George’s leading ladies
Star of TROUBLE BREWING by Eleanor Dugan When George made the jump to the "big time" at Ealing Studios, his leading ladies were supplied from the studio's ample stable of starlets. Few have gone farther and shown brighter longer than the improbably named Googie Withers.      With tawny hair, star-opal eyes, and a voice like cOINtreau being poured over cracked ice, she continues to enchant to this day. In January, 1998, she starred in an Australian production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. Critic David Marr noted, "She has a little trick as she walks on stage that's gone in the flick of an eye but grabs our attention at once. It's a dip of the head and twist of the mouth that says, 'Sweet of you to think of applauding now, but wait until I show you what I can really do.'"  Not that George's string of "impossibly posh" leading ladies had much more to do than gaze at him adoringly on camera. And stay away from him off! "I was terribly thrilled to be in the film with him because I had only just started, and he was a very big star," recalled Googie in a 1992 ITV interview. "I was never allowed to talk to him. All I said to him were my lines from the film, and that's all he said back to me. He was a fine performer, a very dear man but, I never got to know him. I suppose [Trouble Brewing] took a month to five weeks, probably a bit more, and he never said one word to me. He was always made up in a different room and [he and Beryl] always ate in a different room." On the first day of shooting, Googie made the mistake of trying to sit with George and Beryl at a canteen table. "There was this ghastly silence. She looked at me...and said 'This table is reserved.' I said 'I'm dreadfully sorry.' The place was empty. I thought at least we'd have a get-together on the first morning, but no. Funny woman. I don't know why she was like that. I don't think any one of us young girls wanted to get off with George. "He was not my cup of tea. I wouldn't have gone to see him particularly, but I learned a lot from him because all of my films at that time were 'quickies,' and they were how I learned my job. I did about thirty of those, one after the other, and they really gave me a lot of experience. I think I did learn timing from him. His timing was perfect and these songs always came in with a little ukulele. I don't know why he was such a huge success. I don't know whether he would have been today." Even the shots showing Googie's reactions to George's songs were filmed without George. "I think it was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life--smiling, laughing, looking angry, clapping, all in one take, with just this recorded song over the loud speaker and nobody there. "It was only once that he spoke to me on the set. Something had gone wrong with the lighting in the middle of a scene, and they said it would just take two minutes to fix. There he was, alone with me for the first time and not being watched by Beryl, and he said out of the corner of his mouth, 'I'm sorry love, but you know, I'm not allowed to speak to you.' ...I was nineteen. I couldn't understand it." However, the final sequence of the film brought some unexpected intimacy. Says Googie, "They had put into this vat something called Pyrene, [used] to put out fires...but it sort of looked like beer with the froth on top. We fell over backwards into the vat. [The film] cut there, and then we were supposed to come up out of this beer and look at each other and have a kiss. That was always the end of George's films, that he kissed the girl. We had to wait for the lights and the cameras, and they certainly weren't going to take us out of the beer because we were soaking wet. He quite inadvertently put his hand on my knee and suddenly felt a girl's thigh. Poor man, he hadn't been able to touch a girl for years, and then he kept it there and started to shake visibly, and then we had the kiss. And my goodness, was it a kiss that he gave me! But then Beryl was in on it like a flash. She said 'Cut!' after it had lasted about three seconds." Googie Withers was born in 1917 in Karachi, India of a Dutch mother and British military father. Her first name, supposedly given her by her amah, means "little pigeon" in Hindi, but it might also be a childish mispronunciation of her given name, Georgette Lizette. Googie trod the boards of the West End as a child starting in 1926 and landed her first speaking role in 1934. The following year she was signed as an extra by Ealing Studios. On her first day of filming Girl In The Crowd (1935), she walked on the set just as Michael Powell sacked the second lead. In true show biz tradition, she got the part. Trouble Brewing was the fourteenth of Googie's films, most of them "quickies," but among them a nice bit in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). Her forty- plus films include the horror classic Dead Of Night (1945), seven films in which she co-starred with her husband, John McCallum, and On Approval (1944), the comedy classic with Bea Lillie and Clive Brook, in which she successfully dominates their thespian pyrotechnics with her amused and knowing smile. In 1996, she played the mentor of the young David Helfgott in Shine. Googie and husband McCallum have lived and performed in Australia for many years. With many illustrious stage and TV credits to her name, the details of her month's work on Trouble Brewing have understandably faded. Yet she recalls some strong impressions. "Formby was Formby. It was his ukulele and his songs. He was a stand-up comic and a huge draw. No, I didn't form an impression of his being a particularly bright man [but] I think he did have some intelligence. I thought that his work in the film was excellent of course. I wasn't quite sure why he was such a huge success, but then I was so young that I really had no right to form an opinion about anything." Googie Withers' illustrious career has spanned seven decades, and she's still going strong as we head into the next millennium. It's as if she is still saying, "Sweet of you to think of applauding now, but wait until I show you what I can really do!" Stage appearances include: 1934 - Happy Week-end (first speaking part) 1935 - Duet in Floodlight 1935 - This World of Ours 1937 - Ladies and Gentlemen 1937 - Hand in Glove 1943 - They Came to a City 1944 - Southern Command Entertainments 1945 - Private Lives (revival) 1949 - Champagne and Delilah 1952 - Winter Journey 1952 - The Deep Blue Sea (with Vivien Leigh) 1954 - Waiting for Gillian 1957 - Janus 1958 - Hamlet (as Gertrude) and Much Ado About Nothing (as Beatrice), Stratford on Avon Films include: 1935 - The Girl in the Crowd 1938 - The Lady Vanishes 1939 - Trouble Brewing 1940 - Haunted Honeymoon 1942 - One of Our Aircraft is Missing 1944 - On Approval 1945 - Pink String and Sealing Wax 1945 - Dead of Night 1947 - Once Upon a Dream 1948 - Miranda 1948 - It Always Rains on Sundays 1949 - Traveller's Joy 1951 - The Magic Box 1971 - Nickel Queen 1994 - Country Life 1996 - Shine
Googie Withers
George’s leading ladies
Star of TROUBLE BREWING by Eleanor Dugan When George made the jump to the "big time" at Ealing Studios, his leading ladies were supplied from the studio's ample stable of starlets. Few have gone farther and shown brighter longer than the improbably named Googie Withers.      With tawny hair, star-opal eyes, and a voice like Cointreau being poured over cracked ice, she continues to enchant to this day. In January, 1998, she starred in an Australian production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. Critic David Marr noted, "She has a little trick as she walks on stage that's gone in the flick of an eye but grabs our attention at once. It's a dip of the head and twist of the mouth that says, 'Sweet of you to think of applauding now, but wait until I show you what I can really do.'"  Not that George's string of "impossibly posh" leading ladies had much more to do than gaze at him adoringly on camera. And stay away from him off! "I was terribly thrilled to be in the film with him because I had only just started, and he was a very big star," recalled Googie in a 1992 ITV interview. "I was never allowed to talk to him. All I said to him were my lines from the film, and that's all he said back to me. He was a fine performer, a very dear man but, I never got to know him. I suppose [Trouble Brewing] took a month to five weeks, probably a bit more, and he never said one word to me. He was always made up in a different room and [he and Beryl] always ate in a different room." On the first day of shooting, Googie made the mistake of trying to sit with George and Beryl at a canteen table. "There was this ghastly silence. She looked at me...and said 'This table is reserved.' I said 'I'm dreadfully sorry.' The place was empty. I thought at least we'd have a get-together on the first morning, but no. Funny woman. I don't know why she was like that. I don't think any one of us young girls wanted to get off with George. "He was not my cup of tea. I wouldn't have gone to see him particularly, but I learned a lot from him because all of my films at that time were 'quickies,' and they were how I learned my job. I did about thirty of those, one after the other, and they really gave me a lot of experience. I think I did learn timing from him. His timing was perfect and these songs always came in with a little ukulele. I don't know why he was such a huge success. I don't know whether he would have been today." Even the shots showing Googie's reactions to George's songs were filmed without George. "I think it was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life--smiling, laughing, looking angry, clapping, all in one take, with just this recorded song over the loud speaker and nobody there. "It was only once that he spoke to me on the set. Something had gone wrong with the lighting in the middle of a scene, and they said it would just take two minutes to fix. There he was, alone with me for the first time and not being watched by Beryl, and he said out of the corner of his mouth, 'I'm sorry love, but you know, I'm not allowed to speak to you.' ...I was nineteen. I couldn't understand it." However, the final sequence of the film brought some unexpected intimacy. Says Googie, "They had put into this vat something called Pyrene, [used] to put out fires...but it sort of looked like beer with the froth on top. We fell over backwards into the vat. [The film] cut there, and then we were supposed to come up out of this beer and look at each other and have a kiss. That was always the end of George's films, that he kissed the girl. We had to wait for the lights and the cameras, and they certainly weren't going to take us out of the beer because we were soaking wet. He quite inadvertently put his hand on my knee and suddenly felt a girl's thigh. Poor man, he hadn't been able to touch a girl for years, and then he kept it there and started to shake visibly, and then we had the kiss. And my goodness, was it a kiss that he gave me! But then Beryl was in on it like a flash. She said 'Cut!' after it had lasted about three seconds." Googie Withers was born in 1917 in Karachi, India of a Dutch mother and British military father. Her first name, supposedly given her by her amah, means "little pigeon" in Hindi, but it might also be a childish mispronunciation of her given name, Georgette Lizette. Googie trod the boards of the West End as a child starting in 1926 and landed her first speaking role in 1934. The following year she was signed as an extra by Ealing Studios. On her first day of filming Girl In The Crowd (1935), she walked on the set just as Michael Powell sacked the second lead. In true show biz tradition, she got the part. Trouble Brewing was the fourteenth of Googie's films, most of them "quickies," but among them a nice bit in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). Her forty-plus films include the horror classic Dead Of Night (1945), seven films in which she co-stARRed with her husband, John McCallum, and On Approval (1944), the comedy classic with Bea Lillie and Clive Brook, in which she successfully dominates their thespian pyrotechnics with her amused and knowing smile. In 1996, she played the mentor of the young David Helfgott in Shine. Googie and husband McCallum have lived and performed in Australia for many years. With many illustrious stage and TV credits to her name, the details of her month's work on Trouble Brewing have understandably faded. Yet she recalls some strong impressions. "Formby was Formby. It was his ukulele and his songs. He was a stand-up comic and a huge draw. No, I didn't form an impression of his being a particularly bright man [but] I think he did have some intelligence. I thought that his work in the film was excellent of course. I wasn't quite sure why he was such a huge success, but then I was so young that I really had no right to form an opinion about anything." Googie Withers' illustrious career has spanned seven decades, and she's still going strong as we head into the next millennium. It's as if she is still saying, "Sweet of you to think of applauding now, but wait until I show you what I can really do!" Stage appearances include: 1934 - Happy Week-end (first speaking part) 1935 - Duet in Floodlight 1935 - This World of Ours 1937 - Ladies and Gentlemen 1937 - Hand in Glove 1943 - They Came to a City 1944 - Southern Command Entertainments 1945 - Private Lives (revival) 1949 - Champagne and Delilah 1952 - Winter Journey 1952 - The Deep Blue Sea (with Vivien Leigh) 1954 - Waiting for Gillian 1957 - Janus 1958 - Hamlet (as Gertrude) and Much Ado About Nothing (as Beatrice), Stratford on Avon Films include: 1935 - The Girl in the Crowd 1938 - The Lady Vanishes 1939 - Trouble Brewing 1940 - Haunted Honeymoon 1942 - One of Our Aircraft is Missing 1944 - On Approval 1945 - Pink String and Sealing Wax 1945 - Dead of Night 1947 - Once Upon a Dream 1948 - Miranda 1948 - It Always Rains on Sundays 1949 - Traveller's Joy 1951 - The Magic Box 1971 - Nickel Queen 1994 - Country Life 1996 - Shine
Googie Withers