Sandy Wilson (1924 - 2014)

Sandy Wilson
1924 - 2014
updated April 05, 2020
Sandy Wilson was born on May 19, 1924 in Sale, United Kingdom. He died on August 27, 2014 in Taunton, England United Kingdom at 90 years of age.

Sandy Wilson obituary
Composer and lyricist. He was best known for The Boy Friend, a fresh and revolutionary musical that took the West End by storm
Michael Freedland and Michael Coveney
Wed 27 Aug 2014 11.01

The Boy Friend at the Players' theatre, London, in 1953. It opened in the West End the following year. Photograph: Kurt Hutton/Getty Images
The composer and lyricist Sandy Wilson, who has died aged 90, achieved his greatest success while still in his 20s – and what a success it was. In the 1950s, The Boy Friend ran for more than five years at Wyndham's theatre in London and spent more than a year on Broadway. When it opened in the West End, in January 1954, it was revolutionary, a totally new and different kind of musical.
Big American shows such as Oklahoma!, Annie Get Your Gun and Carousel had dominated musical theatre for years. They were big and brash, full of women in gingham dresses and men in big hats chewing cigars. Here came a show that was a throwback to the flappers of the roaring 20s. Young women were seen with flattened chests and cloche hats; young men wore bell-bottomed trousers and all but said, "Anyone for tennis?" Set in a finishing school in the south of France, The Boy Friend revolved around the romance of a wealthy boy and girl who are each attempting to keep their family's fortune a secret.
Could it work? Amazingly, it did. And when the show opened in New York in September 1954, its startlingly brilliant leading lady was Julie Andrews, making her Broadway debut. It was Wilson's plangent, plaintive songs, such as I Could Be Happy With You and A Room in Bloomsbury, that really made the show. The tunes became standards, and for a time everyone wanted to do the charleston: the packed audiences found some kind of relief from the austerity of the postwar years in this romantic tribute to a more lighthearted age. The Irish playwright and journalist Hugh Leonard later proclaimed it to be "as English as muffins and monocles". The show ran in London for more than 2,000 performances, outstripped only by Agatha Christie's runaway success with The Mousetrap.

Wilson was born in Sale, Cheshire, the son of George and Caroline (nee Humphrey). He was educated at Elstree preparatory school, in Berkshire, Harrow school and Oriel College, Oxford, where he gained an English degree.
He had first thought about writing The Boy Friend while he was at Oxford, where he was declared an "idol" in the university's magazine, Isis, in 1947. He produced and wrote a mass of student shows, and in his mid-20s contributed to the West End revues Slings and Arrows and Oranges and Lemons. He wrote a pair of shows, See You Again (1951) and See You Later (1952), then originated The Boy Friend at the Players' and Embassy theatres before it opened at Wyndham's. While The Boy Friend was still running, two more of Wilson's shows opened in London: The Buccaneer, a play about a magazine, was created with the hope of cashing in on the craze for horror comics. It had originally been presented at the tiny New Watergate theatre in London in September 1953. Without any real investment, it had flopped, but since The Boy Friend had succeeded so remarkably, Wilson brought it back a couple of years later in an extended version at the Lyric Hammersmith and then the Apollo; its cast included Kenneth Williams.
Wilson then adapted Ronald Firbank's novel Valmouth, set in an Edwardian spa, for a production that picked up good reviews at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it opened in 1958. It then moved to the Savile theatre, where Cleo Laine joined Fenella Fielding in the cast.
Though he did not need the money, Wilson would have liked another show to run and run. A sequel to The Boy Friend entitled Divorce Me, Darling! (Globe theatre, 1965), which took the characters into the 1930s, failed to repeat the triumph. The critic Bernard Levin called it "relentlessly incomprehensible".
In 1970, a revival of The Boy Friend with Judy Carne ran for three months on Broadway and the following year the musical became a much-hyped, multi-coloured film, starring Twiggy, Christopher Gable and Tommy Tune, and directed by Ken Russell, who seemed more interested in replicating the Hollywood musicals of the 30s than Wilson's original setting. Wilson did not like the idea of the film at all and refused to attend the premiere. More happily in 1971, he put on a one-man show, Sandy Wilson Thanks the Ladies, and also had a success at the Hampstead theatre with His Monkey Wife, about a man's relationship with a female chimp, although it did not reach the West End.
His autobiography, I Could Be Happy (1975), ends with a vivid account of The Boy Friend in London and New York, and a hurt appraisal of Russell's movie (although he retained great sympathy for Twiggy, whom he liked). That year he also published a lavish and loving memorial biography of Ivor Novello. In 1979, he created a non-pantomime musical version of Aladdin that came and went at the Lyric Hammersmith.
In 1994, in an Observer interview marking a 40th anniversary production of The Boy Friend at the Players', he was asked what he thought of contemporary popular music. "I've hated it since 1950," he replied. "Since rock'n'roll I've turned a deaf ear."
The Boy Friend has proved indomitably endearing, despite some slightly overblown West End revivals. In 1982 there was a revival at Chichester of Valmouth, which came to be widely acknowledged as Wilson's masterpiece. Fifteen years later, Divorce Me, Darling! was also revived at Chichester, and the cabaret performer Liliane Montevecchi stopped the show with the spoof Marlene Dietrich number, Blondes for Danger.
In an age of blockbuster musicals, Wilson's talent for intimate revue and stylish musical theatre might have seemed an anachronism. But his work was unique, always well-finished and full of charm and good taste.
For many years he lived with his partner, Chak Yui, in a South Kensington flat full of scores, records, books and memorabilia, and of course a grand piano.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Wilson was a lifelong subscriber to the New Statesman magazine. In later years he spent an increasing amount of time at his country home near Taunton, Somerset, watching old films and indulging in his favourite pastime of reminiscing.
Michael Freedland
Michael Coveney writes: Although he could perform his own material very adeptly, it is probably fair to say that Sandy Wilson was perhaps a better draughtsman than a pianist. He had studied the styles and fashions of the 20s and 30s so closely that he could reproduce the effect on the page at least as well as on the stage.
He particularly liked the theatrical cartoons of the Swedish artist Einar Nerman, who worked for the Tatler in the 20s, and he provided an exquisitely elegant introduction to Nerman's 1976 book Caught in the Act. Every year, Wilson would make his own Christmas cards, and every year he would produce a collector's item, usually featuring flappers, pierrots or harlequins in a mimimal setting of crescent moons and floating balloons.
His uneasy relationship with his Oxford contemporary Kenneth Tynan ("I never found that I could penetrate that aura of brilliance and daring to discover the person behind it") was reflected in a mournful review he wrote in Plays and Players magazine of Carte Blanche, Tynan's sad sequel to Oh! Calcutta! On the other hand, his review of Michael Blakemore's 1973 revival of Nöel Coward's Design for Living, starring Vanessa Redgrave, set the seal on the restoration of that great comedy in the repertoire. And no critic has ever written so well, or so thoroughly, about theatrical costume.
• Sandy Wilson (Alexander Galbraith Wilson), composer, lyricist, and playwright, born 19 May 1924; died 27 August 2014

Sandy Wilson Biography

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Sandy Wilson

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Alexander Galbraith Wilson




Sandy Wilson was born on in Sale, Cheshire County, United Kingdom


Sandy Wilson died on in Taunton, England United Kingdom

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British. Born, Raised and Died in England.

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Alexander Galbraith "Sandy" Wilson (19 May 1924 – 27 August 2014)
was an English composer and lyricist, best known for his musical,The Boyfriend.
Wilson was born in Sale, Cheshire, England, and was educated at Harrow School and Oriel College, Oxford. While at Oxford he wrote revues for the Oxford University Experimental Theatre Club and then attended the Old Vic Theatre School on a production course.

Most of his work for the stage was material for revues, such as Hermione Gingold's Slings and Arrows, Laurier Lister's Oranges and Lemons, and See You Later, starring such performers as Peter Cook. He wrote the book, music and lyrics for The Boy Friend for the Players' Theatre in 1953. Its success resulted in a longer version being produced in the West End at Wyndhams Theatre. After its opening in January 1954, over 2,000 performances were put on there. It opened on Broadway in 1954, at the Royale Theater, and introduced Julie Andrews in her Broadway debut. The show ran on Broadway for over 480 performances.
Wilson wrote the musical Valmouth in 1958, based on a Ronald Firbank novel set in a seaside resort. In 1964 he wrote Divorce Me, Darling!, a sequel to The Boy Friend. His last work was a version of Aladdin (1979) for the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.
His autobiography, published in 1975, is titled I Could Be Happy.

Sandy Wilson died in Taunton, England in 2014, aged 90. His longtime partner was Chak Yui. Wilson was a member of the Labour Party and contributed to the Elizabethan magazine during his years of greatest fame.

In 1999, Wilson donated his papers to the Harry Ransom Center.[7] The papers include produced and unproduced plays, mostly musicals but also plays for stage and TV, as well as drafts of Wilson's published and unpublished works including an autobiography, illustrated book, novels, articles, and short stories, along with correspondence.

Caprice (1950)
The Boy Friend (1953)
The Buccaneer (1955)
Valmouth (1958)
Pieces of Eight (1959)
Divorce Me, Darling! (1964)
As Dorothy Parker Once Said (1969)
His Monkey Wife (1971)
The Clapham Wonder (1978, based on the novel The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns Carr)



Personal Life & Organizations

Chak Yui.

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During the war he served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Great Britain, Egypt and Iraq.

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Sandy Wilson bows out in style, still clinging to the past
The composer of The Boy Friend displayed 'taste, charm and style in every lyric and bar of music that he wrote'
AuthorMichael CoveneyNationwide28 August 2014

No judgement would have wounded Sandy Wilson more than Noël Coward's on his sequel to The Boy Friend, Divorce Me, Darling!: "Some good tunes, but pretty dismal on the whole."

It so happens I disagree with Coward to such an extent that I have often thought that the sequel was superior to the 1953 original, especially so when Lilianne Montevecchi knocked us dead with her coruscating version of "Blondes for Danger" in a Chichester revival. But it's certainly true that Wilson had a great problem in repeating his first popular success.

There was a time when The Boy Friend was performed somewhere in the world every two minutes. For all I know, it still is. It was an absolute smash, running for five years in the West End, a record at the time, and although there have been some galumphing London revivals - and the Ken Russell film, which Sandy loathed, is enjoyable for all the wrong reasons, though Twiggy is delightful - I've never failed to be beguiled by it.

The last revival in Regent's Park was particularly good. Sandy, impeccably dressed as always, in a cream summer suit and Panama hat, sat behind me with his life partner, Chak Yui. As I extracted my notebook and pen from my jacket pocket, he leant forward and hissed: "Put that f—-ing notebook away you little ----." I ignored him. The review duly appeared in the Observer the following Sunday and he rang me before lunch to thank me fulsomely for it.

Not everyone is as keen on The Boy Friend as I am. I think it's as perfect as Fabergé egg, an exemplary concoction in style and scale, and as good a score as those of the 1920s musicals it so affectionately parodies. Simon Callow, on the other hand, once described me as "a friend of the fringe with a surprising weakness for Sandy Wilson" (although this was long before Simon himself came out as a fan of Ivor Novello, about whom Sandy wrote a beautiful book of homage) and Richard Eyre hated The Boy Friend so much - he recounts in his memoir, Utopia and Other Places - that he gave up acting altogether while appearing in a 1965 revival at the Leicester Phoenix: "...I found its winsome melodies, its camp, smug, self-regarding milieu, as alien to me as an Aztek sacrifice, and at least as repulsive." So he directed Mary Poppins instead.

Sandy, like Coward, Cole Porter and Lionel Bart, wrote book, lyrics and music, and like Andrew Lloyd Webber today, found the "book" part of any musical the biggest problem. Although he scored an artistic bulls-eye - though never a great success - with his exquisite version of Ronald Firbank's Valmouth, brilliantly revived at Chichester in 1982 by John Dexter - he simply couldn't find anything else to write a musical about.

"He was a prickly and 'difficult' man.. but immensely gifted and clever"

Divorce Me, Darling! in 1964 was followed by a tame compilation show, As Dorothy Parker Once Said, in 1969, an oddball collector's item, His Monkey Wife, in 1971, and finally— such a long time ago! - Aladdin in 1979, the inaugural pantomime of the newly re-built and re-furbished Lyric, Hammersmith, with a great cast including Aubrey Woods and Elizabeth Welch. Welch was an idol for Sandy, one of his personal galère of musical comedy stars who included Julie Andrews (who made her name in The Boy Friend on Broadway), Hermione Gingold, Beatrice Lillie, Sally Ann Howes, Mary Ellis and Olive Gilbert.

He lived with Chak in a beautiful South Kensington apartment and a country house near Taunton in Somerset called "Valmouth". He was a prickly and "difficult" man - more like Richard Rodgers in that regard than, say, Lionel Bart, both of whom he admired - but immensely gifted and clever. He was fairly reactionary in his show business preferences, but he'd often surprise you with a paean of praise for a new play at the Royal Court, loved classical ballet and American modern dance, and subscribed to the left-wing magazine the New Statesman for many years.

His autobiography, I Could Be Happy, which ends, significantly, with The Boy Friend opening on Broadway, is a masterpiece of background and build-up to the destiny of his "little" musical, which began life so tentatively in the bowels of the Players' Theatre in Charing Cross. And his Christmas cards, hand-crafted each year with harlequins and pierrots - and "poor little rich girls" posed exquisitely in moonscapes with balloons and streamers - will be a permanent reminder to his friends and colleagues of the taste, charm and style in every lyric and bar of music that he wrote.

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1924 - 2014 World Events

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In 1924, in the year that Sandy Wilson was born, Macy's department store in New York held its first "Thanksgiving parade" on November 27th at 9a - during church services but leaving plenty of time to attend the big football game between Syracuse and Columbia universities. The parade was held as a way to promote the opening of the “World’s Largest Store” and its 1 million square feet of retail space in Manhattan’s Herald Square. The parade was 6 miles long and included floats, Macy's employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and sword-wielding knights, and animals from Central Park Zoo. Santa Claus, of course, brought up the rear - opening the Christmas shopping season for Macy's.

In 1938, when he was just 14 years old, on June 25th (a Saturday) the Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt (along with 120 other bills). The Act banned oppressive child labor, set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and established the maximum workweek at 44 hours. It faced a lot of opposition and in fighting for it, Roosevelt said "Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, ...tell you...that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry."

In 1944, by the time he was 20 years old, on December 16th, The Battle of the Bulge began in the Ardennes forest on the Western Front. Lasting for a little over a month, the battle began with a surprise attack by Germany on the Allied forces The U.S. suffered their highest casualties of any operation in World War II - 89,000 were casualties, around 8,600 killed - but Germany also severely depleted their resources and they couldn't be replaced.

In 1951, he was 27 years old when on April 5th, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (husband and wife) were sentenced to death for treason. They were executed on June 19th. American citizens, they were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. Their two young sons were adopted by a high school teacher and his wife.

In 1988, at the age of 64 years old, Sandy was alive when on December 16th, 1988 the popular film Rain Man was released. Featuring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. this film brought attention to autistic savants and was based on the "megasavant" Laurence Kim Peek. The film would later go to win four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Other Biographies

Other Wilsons

1960 - Unknown
Unknown - Unknown
1912 - Unknown
1886 - Unknown
Aug 19, 1870 - Unknown

Other Bios

Mar 4, 1925 - Oct 18, 1982
Nov 2, 1953 - Unknown
Aug 2, 1956 - Unknown
Sep 11, 1924 - Jul 21, 2003
Jan 21, 1898 - Oct 27, 1964
Dec 10, 1962 - Unknown
Feb 13, 1944 - Unknown
Dec 7, 1980 - Unknown
Apr 29, 1921 - Apr 28, 2000
May 8, 1924 - Aug 28, 1999
Sep 10, 1935 - Apr 21, 2014
1921 - Oct 26, 2008
Aug 22, 1976 - Unknown
Feb 2, 1911 - 1956
Feb 26, 1926 - Dec 26, 1988
Jun 22, 1954 - Unknown
Oct 4, 1932 - Unknown
Jan 7, 1966 - Unknown
Aug 18, 1959 - Unknown
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