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Sally Ann Howes obituary

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Though she by no means starred in any authentic productions of his exhibits on Broadway, Richard Rodgers described Sally Ann Howes, who has died aged 91, as “the best singer who ever sang on the American musical stage”. Finest identified for taking part in Really Delicious reverse Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts within the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Howes was a basic occasion of the star who by no means actually was, regardless of her expertise and impeccable pedigree.

She had twin nationality in Britain and the US, like Julie Andrews, in whose monitor she adopted, first as a toddler star in British movies earlier than and after the second world conflict, then as Eliza Doolittle in My Honest Woman in 1958. The present marked her Broadway debut, and she or he performed in it for a 12 months, and for the next wage than her predecessor. When Andrews declined the position of Really Delicious, in she stepped.

Sally Ann Howes and Dick Van Dyke perform the famous music-box scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Sally Ann Howes and Dick Van Dyke carry out the well-known music-box scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. {Photograph}: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

In 1973 the hills had been alive once more, not with the sound of Julie, however of Sally, as she led a US tour of The Sound of Music. The upside of this almost star standing was that Howes may make stunning and adventurous decisions in her work, resembling showing in a West Finish thriller, Lover (additionally 1973) by Brian Clemens, with Max Wall, or a musical model of James Joyce’s The Lifeless (2000), with Blair Brown and Christopher Walken, off-Broadway and, briefly, on.

Though she was six years older than Andrews, the parallel profession landmarks of each had been uncanny. Three years earlier than Andrews made her identify in New York in Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Pal (1954), Howes made her stage debut in a present for which Wilson had written the lyrics, Caprice (1951), a musical comedy of home confusion within the south of France, on the Alhambra theatre in Glasgow.

Sadly, on her very first quantity on any stage, the conductor fumbled the rating to the ground and Howes needed to sing unaccompanied whereas the music sheets had been noisily gathered, the devices picked up their locations one after the other and, following them tentatively, she modulated step by step again into the right key. The present by no means reached the West Finish.

Howes did, nevertheless, get there later in 1951, in a revue, Fancy Free (not the Jerome Robbins ballet) on the Prince of Wales theatre in London. In 1953 she established herself totally within the West Finish when she performed Jennifer Rumson in Paint Your Wagon (that includes the songs Wand’rin’ Star, and I Discuss to the Timber) for 18 months at Her Majesty’s theatre. In enjoying reverse her father, the musical comedy star Bobby Howes (the unique Mr Cinders), she was at the least, and eventually, fulfilling her future.

Howes was the second little one of Bobby and his spouse, the actor and singer Patricia Malone. Her older brother, Peter, grew to become a musician. Born in St John’s Wooden, she grew up in London and Hertfordshire surrounded by her mother and father’ show-business buddies (Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert had been neighbours), and was educated at Queenswood college in Hatfield.

Sally Ann Howes in the 1947 film The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.
Sally Ann Howes within the 1947 movie The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. {Photograph}: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

Her first movie was the title position in Thursday’s Youngster (1942), written by Rodney Ackland, co-starring Wilfrid Lawson and Stewart Granger. Her prodigious juvenile output within the subsequent decade included Lifeless of Night time (1945), an anthology horror movie with Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers and Frederick Valk, the primary sound display screen adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby (1947; she was Kate), Anna Karenina (1948) with Vivien Leigh, The Historical past of Mr Polly (1949), with John Mills, and Honeymoon Deferred (1951) with Kieron Moore and Griffith Jones.

She later stated how sad she was with a few of these movies and she or he ultimately managed to interrupt a seven-year contract with Rank in order that she may transfer on to the stage. She married the actor Maxwell Coker, who had been within the first London manufacturing of Oklahoma!, in 1950 (they divorced in 1953) after which Richard Adler, the lyricist of the Broadway hits The Pajama Sport and Rattling Yankees, in 1958.

Adler wrote Kwamina (1961) for her, a Broadway musical set in a village in west Africa which, regardless of choreography by Agnes de Mille, proved a misfire in a heated time of civil rights protest. “Nearly preferred the play, beloved the loincloths,” wrote one critic, and the present closed after simply 32 performances.

Nonetheless on Broadway, she had a well-liked success in a 1963 revival of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon and broadened her enchantment on tv on either side of the Atlantic, making appearances on recreation exhibits and selection specials, together with six Sally Ann Howes exhibits for British tv in 1960. Having grow to be a US citizen, she was invited to sing on the White Home by three US presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Sally Ann Howes on her 21st birthday in 1951.
Sally Ann Howes on her twenty first birthday in 1951. {Photograph}: Ernest Jones/ANL/Rex/Shutterstock

After Lover closed early in 1973, she performed reverse Denis Quilley in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman on the Yvonne Arnaud theatre, Guildford, and on the Adelphi theatre, London, reverse Peter Wyngarde in a luxurious revival of The King and I, additionally on the Adelphi. In 1977 she joined Tommy Steele for 10 weeks in Hans Andersen on the Palladium and later performed Gertrude in a touring manufacturing of Hamlet (Hilton McRae because the prince, Donald Pickering as Claudius) in 1983.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was undoubtedly her main film, though she was appreciably famous vying with Diane Cilento for the affections of Kenneth Extra’s well-mannered butler in Lewis Gilbert’s The Admirable Crichton (1957), with Cecil Parker and Martita Hunt. She additionally acquired a minor cult following for her half in Alvin Rakoff’s Loss of life Ship (1980), a grisly horror film wherein she co-starred with Richard Crenna, George Kennedy and Kate Reid.

Sally Ann Howes reunited with Dick Van Dyke in 2004.
Sally Ann Howes reunited with Dick Van Dyke in 2004. {Photograph}: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

By the point she appeared within the tv miniseries of Judith Krantz’s Secrets and techniques in 1992, she was extra typically seen on stage in one-off live performance appearances, resembling A Little Night time Music with New York Metropolis Opera in 1990, or in a Sunday charity efficiency such because the not often seen Semi-Monde by Noël Coward on the Royalty theatre, London, in 1989. In 1990 she took a solo present, From This Second On, for simply three performances to the Edinburgh competition.

In 1997 she sang Alice Blue Robe from the musical Irene on the Palladium in a memorial present for the critic Jack Tinker. That weird celebration – Tinker’s surviving vital colleagues danced chaotically via Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat from Guys and Dolls – was produced by Cameron Waterproof coat, who in 2007 persuaded her to return to My Honest Woman, this time as Mrs Higgins, on yet one more US tour.

After divorcing Adler in 1966, Howes married Andrew Maree in 1969. They divorced in 1970 and she or he married Douglas Rae in 1972. Rae died in September 2021. She is survived by Andrew, a son from her marriage to Adler.

Sally Ann Howes, actor and singer, born 20 July 1930; died 19 December 2021

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