Leslie Hutchinson

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Leslie Hutchinson
Hutch 1930s.jpg
Hutch in the 1930s
Background information
Birth nameLeslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson
Also known as"Hutch"
Born(1900-03-07)7 March 1900
Gouyave, Grenada, British Windward Islands
Died18 August 1969(1969-08-18) (aged 69)
London, England
GenresCabaret
Occupation(s)Singer
InstrumentsPiano
Years activec. 1920–c. 1965

Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson, known as "Hutch" (7 March 1900 – 18 August 1969), was a Grenada-born singer and musician who 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, when it was part of the British Windward Islands, to George Hutchinson and Marianne (née Turnbull),[2] Hutch took piano lessons as a child.[1]

In 1916, he moved to New York City while still in his teens. He originally emigrated to study for a degree in medicine as he had won a place due to his high aptitude, but instead he 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 a major star 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 biggest hits was his version of "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.

— Thornton[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 of mixed race, Corbett's husband refused to acknowledge her as his own.[4] She (Gabrielle) was put up for adoption and Corbett's outraged father sued Hutch.[4]

Hutch is rumoured to have had a lengthy affair in the mid-1930s with Edwina Mountbatten. The rumour scandalized the British upper classes, becoming the subject of tabloid news, 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.

— Thornton[4]

Another of his reported mistresses was actress Tallulah Bankhead, the 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]

Hutchinson's grave in Highgate Cemetery

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

Legacy[edit]

On 12 October 2012, an English Heritage blue plaque in commemoration of Hutch was unveiled by his daughter Gabrielle Markes at 31 Steele's Road, Belsize Park, his home from 1929 to 1967.[6][7]

In November 2016, Hutch was featured in episode four of the BBC series Black and British: A Forgotten History, titled The Homecoming, presented by historian David Olusoga. On the occasion of the programme, a plaque was unveiled by his children and extended family at Mayfair restaurant Quaglino's, where he used to perform later in his career.[8]

Filmography[edit]

  • Actor:
    • Big Business (1930) . ... Pianist
    • Beloved Imposter (1936)
    • Happidrome (1943)
    • 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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Wartime entertainer Hutch remembered in C4 documentary". The Stage. Retrieved 28 November 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d Charlotte Breese, Hutch, Bloomsbury Publishing, 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 20 November 2008
  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. ^ "Our Heritage: Leslie 'Hutch' Hutchinson Remembered — English Heritage Blue Plaque for Leslie 'Hutch” Hutchinson', 1 October 2012.
  7. ^ Dan Carrier, "Stephen Fry unveils plaque to forgotten singer who escaped the Ku Klux Klan before making and losing a fortune", Camden New Journal, 11 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Black And British: A Forgotten History", BBC Media Centre, 30 November 2016.
  9. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 34. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
  10. ^ "High Society's Favourite Gigolo". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  11. ^ Matthew Hemley, "Wartime entertainer Hutch remembered in Channel 4 documentary", The Stage, 23 July 2008.
  12. ^ Christopher Wilson (14 October 2014). "The Scandalous Truth about Downton Abbey's Royal Gigolo Jack Ross". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  13. ^ Lucy Crossley, "The 1920s cabaret star who inspired Downton's royal gigolo and his affair with a countess that scandalised London society", Daily Mail, 15 October 2013.
  14. ^ Adam Lee-Potter, "Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes has the task of immortalising Jack Ross as cabaret star Leslie Hutchinson", Dorset Magazine, 18 December 2013.
  15. ^ Camden New Journal, 25 October 2018

External links[edit]