeared on television sets throughout the United Kingdom
in a BBC Alfred Hitchcock tribute, still strikingly beautiful, her
exquisite bone structure instantly identifying her as the delicious
star of SOUTH AMERICAN GEORGE.
Following the above interview, Linden Travers died on October 23,
2001 in Cornwall at the age of 88.
STAGE ROLES INCLUDE:
1933 - Cynara (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
1934 - Murder in Mayfair
1935-6 - repertory in Birmingham
1942 - No Orchids for Miss Blandish (Richmond)
1943 - Ten Little Niggers
1945 - Quality Street
1946 - Dear Murderer (tour)
1947 - My Friend Lester
1935 - Children of the Fog
1936 - Wednesday's Luck
1937 - Double Alibi
1937 - Against the Tide
1937 - Brief Ecstacy / Dangerous Secrets
1937 - The Last Adventurers / Down to the Sea in Ships
1938 - Bank Holiday / Three on a Weekend
1938 - Almost a Honeymoon
1938 - The Terror
1938 - The Lady Vanishes
1939 - Inspector Hornleigh on Holiday
1939 - The Stars Look Down
1941 - The Ghost Train
1941 - The Seventh Survivor
1941 - South American George
1942 - The Missing Million
1946 - Beware of Pity
1947 - The Master of Bankdam
1947 - Jassy
1948 - Quartet
1948 - No Orchids for Miss Blandish
1949 - The Bad Lord Byron
1949 - Don't Ever Leave Me
1949 - Christopher Columbus
1955 - The Schemer (TV series spinoff)
TV ROLES INCLUDE:
1955 - The Big Show
1988 - Game, Set and Match
1999 - Hitch (BBC Hitchcock tribute)