Star of FEATHER YOUR NEST and IT'S IN THE AIR Polly Ward is yet another talented singer-dancer who warbled not a note nor trod a single time-step as George's leading lady. She was also a member of the exclusive two-timer club, one of four leading ladies who appeared in more than one film with George. (The others are Florence Desmond, Kay Walsh, and George's wife Beryl). Polly had the distinction of starring in the second UK film musical, Harmony Heaven, in 1930. (Song of Soho with Carl Brisson opened a week earlier.) An adorably pert, saucer-eyed brunette, she lit up the screen and danced up a storm. As her show biz career progressed, she became a rather bland-looking blonde, playing mostly supporting roles. Still, she sparkled, and one reviewer called her "the Ginger Rogers of England." Born Bino (or Byno) Poluski on June 30, 1908 (or 1909 or 1912) in Mitchum Surrey, Polly possessed a flawless thespian pedigree. Her father was one of the Poluski brothers, from a theatrical and circus family going back to Shakespeare's time. Her mother, Winnifred Ward, was a famous music hall artist and male impersonator who died in 1975 at the age of 95. ("Ward" may have been a contraction of Winnifred's maiden name, "Howard.") Polly's maternal uncle was character actor Gus McNaughton who appeared in numerous Formby films. McNaughton, born Howard, was married to Polly's paternal aunt Charlotta Poluski. Her grandmother, Nellie Waite, worked for many years with Henry Irving. And Polly Ward's aunt (or great-aunt) was the venerated actress Marie Lloyd. She attended Kensington High School and possibly the Conte School of theatrical arts. One edition of Who's Who in the Theatre says that she made her first stage appearance at the Prince of Wales's Theatre in 1924, when, as one of the "Cousin Sisters" she appeared with Doris Bentley and "The Co-Optimists." A different edition puts her debut at the Duke of York, May 21, 1924, under the name Bino Poluski in The Punch Bowl, launched by the Conte School. Her first real chance came when she understudied Jessie Matthews in Wake Up and Dream (as did another Formby leading lady, Marjorie Browne). In Feather Your Nest (1937), Polly plays "Mary Taylor," fiancée to George's "Willie." Although she must tote George's uke case, she is a proactive part of the plot from the beginning. She gets to do a lot of running and falling, even riding on George's motorcycle, and it is she who engineers a jailbreak that lets George claim a lucrative recording contract.They wed, but her reward is not a finale kiss. Instead, George stumbles and drops his lavishly gowned bride in a mud puddle. It's in the Air (1938) must have been even more frustrating for the singer- dancer. An invitation for her to sing a duet is refused by her jealous beau (Jack Hobbs), she remains silent during a large group sing-song, and she can only blow kisses to George from the audience when he stars in the camp show. The plot has civilian George turned down for military service, so of course he accidentally ends up in uniform on an air force base. Polly plays "Peggy," a pretty canteen attendant and daughter of the Sergeant- Major. At first, she goes along with the sadistic practical jokes played on this newcomer by her beau, but then relents and decides she loves George. Although she talks George through landing a plane by radio, her part could literally be cut entirely without affecting the story. As to physical contact, at one point George wrestles her to the ground, thinking he is saving her from machine gun fire. At another, she kisses his cheek, mistaking him for her father in a darkened bedroom. However, the lip-lock score is a solid zero. Interviewed in Fanfare Film magazine in the late 1930s, Polly Ward cited Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, James Cagney, Spender Tracy, and William Powell as her favourite stars, while her favourite writers were E. Linklater, Macdonnell, and Marcus Aurelius. She said she disliked New York City taxi drivers and film make-up, but loved to sing in the bathtub. In later years, she was known as Winifred Charlotte (Polly) Freeman, and lived in Surrey with her husband, Robert S. Freeman. She died February 23 (or 24), 1987. Her obituary described her as "a past Queen Ratling" of the historic theatrical society, The Grand Order of Water Rats, indicating she was held in high esteem in her profession. A talented and spirited performer, under-used but much appreciated as a Formby leading lady. FILMS:1927 - This Marriage Business 1928 - Shooting Stars 1930 - Harmony Heaven - 1930 - Alf's Button 1932 - His Lordship 1934 - Kentucky Minstrels - 1934 - The Old Curiosity Shop/Mr. Quip 1935 - It's a Bet 1936 - Shipmates O'Mine - 1936 - Annie Laurie - 1936 - Show Flat 1937 - Television Talent - 1937 - Feather Your Nest 1938 - Thank Evans - 1938 - St. Martin's Lane/Sidewalks of London 1938 - Hold My Hand - 1938 - It's in the Air 1940 - Bulldog Sees It Through 1942 - Women Aren't Angels 1954 - New Faces STAGE CREDITS: 1924 - The Punch Bowl 1925 - The Five O'Clock Follies 1926 - Vaudeville Vanities 1927 - C.O.D.1927 - in variety as "Bino" of The Trix Sisters (replacing Helen Trix'ssister Josephine) 1928 - The Song of the Sea 1929 - Wake Up and Dream 1930 - Heads Up 1932 - Savoy Follies - 1932 - Here We Are Again 1934 - Aladdin (panto)1935 - The Forty Thieves (panto) 1936 - Puss in Boots (panto) 1937 - Twelfth Night (as Maria) 1938 - Red Riding Hood (panto) 1939 - No. 19 (tour) 1940 - Co-Optimists of 1940 (tour) 1941 - Orchids and Onions1941 - The Babes in the Wood (panto) 1942 - Mixed Relations- 1942 - The Babes in the Wood (panto) 1945 - Hoopla! (Blackpool) 1949 - Me and My Girl (revival) Eleanor Knowles Dugan 1999
Eileen Bennett