John Clark Pro Se Blog Actor, Producer & Writer

Jessie Matthews

Posted in My Celebrity anecdotes

1962
Jonathan was born, another saga of a story, but we decided to give it another go for his sake.
Still trying to get somewhere, and taking classes in just about everything, especially singing, I would go to Diane Courtney’s little studio up on Eighth Avenue and 55th Street, second floor walkup.
This particular session, Diane said to me that an odd-sounding lady was coming to audition for her in an hour, with her manager who said she claimed to have been very famous in England many years before, and had I heard of her because she hadn’t, her name was Jessie Matthews. Of course I said she was very well known on the other side of the Atlantic, but I wanted to know more. Apparently she’d been living in Australia with a husband who’d abused her, and destroyed all of her professional history. She left him, and now wanted to get back again, and she needed to know if she still had what it takes. But of course, the audition would be private.
So I plotted to pretend to forget my briefcase and come back to collect it, and maybe, just maybe, I could get to stay and watch. Well, about an hour later I did just that. I knocked quietly, put my head round the door, excused myself, got my music, and as I headed out, glanced at her, and nearly fell over. “My God”, I blurted out, “Are you Jessie Matthews, I mean THE Jessie Matthews?” Tears came into her eyes as she smiled, and said, so sweetly, “You remember me then?” “Of course”, I said, although I had never actually seen her in action and did not recognize her, far before my time. But I knew she was a legend.
She then begged me to stay and watch and give my opinion. And she sang and sang, and then did some kicks, arm around Diane who had been a singer during the heyday of the big bands, and apologized that the kicks were not quite as high as in the old days.
Then her manager said he hoped to get her on to the Jack Paar show, and start her out on a new career in America.
Which was where I suggested that here was not maybe where she should consider making her comeback. Knowing how beloved she had been in England, I carefully suggested that she might consider making her comeback there, where I was certain she would be hugely welcomed.
So she did just that, and I heard that Olivier put on a special welcoming show to present her from the stage of the National.
She then went into a favorite radio series called “Mrs. Dale’s Diary”, where she stayed and worked for the rest of her life.
I’d like to think I had a hand in her decision.