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|Born||Teresa Mary O'Shea
13 March 1913
Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
|Died||21 April 1995
East Lake Weir, Florida, United States
Early life and career
Born in Cardiff to James Peter O'Shea, a soldier who was the son of Irish emigrants, and his wife Nellie Theresa Carr, Tessie O'Shea was reared in the British music hall tradition. She performed on stage as early as age six, billed "The Wonder of Wales". By her teens she was known for her popular BBC Radio broadcasts and appeared on stages in Britain and South Africa. She frequently finished her act by singing and playing a banjolele in the style of George Formby. While appearing in Blackpool in the 1930s, she capitalised on her size by adopting "Two Ton Tessie from Tennessee" as her theme song. In the 1940s, she was a frequent headliner at the London Palladium, and established herself as a hit recording artist in the 1950s.
In 1963, Noël Coward created the part of the fish and chips peddler "Ada Cockle" specifically for O'Shea in his Broadway musical, The Girl Who Came to Supper. Her performance of traditional Cockney tunes charmed the critics and helped win her a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
In 1963, O'Shea was a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show, she was popular enough that she came back the following month and shared the billing with The Beatles. Their joint appearance drew what was then the largest audience in the history of American television, helping bring her to American audiences. She was a member of the repertory company on the short-lived CBS variety show The Entertainers (1964–65). In 1968, O'Shea was cast in the television movie The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama.
O'Shea starred in a short-lived British sitcom As Good Cooks Go, which ran from 1969 and 1970. She appeared in London Town, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Blue Lamp, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks with Angela Lansbury. Her role in The Russians Are Coming earned her an Academy Award nomination in 1966. She also regularly appeared on BBC TV's long running variety show, The Good Old Days.