"She had a heart - it photographed" - Victor Saville
Jessie Matthews was born in 1907, one of a large family from the slums of Soho. She began performing in the street to earn pennies for her family at a very tender age, and was working in a West End chorus line by the time she was sixteen. Her film career began the same year with small parts in The Beloved Vagabond and This England (as Edward, Prince of Wales).
After performing in successful productions in the West End and on Broadway she had her first big film role in the adaptation of J.B. Priestley's popular novel the Good Companions in 1933, opposite John Gielgud.
She stole the show again as one of an ensemble cast in the classic Friday the Thirteenth but her true forte was found in stylish musical comedies directed by Victor Saville, such as Evergreen (repeating her stage triumph), First A Girl (based on the German film Viktor und Viktoria) and It's Love Again.
With the change in tastes following the war, and continuing health and marital problems, Jessie's career was put on hold for some time. She later returned to the broader public consciousness in Britain in the radio serial Mrs Dale's Diary. Her last screen appearance, shortly before her death from cancer, was in the television drama Edward and Mrs Simpson.
Jessie Matthews, the Dancing Divinity, who set the style of a generation and who was a bright and glamorous spark for millions during one of Britain's darkest hours, died at the age of seventy-three after a battle with cancer and was buried in an unmarked grave.
We hope these
pages may serve to revive some memories and inspire new interest in one of the truly great
stars of the golden age of cinema.
her own words ~