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The One and Only Phyllis Dixey

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In 1954 the last overseas tour was made to Norway, which was a complete failure. This ended with the theatre management not paying for the last week that Phyllis appeared at the Oslo theatre and a loan was made by the British Consul to get the theatre company home.

England & Wales, Marriage Index, 1916-2005 for Phyllis S Dixey. Ancestry.com (subscription required)It was during the last few months of her life that she turned to the comfort of the Catholic Church. She was received into the Church during a visit in Guys Hospital from Father Crispin in April 1964. At the end of that month she returned home to “The Retreat” for the last time. Phyllis Selina Dixey Tracy died at home on Tuesday 2 June 1964 aged 50.

In 1968 he produced what many consider his best thriller, Night of Glass, about four Cambridge undergraduates, one of them, like him, a provincial grammar school boy, who turn a rag-week dare into a genuine attempt to break a prisoner out of Dachau concentration camp in 1938. For a declining number of the British population the variety artiste Phyllis Dixey is remembered for her “ Peek a Boo” revues.

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One of her last, and happier, projects was Imogen and Kanishka’s Wedding in Kolkata, the film she directed of my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding in 2015. NOTE: The opening title captions this as “Peek-A-Boo with Lesley-Anne-Down as The One and Only Phyllis Dixey” and indeed that is how it was billed in listing magazines and newspapers but it is the latter part that this production seems to be more commonly known as.

Heydays Hotel (1976) for Granada, starring a young Nigel Havers, was, he maintained, an experiment in trompe l’oeil television; a conventional period drama turning unexpectedly into something quite different. Hazel Ballan was so intrigued by the description of Phyllis in Maurice’s article above that she has used her extensive genealogical skills to uncover a few more items about the One and Only: Phyllis Selina Dixey (1914-1964).

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A journalist on the News Chronicle until its demise in 1960, Philip vowed never to be “on anyone’s staff” again and became a dedicated freelance. Having reviewed television for the Chronicle and the Daily Mail, he decided to specialise and became the television critic for the Sunday Telegraph from its birth in 1961. He was to hold the post for 26 years, combining his critical viewing with careers as a novelist and dramatist. In 1970, she informally adopted a small boy, Mark Ugbomah, who lived in Wood Green, north London, enrolling him at the Michael Hall Steiner school, in Forest Row, East Sussex, and later becoming godmother to many members of Mark’s extended family in the UK, Jamaica and the US. From the mid-1990s Jenny cared for Bradley, who developed Alzheimer’s disease. She studied drama therapy at the (now Royal) Central School of Speech and Drama, to help them cope, and, combining her old and new skills, she shot more than 200 hours of film with Bradley to show the effectiveness of drama therapy. At the time of her death, she was editing this material into short training films and a documentary, A Love Story, to show how their relationship had deepened during his illness. Bradley died in 2012. For his debut thriller, he chose a down-at-heel, out-of-work screenwriter, Colin Panton, as the hero of Peregrination 22 (1962), who, working reluctantly for a travel agency, accompanies a tour party to Spitsbergen and discovers a Nazi-revivalist conspiracy.

The first tours were very successful a third tour was arranged for 1953 which was a dismal failure, ending up with Phyllis working in Gothenburg, Sweden on a boat which had a small stage. Due to the nature of running shows on a boat considerable additional charges were incurred so little money was made and it was decided to return home.In 1957 he married the crime writer Ann Goodman, and the couple lived for many years in the Northamptonshire village of Blakesley. Ann survives him, along with two daughters, Harriet and Emily, and a son, Matthew. Phyllis Dixey’s life was immortalized in the 1978 film The One and Only Phyllis Dixey and in a 2009 play called Barely Phillis. And this plaque, placed on her former home after much controversy: Wilful, capricious, determined and bossy, Jenny had a lovely voice and a joyous laugh. The loyalty and support of friends and family during her final illness testified to her ability to inspire respect and affection.

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