Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 29 May 1894, Toronto; d 20 Jan. '90, Henley, England) Comedienne, actress, singer; a genius of alternative comedy long before the term was invented, trampling pomposity and sentimentality while simultaneously charming and delighting her audience. Joined her mother and sister in London '14, appeared in music hall and the West End theatre that year; she intended to be a serious singer but revue impresario Andr‚ Charlot spotted her talent for comedy, which was often improvised and needed a live audience to inspire her timing. She married Sir Robert Peel Bt '20, great- grandson of the British statesman who created the modern police service (hence British cops were called peelers or bobbies); he d '34 and she wore the title Lady Peel, wrote Kenneth Tynan, like a halo on an anarchist. She made her cabaret debut in London '38, entertained troops during the war, had her own TV series '51. She created a one-woman show An Evening With Beatrice Lillie '52 NYC, entertained American troops in Asia, then took the show to London, a compilation of revue turns in which she destroyed a star's opening night, a singer's 'Come Into The Garden, Maud' etc. Meanwhile she appeared in shows, revues and plays by Flo Ziegfeld, No‰l Coward, G. B. Shaw, Patrick Denis's Aunty Mame etc. Coward wrote 'Marvelous Party' for her, and Cole Porter gave her 'Mrs Lowsbrough-Goodby'. She appeared in several films from '26 incl. Around The World In 80 Days '56 and Thoroughly Modern Millie '67, but the camera couldn't capture her genius without the audience. She published autobiography Every Other Inch A Lady '72; suffered a stroke '75 and returned to England because she couldn't afford American medical care. CD compilation Unique: The Incomparable Bea Lillie on Flapper UK incl. 'Marvelous Party', 'Mad About The Boy', 'I'm A Campfire Girl' etc.