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.

News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEpic YouTube video features boundary-pushing staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
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
Latest stories from i100
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

PHP Developer - MySQL, RDBMS, Application Development

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Developer - MySQL, RDBMS, Applicatio...

SAP Business Analyst - Data Migration, £75,000, Manchester

£60000 - £75000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP B...

SAP Data Migration Consultant, circa £65,000, Manchester

£55000 - £75000 per annum: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP Data Migration ...

SAP Data Migration Consultant, circa £65,000, Manchester

£55000 - £75000 per annum: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP Data Migration ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star