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Welch, Elisabeth (1908-2003)

Actor, Singer

Main image of Welch, Elisabeth (1908-2003)

Elisabeth Welch was a legendary singer, whose career spanned eight decades. In the 1930s and 1940s she guest-starred in several British films such as Death At Broadcasting House (d. Reginald Denham, 1934), Alibi (d. Brian Desmond Hurst, 1942), This Was Paris (d. John Harlow, 1942), Fiddlers Three (d. Harry Watt, 1944) and Dead of Night (d. Basil Dearden/Alberto Cavalcanti/Charles Crichton/Robert Hamer, 1945) typically as herself or as a singer. She starred opposite Paul Robeson in Song of Freedom (d. J. Elder Wills, 1936) and Big Fella (d. Wills, 1937), films that allowed both stars to show off their tremendous vocal talents.

Among many later films, Welch was also cast in television plays. She starred with Eartha Kitt and Estelle Winwood in Mrs Patterson, a Sunday Night Theatre play (BBC, tx. 17/6/1956) and played the lead in The Rise And Fall of Nellie Brown (tx. 28/12/1964) shown in ITV's Play of the Week slot.

Welch also appeared in arthouse films. Curiously she appeared in the cross-dressing gay farce Girl Stroke Boy (d. Bob Kellett, 1971) playing Rudolph Walker's wife, and in 1979 Derek Jarman cast her as 'A Goddess' in his film version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, where she sang her signature tune 'Stormy Weather'.

Ann Ogidi

Bourne, Stephen, Elisabeth Welch: Soft Lights and Sweet Music (Scarecrow Press, 2005)

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Big Fella (1937)Big Fella (1937)

Paul Robeson musical comedy set on the Marseilles waterfront

Thumbnail image of Dead of Night (1945)Dead of Night (1945)

Classic Ealing portmanteau film: five tales of the supernatural

Thumbnail image of Our Man in Havana (1959)Our Man in Havana (1959)

Alec Guinness is out of his depth in pre-revolution Cuba

Thumbnail image of Song of Freedom (1936)Song of Freedom (1936)

Paul Robeson stars as a London docker who discovers his African royal lineage

Thumbnail image of Tempest, The (1979)Tempest, The (1979)

Derek Jarman's wildly imaginative version of Shakespeare's play

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