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Jessie Matthews

ONE famous former resident of Hampton was dancer and actress Jessie Matthews who used to live in Old Farm, Old Farm Road which has since been demolished.

Jessie was born in 1907, the seventh of 16 children (11 of whom survived). She was the daughter of a fruit and veg seller in Berwick Street market, Soho.

It was a tough upbringing, but at the age of 12 she took dancing lessons and made her stage debut in 1919 Bluebell in Fairyland at the Metropolitan Music Hall in Edgware Road.

Talent she certainly had and it was a logical progression when she appeared in her first film The Beloved Vagabond in 1923.

Jessie then found herself in the chorus of Charlotte's Review of 1924 in London and she then travelled to New York with the show where she became the understudy to its star, Gertrude Lawrence.

When Lawrence fell ill during the shows stop in Toronto. Jessie Mathews took her chance with both hands, earning rave reviews.

From that point, stardom beckoned and she went on to appear in numerous stage shows where she sang popular songs written by the likes of Noel Coward and Cole Porter.

Matthew's fame reached a zenith in 1930 when she took the lead role in the stage production of Ever Green. And in 1934, she was asked to take the starring role in the film adaptation of the play during which she sang the song Over My Shoulder that quickly became her theme song. She later used it as the title of her autobiography.

The years of the Second World War saw her drop out of the limelight and in the austerity of post-war Britain, she was seen as something of an anachronism.

But her fortunes turned again when she was invited to take the leading role of Mary Dale in the long-running BBC radio daily soap Mrs Dale's Diary.

She continued to make occasional cameo appearances in a number of TV shows and films but it was her ongoing love of live theatre and variety shows that remained the mainstay of her career.

Her personal life was somewhat complicated. She married three times ?€" all of which ended in divorce. The most notorious came towards the end of her first marriage when she began an affair with fellow actor and impresario, Sonnie Hale. She was named by Hale's wife as the other woman in a very public divorce case but ended up marrying Hale when the dust had settled. It was while living with him that she came to Hampton.

Jessie Matthews was made an OBE in 1970 for services to the entertainment industry.

She made her last film appearance in 1978 in a spoof on the Arthur Conan-Doyle classic Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

She was dogged by ill-health throughout her like and Jessie Matthews eventually died in August 1981 from cancer.

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What's On...

Events, shows, concerts, sporting occassions - month by month in your area -
What's On
Sept 16-17
Open House London Free Admission Kempton Waterworks, Snakey Lane, Hanworth Visit the Museum for free and marvel at the spectacular 1000-ton engines in this beautiful Art Deco building. Doors open at 10:30am (please note: engine not in steam!) (www.kemptonsteam.org)
Sept 30
Glow in the Park Kempton Park Dance, jog, run or walk your way around a 5km course. Glow zones and music will keep you grooving round the route. Don't forget to wear all your glow kit (www.kempton.co.uk)
Oct 1-7
The Turn of the Screw Hampton Hill Theatre, 90 High Street, Hampton Hill A ghost story by Henry James (www.teddingtontheatreclub.org.uk)
Nov 4 (tbc)
Roundtable Fireworks Kempton Park Fun for all the family (www.kemptonfireworks.org.uk)