Leslie Hutchinson

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For the Jamaican trumpeter, see Jiver Hutchinson.
Leslie Hutchinson
Hutch 1930s.jpg
Hutch in the 1930s
Background information
Birth name Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson
Also known as "Hutch"
Born (1900-03-07)March 7, 1900
Origin Gouyave, Grenada
Died August 18, 1969(1969-08-18) (aged 69)
Genres Cabaret
Occupations Singer
Instruments Piano
Years active c. 1920-c. 1965

Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson, known as "Hutch" (7 March 1900 – 18 August 1969), was one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the 1920s and 1930s.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Gouyave, Grenada, in 1900 to George Hutchinson and Marianne (née Turnbull),[2] Hutch took piano lessons as a child.[1]

Hutch moved to New York City in his teens, originally to take a degree in medicine as he had won a place due to his high aptitude, and began playing the piano and singing in bars.

Career[edit]

In New York City, Hutch joined a black band led by Henry "Broadway" Jones, who often played for white millionaires such as the Vanderbilts, attracting the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan. In 1924 Hutch left America for Paris, where he had a residency in Joe Zelli's club and became a friend and lover of Cole Porter.[3][4]

Encouraged by Edwina Mountbatten, he came to England in 1927 to perform in a Rodgers and Hart musical, and soon became the darling of society and the population in general. Hutch was a favourite singer of the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII). Hutch was one of the biggest stars in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s, and was, for a time, the highest paid star in the country.[1] He was regularly heard on air with the BBC. One of his greatest hits was "These Foolish Things".

In spite of his popularity, Hutch could not escape racial prejudice:

He bought a Rolls-Royce, a grand house in Hampstead, patronised London's best tailors, spoke five or six languages and was on friendly terms with the Prince of Wales. But he was still a black man in an era of racial discrimination. When he entertained at lavish Mayfair parties, his fee was large, but he was often obliged to go in by the servants' entrance. This embittered him.[4]

Hutch recorded several of Cole Porter's songs, including "Begin the Beguine" and Porter's list song "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)", to which he supposedly made up some 70 new verses.

Hutch was "one of the first stars in Britain" to volunteer to entertain the troops at home and abroad during World War II, but he received no formal recognition for his service, and his name would never appear in any Honours list.[4]

Personal life[edit]

He married Ella Byrd, a woman of African, English, and Chinese ancestry, in 1923 or 1924 in New York City.[2] Their daughter, Lesley Bagley Yvonne, was born on 9 April 1926. He fathered seven further children with six different mothers. Gordon was born in August 1928, Gabrielle in September 1930, Jennifer in October 1939, Gerald and Chris in 1948, and Graham (Chris's full brother) in 1953, and Emma in April 1965.[2][5]

In 1930, one of Hutch's mistresses, British debutante Elizabeth Corbett, was discovered to be pregnant with his child.[4] Her family tried to hush-up the affair, hastily marrying Corbett off to an army officer, and attempting to pass off the child as his. When the child was born, however, and discovered to be biracial, Corbett's husband refused to claim the child as his own.[4] The infant was put up for adoption and Corbett's outraged father sued Hutch.[4]

In the mid-1930s, Hutch is rumoured to have had a lengthy affair with Edwina Mountbatten. The rumour scandalized the British upper classes, becoming the subject of tabloid fodder, and an embarrassment to Lady Mountbatten's royal in-laws. The Mountbattens sued the tabloids for libel.[4] As a result of the scandal, Hutch was shunned by many of his former patrons.[4]

After 'The People' case, Buckingham Palace refused to have him on any Royal Command Performance bill, and Lord Beaverbrook gave orders that Hutch's name was never to be mentioned again by any of his papers.[4]

Another of his reported mistresses was actress Tallulah Bankhead - an openly bisexual Golden Age Hollywood actress.

Hutch may have been bisexual and was alleged to have had relationships with Cole Porter, Ivor Novello, and Merle Oberon.[2]

Death[edit]

Leslie Hutchinson suffered from ill-health in his later years and died in London from pneumonia on 19 August 1969. Only 42 people attended his funeral.[4]

Filmography[edit]

  • Actor:
    • Big Business (1930) .... Pianist
    • Beloved Imposter (1936)
    • Brass Monkey (1948) (aka Lucky Mascot) (as Leslie A. Hutchinson) .... Hutch
    • The Treasure of San Teresa (1959) (aka Hot Money Girl (UK) (US), aka Long Distance (US), aka Rhapsodie in Blei (West Germany)) (as Hutch) .... Piano Player at Billie's
  • Soundtrack:
    • Big Business (1930) (performer: "Always Your Humble Slave")
    • Brass Monkey (1948) (aka Lucky Mascot) (performer: "To-Morrow's Rainbow")
  • As self:
    • Cock o' the North (1935)
    • Starlight (1936) TV series
    • Happidrome (1943) (uncredited)

Cultural references[edit]

  • Evelyn Waugh satirised him, or is at least believed to have satirised him, as Chokey in Decline and Fall.[4]
  • Kenneth Williams regularly performed impersonations of him,[6] including one at the Mingaladon RAF station in 1947.
  • On 25 November 2008, Channel 4 TV in the UK showed a documentary on his life called High Society's Favourite Gigolo.[7]
  • The musical play "HUTCH" opened at the Riverside Studios on May 14, 2013. Written by Joe Evans, adapted from the biography by Charlotte Breese, and featuring the music of Cole Porter.
  • The character Jack Ross in the ITV drama Downton Abbey is based on Leslie Hutchinson.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Wartime entertainer Hutch remembered in C4 documentary, The Stage, retrieved 2008-11-28 
  2. ^ a b c d Hutch, Charlotte Breese, Bloomsbury, 1999.
  3. ^ "Hutch" at Allmusic
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Thornton, Michael (14 November 2008), "The Royal Gigolo", Daily Mail, retrieved 2008-11-20 
  5. ^ For several years in the mid-1920s Hutchinson lived with Zena Naylor, the illegitimate daughter of art dealer and historian Robert Langton Douglas; later a literary editor, she was briefly a lover of composer Vernon Duke, artist Ralph Barton, and British artist Tony Butts: D. J. Taylor, Bright Young Things: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age (Macmillan, 2010), p. 130; Vernon Duke, Passport to Paris (Little Brown, 1955), p. 163; Carl Van Vechten and Bruce Kellner, The Splendid Drunken Twenties (University of Illinois Press, 2003), p. 137; and Nathalie Blondel, The Journals of Mary Butts (Yale University Press, 2002), p. 24.
  6. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 34. ISBN 1-84854-195-3. 
  7. ^ "High Society's Favourite Gigolo". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 November 2008. 
  8. ^ "The Scandalous Truth about Downton Abbey's Royal Gigolo Jack Ross". Retrieved 14 October 2013. 

External links[edit]