Song:I Whistle A Happy Tune
Album:The King And I: Original Broadway Cast
Gertrude Lawrence was one of the most popular stage performers in the first half of the 20th century. The King And I Marked a triumphant return to Broadway in 1951. Sadly, she died soon after. She was born Gertrude Alice Klasen July 4, 1898 in London, England. Her father was an opera singer but his heavy drinking forced Gertrude's mother to leave him and remarry. Gertrude performed as a child and eventually took her father's surname Lawrence. She toured with him for a while. But by age 16, she was living on her own. She appeared in shows in London and also performed in a nightclub. She also had an unsuccessful marriage. After meeting Noel Coward a few years earlier, he wrote the 1923 musical London Calling! for Gertrude. These two had a lengthy professional relationship. In 1926, Gertrude became the first British performer to star in a Broadway musical in the Gershwin show Oh, Kay!. She moved to New York hoping to star in another successful Gershwin show Treasure Girl. But it flopped and Gertrude returned to England. She worked in several musicals in the 30s but then she met theater manager Richard Aldrich while preparing for a Broadway run of Skylark. They married and settled in the US. Gertrude had a very successful run in the 1941 musical Lady in the Dark. And then the 1945 show Pygmalion. In 1950, Gertrude wanted the book Anna and the King of Siam turned into a musical that she would star in. Her business manager convinced Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to do it. The King and I was a huge success and Gertrude won her only Tony award. But she got sick and died on Sept. 5, 1952 at age 54. Decca released an original cast album which is out of print. But copyright laws are different in Europe so it is available as a budget CD with some added odds and ends. Gertrude Lawrence is mostly forgotten today. But The King and I and her sudden death made her a big deal at the time. Julie Andrews starred as Gertrude in the 1968 biopic Star!. Here's a video for I Whistle A Happy Tune by Gertrude Lawrence.