Star Archive

Dame Anna Neagle (1904 - 1986)

If ever there was an artist who was perfect for this site, that artist is Anna Neagle: first film 1930, last film 1959. For most of those 30 years she was big Box Office, for seven years she was Britain's biggest female draw.

She started as a dancer and worked her way up through the chorus to appear opposite Jack Buchanan in "Stand Up and Sing" in the West End. Her big break came when director/producer Herbert Wilcox wanted Buchanan to star in his new film Goodnight Vienna and went along to see the show. When Wilcox saw Anna on stage he knew she was right for the film too. Soon Anna was under long-term contract to Wilcox. They were also a couple (though they didn't marry until 1943) and the partnership produced a long string of hits.

The Wilcox formula was simple: if Anna scored a hit in something then do the same again only bigger. Thus period actress Nell Gwyn begat Peg of Old Drury; 20's musical Irene begat No, No Nanette and Sunny; I Live in Grosvenor Square begat the "London Series"; and most blatantly of all Victoria the Great begat Sixty Glorious Years - another biopic of Queen Victoria but this time in colour. And if these failed, Anna could always be relied upon to portray a British Heroine: Edith Cavell, Florence Nightingale, Amy Johnson, Odette.   

These films rarely pleased the critics. This is particularly true of the "London Series" of frothy nonsense, usually co-starring Michael Wilding and usually musicals. The critics wanted neo-realist pictures depicting grim reality - the audience, who were suffering through the Austerity Years and knew all about grim reality, wanted fun and escapism. Anna Neagle pictures provided that in spades.

As the fifties wore on, Wilcox's touch at the box office became unsure and Anna's last appearances are best forgotten. She tried her hand at producing for a while (These Dangerous Years, Wonderful Things! and Heart of a Man, all starring Frankie Vaughan). These didn't hit, and by the mid-sixties Wilcox was bankrupt. Anna went back on stage, scoring a big hit in Charlie Girl. She was made a Dame in 1969. Wilcox died in 1977. In the last years of her life Anna suffered from Parkinson's disease.

She was never regarded as a great actress, though there are some who maintain that without Wilcox guiding her career she could have become one. With Wilcox's guidance she became a great star, and stayed one for longer than her contemporaries.  

Cigarette card featuring Anna NeaglePublicity shot of Anna Neagle in Nell GwynStill of Anna Neagle in Sixty Glorious YearsStill from Victoria the GreatPoster for Victoria the GreatAnna Neagle in The Yellow Canary


1930 Should a Doctor Tell?
1931 The Chinese Bungalow
1932 Goodnight Vienna
1933 The Flag Lieutenant
1933 The Little Damazel
1933 Bitter Sweet
1934 The Queen's Affair
1935 Nell Gwyn
1936 Peg of Old Drury
1936 Limelight
1937 The Three Maxims
1937 London Melody
1937 Victoria the Great
1938 Sixty Glorious Years
1939 Nurse Edith Cavell
1940 Irene (U.S.)
1941 No, No, Nanette (U.S.)
1941 Sunny (U.S.)
1941 They Flew Alone
1943 Forever and a Day (U.S.)
1943 Yellow Canary
1945 I Live in Grosvenor Square
1946 Piccadilly Incident
1947 The Courtneys of Curzon Street
1948 Spring in Park Lane
1949 Elizabeth of Ladymead
1949 Maytime in Mayfair
1950 Odette
1951 The Lady with a Lamp
1952 Derby Day
1955 Lilacs in the Spring
1956 King's Rhapsody
1956 My Teenage Daughter
1957 No Time for Tears
1958 The Man Who Wouldn't Talk
1959 The Lady is a Square

 Anna Neagle at Amazon UK

 Anna Neagle at Amazon US