Anne Ziegler

Operetta singer who brought glamour to wartime Britain
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The Independent Online

Irene Frances Eastwood (Anne Ziegler), singer: born Liverpool 22 June 1910; married 1938 Webster Booth (died 1984); died Colwyn Bay, Conwy 13 October 2003.

Anne Ziegler and her husband Webster Booth were known as the "Sweethearts in Song" and were the UK's response to the operetta stars Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

Ziegler was born Irene Frances Eastwood in Liverpool in 1910. She trained as a pianist and gave her first classical recital in Liverpool in 1933. However, she also was a fine soprano and joined the cast of By Appointment, an operetta at the Adelphi Theatre in London the following year. In 1937 she appeared in Virginia on Broadway.

In 1938 she met the tenor Webster Booth, who had been born in Birmingham in 1902, when they were on the set of the film Faust. She married him on 5 November that year, and, in 1940, they helped the war effort by singing popular duets.

They brought some glamour to wartime Britain. He was tall and handsome, immaculately dressed in tails, and she wore crinolines, sometimes designed by Norman Hartnell. Their signature song was "Only a Rose" and their repertoire included "We'll Gather Lilacs", "The Bells of St Mary's", "If You Were the Only Girl In the World" and "Hear My Song, Violetta".

In 1945 they appeared in the very successful Sweet Yesterday at the Adelphi Theatre, but, on the whole, they preferred to be themselves on stage. They made a cameo appearance in the slapstick film Demobbed (1945) with the comedians Norman Evans and Nat Jackley, and appeared as gypsy troubadours in Waltz Time (1946). They starred in The Laughing Lady (1946), an operetta set in the French Revolution in which Webster Booth steals Anne Ziegler's pearls.

They appeared on variety bills around the UK and in 1951 published their autobiography, Duet. But by the mid-1950s they were falling out of favour and did not want to adapt to new trends. In 1956, they emigrated to South Africa and found a new audience for their songs.

They returned to the UK in 1978, settling in Llandudno in their retirement, although they gave singing lessons and made occasional appearances on old-time music halls. Their last duet in public was "I'll See You Again" in Bridlington in 1983, and Booth died the following year. At the time Ziegler said, "These have been 50 marvellous years. My only regret is that there could not be 50 more."

In later years Ziegler lived in a nursing home, and insisted on looking elegant to the end.

Spencer Leigh

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