Star Archive

Jessie Matthews (1907 - 1981) 

She was "The Dancing Divinity" - the most potent icon of 30s cinema. She had what audiences wanted, but when the decade ended, so did her career.

Born in Soho she grew up wanting to dance and by her early twenties she was starring in the West End and on Broadway. Her big rival for the affection of the public was Evelyn Laye and in 1930 Laye sued husband Sonny Hale for divorce naming Matthews as the other woman. The scandal should have kept Matthews off the screen but the talkies needed musical stars and Matthews clicked big-time. (Laye flopped and went back to the stage)

The build-up started slowly but she was a bona fide star when The Good Companions came out. After the early disaster movie Friday the Thirteenth and the Hitchcock flop Waltzes from Vienna, she became a world star with Evergreen.

Hollywood was interested in her by now and there was talk of a film with Fred Astaire, but she stayed in Britain for the sake of her marriage to Sonny Hale. He'd starred in a few of her films but moved into directing. He was competent, but never managed to hit the same heights as Victor Saville. Climbing High, directed by Carol Reed was an unhappy production and the musical numbers were cut from the film.

She was becoming temperamental and musicals just weren't made during the war. She did some more theatre work but ill-health meant she wasn't reliable and gradually she faded from the public eye. She was brought back by radio to take over the lead in the soap "Mrs Dale's Diary" and became a useful, if limited, character actress.   

Her films were fluff, but unlike her musical-comedy rivals (Gracie Fields, George Formby) she had grace and glamour. Her costumes were carefully designed to show off as much of her body as the censor would allow, and her dancing can best be described as a high-class bump and grind act. No other star had that fluidity of movement and that joie de vivre.

Cigarette card of Jessie MatthewsStill from Friday the ThirteenthPhoto of Jessie Matthews in Friday the ThirteenthStill from The Good CompanionsPoster from The Good CompanionsOn the set of EvergreenPublicity shot of Jessie MatthewsJessie Matthews in First a Girl


1923  This England
1924 The Beloved Vagabond
1924 Straws in the Wind
1931 Out of the Blue
1932 There Goes the Bride
1932 The Midshipmaid
1933 The Man from Toronto
1933 The Good Companions
1933 Friday the Thirteenth
1934 Waltzes from Vienna
1934 Evergreen
1935 First a Girl
1936 It's Love Again
1937 Head Over Heels
1937 Gangway
1938 Sailing Along
1939 Climbing High
1943 Forever and a Day (USA)
1944 Candles at Nine
1958 Tom Thumb
1978 The Hound of the Baskervilles

 Jessie Matthews at Amazon UK

 Jessie Matthews at Amazon US