This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death
of Ivor Novello (1893-1951). He was much loved as composer,
playright, actor, producer and matinee-idol; his songs and shows
highly popular in the 1930s and 1940s. It is often forgotten
that he was once a successful film star and was perceived as
a likely successor to Richard Barthelmess or Ramon Navarro.
His silent screen appearances included: The Man Without Desire
(1923), The Rat (1925), The Constant Nymph and
The Vortex (both 1928). But it is for his tremendously
successful stage productions that he will be remembered. His
first great musical success came in 1935 with Glamorous Night
followed by The Dancing Years (1939) Perchance to
Dream (1945) and King’s Rhapsody (1949 later filmed
with Errol Flynn and Anna Neagle).
This is an album that will bring back many
memories, and perhaps a tear or two for more elderly ladies.
It is amazing how well most of these captivating melodies have
worn. Who could resist the glorious ‘Glamorous Night (Deep in
My Heart)’, Shine through My Dreams’, ‘We’ll Gather Lilacs’,
the stirring ‘Rose of England’ and ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning'
(a very early World War I hit), ‘Fold Your Wings’, ‘Love is
My Reason’ the colourful ‘When the Gypsy Played’ and the lovely
‘The Violin Began to Play’ and ‘Waltz of My Heart (The Lark
is on High)’. The artists listed in the header vouchsafe the
quality of the performances. The singing of Mary Ellis is particularly
affecting. She is joined by Ivor himself (in dialogue from The
Dancing Years) in one of his most popular numbers, ‘My Dearest
Dear'. Another highlight is the comic song ‘And Her Mother Came
Too' sung with that marvellous sense of ennui we associated
with Jack Buchanan. The one orchestral item, ‘The Leap Year
Waltz’ is a pure delight. And it is nice to hear once again
the golden voice of Richard Tauber.
Of course there are a few numbers that have not worn so well and now make one cringe such as the twee ‘Bless You’ and the awful duet ‘The Wings of Sleep’ and ‘Shanty Town’ might not be terribly politically correct nowadays.
But all in all this is a fitting and moving tribute to a great British talent.