Stanley Holloway Biography

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Stanley Augustus Holloway, 1 October 1890, London, England, d. 30 January 1982, Littlehampton, Sussex, England. A much-loved comedian, actor, singer, at the age of 10 Holloway was performing professionally as Master Stanley Holloway-The Wonderful Boy Soprano. He then toured in concert parties before studying in Milan for a period in 1913 with the intention of becoming an opera singer. After serving in the Connaught Rangers during World War I, Holloway played the music halls and made his London stage musical debut as Captain Wentworth in Kissing Time at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1919. This was followed by roles in A Night Out (1920), Hit The Deck (1927), Song Of The Sea (1928) and Coo-ee (1929). During the 20s Holloway received much acclaim for his appearances in several editions of the renowned The Co-Optimists shows which were produced at various London theatres, beginning with the Royalty in London in 1921, and toured the provinces. He also became extremely popular on radio, especially for his monologues which involved characters such as Albert, who is eventually eaten by a lion at a zoo; and soldier Sam, who refuses to participate in the Battle of Waterloo until he has been approached by the Duke of Wellington himself.

Throughout the 30s and 40s he continued to appear in the West End in revues and musicals such as Savoy Follies, Three Sisters, Here We Are Again, All Wave, London Rhapsody, Up And Doing and Fine And Dandy. He also worked occasionally in the straight theatre, and it was while playing the role of Bottom in A Midsummer Summer Night’s Dream in New York that Holloway was offered the role of philosophical dustman Alfred P. Doolittle in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s musical, My Fair Lady, which opened on Broadway in March 1956. It proved to the highlight of his career, and his ebullient performance of the show-stopping numbers ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’ aka ‘I’m Getting Married In The Morning’ earned him a Tony Award nomination. He reprised his role in the 1958 London production, and again in the 1964 film for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Holloway’s film career had begun in 1921 with The Rotters, a comedy, as were many of the other upwards of 60 films he made.

He is particularly renowned for his outstanding work in the series of post-war Ealing comedies such as Passport To Pimlico, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Titfield Thunderbolt, but also shone in more serious pictures such as This Happy Breed and The Way Ahead (both 1944), Brief Encounter (1945), No Love For Johnnie (1961) and the musicals Champagne Charlie (1944) in which he co-starred with another top comic, Tommy Trinder, and The Beggar’s Opera (1952) with Laurence Olivier. Holloway was awarded the OBE in 1960, and two years later found nationwide fame in the USA when he starred as an English butler trying to come to terms with the American way of life in the television situation comedy Our Man Higgins. From then on he continued to be active, making films and occasional stage appearances, and in 1977 toured Australia and the Far East in a tribute to Noël Coward entitled The Pleasure Of His Company. After a long and distinguished career, he is said to have told his actor son Julian that his only regret was that he had not been asked to do the voice-over for a television commercial extolling the virtues of Mr. Kipling’s cakes.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.