Basil Hallam

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Basil Hallam (3 April 1889 – 20 August 1916), born Basil Hallam Radford, was an English actor and singer best known for the character of Gilbert the Filbert in The Passing Show.

Hallam was born in London and educated at Charterhouse School and Oxford. He began his career in Shakespearean parts with Herbert Beerbohm Tree's company in 1908. He had an early success as Archie Graham in Cosmo Hamilton's The Blindness of Virtue. He appeared in New York City with Billie Burke in Mrs. Dot.[1]

He created the character of a privileged young "knut", Gilbert the Filbert, for The Passing Show (1914), the original revue of that title by Herman Finck, which opened at the Palace Theatre, London, on 20 April 1914. He also recorded the song of the same name for the HMV label on 4 June 1914. The song can be heard on a 2012 release by the Diversions record label, The Finck Album, sung by Mart Sander.

Before entering service for World War I with the Royal Flying Corps, he fell in love with Elsie Janis, with whom he had starred in The Passing Show of 1915.[2] They set up home in Liverpool.[3] His death in action near Calais, France, two years later[4] is described by Rudyard Kipling in The Irish Guards in the Great War, Vol. 2, 1916 - Salient and the Somme:

On a windy Sunday evening at Couin, in the valley north of Bus-les-Artois, the men saw an observation-balloon, tethered near their bivouacs, break loose while being hauled down. It drifted towards the enemy line. First they watched maps and books being heaved overboard, then a man in a parachute jumping for his life, who landed safely. Soon after, something black, which had been hanging below the basket, detached itself and fell some three thousand feet. We heard later that it was Captain Radford (Basil Hallam). His parachute apparently caught in the rigging and in some way he slipped out of the belt which attached him to it. He fell near Brigade Headquarters. Of those who watched, there was not one that had not seen him at the “Halls” in the immensely remote days of “Gilbert the Filbert, the Colonel of the Nuts.”

Hallam died during the Battle of the Somme[5] in 1916 aged 28.[4] He is buried in the Couin British Cemetery.[6]


  1. ^ "Basil Hallam Killed; Vaudeville Star Well Known Here Meets Death at the Front", The New York Times, 23 August 1916, p. 2
  2. ^ Howard, William F. "The Sweetheart of the A.E.F." Archived 6 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine., New York Archives magazine, Winter 2005, Volume 4, Number 3, accessed 1 November 2012
  3. ^ "Echoes of the Day", Liverpool Echo, 25 August 1916, p. 3
  4. ^ a b "How Basil Hallam Died", Western Daily Press, 24 August 1916, p. 8
  5. ^ "British Legion", Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 8 July 1929, p. 2
  6. ^ Casualty Details for Basil Hallam Radford, Commonwealth War Graves, accessed 1 November 2012

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