Nellie Wallace

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Nellie Wallace
Born Eleanor Jane Wallis Tayler
(1870-03-18)March 18, 1870
Glasgow
Died November 24, 1948(1948-11-24) (aged 78)
London
Nationality British
Occupation Music hall star, actress, comedian, dancer and songwriter
Known for One of the most famous and best loved music hall performers
Notable work The Golden Pippin Girl; The Wishbone; Radio Parade of 1935

Nellie Wallace (18 March 1870 – 24 November 1948) was a British music hall star, actress, comedian, dancer and songwriter who became one of the most famous and best loved music hall performers. She became known as "The Essence Of Eccentricity". She dressed in ultra-tight skirts (so tight in fact, that she would lie down on the stage and shuffle back and forth on her back to pick up whatever she had contrived to drop), her hat sported a lone daisy, feather or a fish bone and once even a lit candle (supposedly, so she could see where she was going and where she had been).

Wallace was born in Glasgow in 1870 as Eleanor Jane Wallis Tayler. Her father, Francis George Tayler, was a vocalist and musician and her mother a retired actress who became a teacher and governess.

Her first solo performance on the stage was as a clog dancer at the age of 12 in Birmingham. Prior to this, she had performed with her sisters Emma and Fanny, also singers and dancers. She had a rapid rise to fame and became much loved by her audiences. Not a naturally pretty woman, a reviewer noted her 'grotesque get-up', which started the audience laughing the moment she appeared on stage; her cleverness, vivacity and facial expressions were second to none. Wallace's London debut came in 1903, and by 1910 she was given billing at the London Palladium. Her career lasted until her death in 1948; she appeared in the Royal Command Performance of that year.[1]

Her main character was a frustrated spinster, singing ribald songs such as "Under the Bed," "Let's Have a Tiddley at the Milk Bar" and "Mother's Pie Crust." Other well known songs in her repertoire included: "Meet Me," "The Sniff Song," "Three Cheers for the Red White & Blue," "Half Past Nine," "Geranium," "Tally Ho!," "The Blasted Oak," "Three Times a Day" and "Bang! Bang! Bang!"[1] Her appearance made her unusually successful as a pantomime dame — a role usually performed by men.[2] She usually wore a fur stole, which she described as her "little bit of vermin".[1]

Wallace appeared in a "short", filmed in 1902, entitled: A Lady's First lesson On A Bicycle. She later moved into bigger budget productions and appeared in The Golden Pippin Girl (1920); The Wishbone (1933); Radio Parade of 1935 (1934), alongside fellow music hall performer Lily Morris and established actor Will Hay; Variety (1935) and Boys Will Be Girls (1936).

Nellie Wallace died in a London nursing home on 24 November 1948, aged 78, after a serious bout of bronchitis.

The Wallis WA-116 Agile gyrocopter featured in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice "Little Nellie" was named after her,[citation needed], and "Wet Nellie", the submarine Lotus Esprit from the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me was in turn named after the gyrocopter.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Wallace, Nellie [Eleanor]", The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, Cambridge University Press, 2000 
  2. ^ Laurence Senelick, "Dames in Pantoland", The changing room: sex, drag and theatre, p. 242 
  3. ^ The Telegraph (London), "Inside James Bond's Lotus supersub", Leo Wilkinson, 12 August 2013 (accessed 2013-11-13)