George’s leading ladies
Star of I See Ice and Keep Fit by Eleanor Dugan In 1936. Kay Walsh met an ambitious young film editor. David Lean, who had a burning desire to direct. Her professional and private life quickly connected with his in an intense creative partnership that lasted for more than a decade. In November 1940, she became the second of his six wives. By 1936 22-year-old Kay Walsh had appeared in eight films and was dancing in the West End production, The Melody That Got Lost. Producer Basil Dean’s wife was also in the show. He came to see his wife, and ended up signing the young dancer to a year’s contract at Ealing Film Studios. In a 1991-interview with Brian McFarland, Kay Walsh described the Ealing Formby films as ‘the aristocracy’ in comparison with other British films of the time "They were high-flying compared with the ‘fit up’ quickies, but then Ealing Studios was a well-established concern. I remember particularly Jack Kitchen, a film editor who really made those Formby films move. Her first Formby film Keep Fit, earned her £400 which she cautiously asked to have paid out to her at £16 a week. But her apparent good fortune at Ealing quickly turned sour. I never suffered so much in my life as I did at that studio!" she told film historian Kevin Brownlow. "They were absolute monsters and everyone assumed I was Basil Dean’s girl friend." Kay made eight more minor films in next four years before achieving her really prestigious screen roles. One off-screen highlight of this period was writing additional dialogue for the film version of Pygmalion - so skill-fully that autocratic author, George Bernard Shaw reportedly never noticed! In the early 1940s, Kay appeared in two classic Noel Coward films, In Which We Serve (1942) and This Happy Breed (1944), both directed by David Lean. "Working with Noel Coward was a great honour," she says, although Coward privately derided her liberal views. calling her ‘Red Emma’. Husband David Lean was soon achieving success as a director. His trademark was strong scenes without dialogue, and it was Kay Walsh who wrote the haunting closing of his Great Expectations (1946) and the powerful visual opening of Oliver Twist (1948).Of her screen work in the post-war years, she strongly disliked her performance as the long-suffering Nancy in Oliver Twist. "My favourite role," she says, "was the old barmaid in The Horse’s Mouth (1956) with Alec Guinness. I wore a horrible black wig!" Kay continued in films and on TV until the 1980s. Between films, she appeared regularly in plays and farces at the Strand and Aldwych Theatres, directed by Basil Dean. In private life, she indulged her passions for gardening, gourmet cooking (‘I often fixed dinner for Alec Guinness and his family’), and renovating old properties. Now 84 and living in London, she is writing her memoirs which are sure to be as rich and colourful as her extraordinary life. To Formby fans, the pluck and vitality of this impressive artist will always be epitomised by the final scene of I See Ice. As Kay sits laughing on the ice in George’s arms, a dozen burly, hockey players leap over them, their sharp metal, skate-blades whizzing terrifyingly close to her head. Yet there is not a flinch. Kay Walsh is a lady who has never flinched.
Kay Walsh
George’s leading ladies
Star of I See Ice and Keep Fit by Eleanor Dugan In 1936. Kay Walsh met an ambitious young film editor. David Lean, who had a burning desire to direct. Her professional and private life quickly connected with his in an intense creative partnership that lasted for more than a decade. In November 1940, she became the second of his six wives. By 1936 22-year-old Kay Walsh had appeared in eight films and was dancing in the West End production, The Melody That Got Lost. Producer Basil Dean’s wife was also in the show. He came to see his wife, and ended up signing the young dancer to a year’s contract at Ealing Film Studios. In a 1991-interview with Brian McFarland, Kay Walsh described the Ealing Formby films as ‘the aristocracy’ in comparison with other British films of the time "They were high-flying compared with the ‘fit up’ quickies, but then Ealing Studios was a well-established concern. I remember particularly Jack Kitchen, a film editor who really made those Formby films move. Her first Formby film Keep Fit, earned her £400 which she cautiously asked to have paid out to her at £16 a week. But her apparent good fortune at Ealing quickly turned sour. I never suffered so much in my life as I did at that studio!" she told film historian Kevin Brownlow. "They were absolute monsters and everyone assumed I was Basil Dean’s girl friend." Kay made eight more minor films in next four years before achieving her really prestigious screen roles. One off-screen highlight of this period was writing additional dialogue for the film version of Pygmalion - so skillfully that autocratic author, George Bernard Shaw reportedly never noticed! In the early 1940s, Kay appeared in two classic Noel Coward films, In Which We Serve (1942) and This Happy Breed (1944), both directed by David Lean. "Working with Noel Coward was a great honour," she says, although Coward privately derided her liberal views. calling her ‘Red Emma’. Husband David Lean was soon achieving success as a director. His trademark was strong scenes without dialogue, and it was Kay Walsh who wrote the haunting closing of his Great Expectations (1946) and the powerful visual opening of Oliver Twist (1948).Of her screen work in the post-war years, she strongly disliked her performance as the long-suffering Nancy in Oliver Twist. "My favourite role," she says, "was the old barmaid in The Horse’s Mouth (1956) with Alec Guinness. I wore a horrible black wig!" Kay continued in films and on TV until the 1980s. Between films, she appeared regularly in plays and farces at the Strand and Aldwych Theatres, directed by Basil Dean. In private life, she indulged her passions for gardening, gourmet cooking (‘I often fixed dinner for Alec Guinness and his family’), and renovating old properties. Now 84 and living in London, she is writing her memoirs which are sure to be as rich and colourful as her extraordinary life. To Formby fans, the pluck and vitality of this impressive artist will always be epitomised by the final scene of I See Ice. As Kay sits laughing on the ice in George’s arms, a dozen burly, hockey players leap over them, their sharp metal, skate-blades whizzing terrifyingly close to her head. Yet there is not a flinch. Kay Walsh is a lady who has never flinched.
Kay Walsh