Beatrice Gladys Lillie

Beatrice Gladys (Lady Robert Peel) Lillie, comedienne (b at Toronto 29 May 1894; d at Henley-on-Thames, Eng 20 Jan 1989). Her saucy songs and unruly rope of pearls made her a beloved revue entertainer. To Noël Coward, a frequent collaborator, she was simply "the funniest woman in the world." She began in Ontario touring as a child concert singer with her mother, Lucie Anne, and older, piano-playing sister Muriel ("The Lillie Trio"). In England in 1914 she made amateur appearances and then was hired for the chorus of the musical revue Not Likely!. A series of similar wartime revues followed, under the guidance of producer André Charlot, who groomed her for stardom.

In 1920 she married Robert Peel and they had one son, Robert. Her New York début and triumphant return to Toronto came with Charlot's Revue of 1924. All told, she played in 30 revues, a dozen musical comedies and 7 films, as well as alternately headlining at the Palace Theatre in New York and London's Palladium or Café de Paris.

Her husband died in 1934 and her son died while on service in 1942. Following WWII, in which she tirelessly entertained the troops, her important shows were Inside USA (1948-50), An Evening with Beatrice Lillie (1952-56), Auntie Mame (1958) and High Spirits (1964), the musical version of Coward's Blithe Spirit.

In 1972 she published a hilarious autobiography, Every Other Inch a Lady, written with her companion, singer John Philip Huck. Suffering a stroke in 1975 that left her virtually blind and speechless, she and Huck retired to England, where she passed away at the age of 94. Ironically, her loyal companion and guardian, Huck, died the day after.