OBITUARY: Dorothy Dickson

It was Charles B. Cochran who brought Dorothy Dickson and her husband Carl Hyson to Britain, introducing them late in the run of a revue, London, Paris and New York (1921), at his showcase, the London Pavilion. It was a memorable night for J.C. Trewin, who recalled "the drift of thistledown that was London's first sight of Dorothy Dickson". A couple of months later, Trewin said, "it was clear that she could be equal to any musical- comedy heroine": this was at the Winter Garden in Jerome Kern's Sally, cast against Kern's will for the role - played in New York by Marilyn Miller - because he didn't know whether Dickson could carry the songs. She and Hyson had been in two of his Broadway shows, Oh Boy! (1917) and Rock-a-Bye Baby (1918), but only as dancers.

Dickson and Hyson were slipped into the first of these because the craze for ballroom dancing was sweeping the US, notably making Broadway stars of Irene and Vernon Castle. The Hysons also appeared in two editions of the Ziegfeld Follies - the second in 1918. They had not long started their own school in New York - the Palais Royal Dance Club - when the Cochran offer was made.

Kern did not speak to Dickson during the rehearsals of Sally, but on the first night he went to her dressing-room to point to a tear on his cheek. "She had accomplished", said Kern's biographer, Gerald Bordman, "something Marilyn Miller never had: she had made Sally a truly believable, heart-breaking waif". When Sally closed, the same management and team put on two more Kern shows at the Winter Garden, The Cabaret Girl (1922) and The Beauty Prize (1923), created with Dickson in mind - and confirmation that she was now a star in her own right. She and Hyson were divorced in 1936 - by which time their daughter Dorothy was also winning audiences' hearts.

Dickson made her "straight" acting debut under Gerald du Maurier's management in one of the longest-running plays of the period, The Ringer. That was between two Peter Pans, in 1925 and 1926, and in 1931 she was Principal Boy in Dick Whittington at the Garrick. She replaced Gertrude Lawrence in the 1925 Charlot's Revue, when Lawrence left to conquer Broadway. Dickson continued to have London at her feet, in a series of revues and musicals, including two of Ivor Novello's, Careless Rapture (1936) and Crest of the Wave (1937) and she appeared opposite him again, as Princess Katharine, when he played Henry V at Drury Lane (1938).

Her career took a different turn when she appeared in Herbert Farjeon's intimate revues Diversion (1940) and Diversion No 2 (1941). Joyce Grenfell, who was also in the cast, was apprehensive about the No 1 dressing-room at Wyndham's (one of the first theatres to re-open during the Blitz), which Dickson shared with Edith Evans, and was surprised that it worked. "Dorothy advised Edith about make-up and clothes, Edith talked to Dorothy about books and poetry, and they complemented each other in a friendly way."

The Second World War curtailed Dickson's London appearances, and in 1943 she toured Gibraltar and North Africa entertaining the troops, in a revue directed by John Gielgud and also featuring Beatrice Lillie, Vivien Leigh and Leslie Henson. Along with another American star dancer from the 1920s, Adele Astaire, she was active in the service of the Stage Door Canteen, in London. Dorothy Hyson was an enchanting Lady Windermere in the famous Gielgud production at the Haymarket in 1945, but as the wife of Anthony Quayle there was other work to be done in Stratford after he began to build the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre company into world class from 1948 onwards.

Dickson herself also went into semi-retirement after appearing as Jack Buchanan's wife in As Long as They're Happy (1953). The show, a "satire" on rock singers, seemed to be a first-night disaster till Buchanan imitated Johnny Ray singing "Cry". Because of that, it managed a fair run, but Dickson was replaced by Brenda da Banzie in the film version. She herself made only a handful of movies, of which the best may be Channel Crossing (1933), in which she, Constance Cummings and Max Miller were among those at the mercy of a mad Dutch financier, played by Matheson Lang.

She is thought to have been the Queen Mother's oldest friend; they met in the early Twenties after a performance of Dickson's in The Cabaret Girl. Her last stage appearance was a special matinee at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1980, to celebrate 75 years of Peter Pan.

Dorothy Dickson, actress: born Kansas City 26 July 1896; married Carl Hyson (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1936); died London 26 September 1995.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel
travelFrom Notting Hill Carnival to Zombeavers at FrightFest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Service Delivery and Support Manager

£55000 - £75000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: Service Deli...

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home