A E MATTHEWS (1869-1960)

A E Matthews
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Spotlight on the stars of stage and screen

Margaret Lockwood

Robert Morley

Ellaline Terriss

THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Alfred Edward Matthews, actor, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.

Affectionately regarded by many as ‘Matty’, he moved from leading roles on stage and screen, to distinguished character parts, in such films as Quiet Wedding, The Chiltern Hundreds and The Million Pound Note.

Photographs and screenshots of A E Matthews This Is Your Life (click images to enlarge)

In his autobiography, This Is My Life, published in 1963, Eamonn Andrews recalls this particular edition of This Is Your Life...

The programme that springs to a number of minds as one of the liveliest of the lot was the one that featured the later A E Matthews. Matty had been a bit of a hellion all his life, a loveable, unpredictable rebel whose sense of fun was monumental. I knew I had a tough assignment on my hands once the decision was made to present his “life”. On transmission he did just about every solitary thing calculated to wreck the show’s intricate timing and drive me up the drapes.

He snorted, contradicted, interrupted, laughed, and at one stage even stretched out on the couch and said he was going to have a snooze. When I came off at programme’s end, the perspiration had soaked right through my vest, shirt and jacket, making a huge dark stain where my jacket clung to my back.

It was at a time when the programme was receiving a dose of its periodic criticism from the Press. Words like “intrusion”, “unfair”, “torture” were being bandied about with gay abandon. At the end of that programme there was a little incident which in its own way was the most effective answer to most of the accusations.

Usually at the end of a programme, after the presentation of the book, and when the end-titles have faded off the screen, I say a few words to the studio audience. This time though, before I had a chance to walk downstage, Matty held up his hand to quell the applause that was still rolling in from the packed auditorium. There were tears brimming his eyes, this tough old actor who had been on the stage most of his nearly ninety years, and so had experienced just about everything show-business can offer in the way of honours and surprises. He had never seen “This Is Your Life” before, and had no idea what was involved. But now, when the hush clamped down on the theatre audience, he came downstage and said in a voice shaking a little – “Ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to say, this has been the greatest experience in my whole life….”

He obviously wanted to go on, but his voice broke. Then after a pause he said: “Thank you, and God Bless you.”

It was one of the most moving scenes I have watched. Two minutes before Matty had been full of mischief and fun. Now, near the end of his life, he was saying that he had had to wait until this night for his greatest experience.

There was nothing I could say.

A E Matthews article

Daily Express 6 May 1958


by Robert Cannell

Viewers rang up the BBC to protest when A.E. Matthews, the 88-year-old actor, was faded out just as he began to speak at the end of last nights’ “This Is Your Life”.

They said it was clumsy and unforgivable. And the BBC apologised for “an unintentional mistake which we regret. It was a pure misunderstanding.”

“Mattie,” subject of the programme, had been laughing and wiping away a tear by turns during half an hour of the most human television that this series has screened.


Again and again he complained “I can’t get a word in” as he met some of the actresses with whom he has worked in his long career – Margaret Lockwood, Pauline Chase (the original Peter Pan), Marie Lohr (“Darling, have you got a job?”), and Ellaline Terriss, 87-year-old widow of Sir Seymour Hicks.

Lady Hicks talked of the time when “Dear Mattie” gave her famous husband his first stage job: “You used to walk to and from the theatre to save the bus fare.”

But Mattie glared: “We hadn’t got the bus fare to save.” There was a filmed tribute from Robert Morley in Vienna. And Mattie, ignoring the fact that it was a film, talked to Morley about “a boy called Rex Harrison whom I read about every morning in the papers.”

He was startled when Eamonn Andrews produced the birth certificate of Alfred Edward Matthews, born November 22 1869.

“Where did you get that?” he demanded. “I’ve been looking for it. I’m off to Naples on Friday and they won’t let me go without it.”

Once he burst through the script to exclaim: “This is the night of my life. This is the greatest thrill of my few years on the stage. This is wonderful. Is there a good house out there?”

This was THE life of the whole series. Mattie was so touched that as Eamonn Andrews began the closing ritual the actor beckoned him and whispered.

It was obvious he wanted to say something. He got up and walked to the footlights.

A finger ran round his collar. For the first time Mattie looked serious, close to tears.

And then he was faded out.

A E Matthews article

Yorkshire Post 6 May 1958

On Television Last Night

by John Marshall

There has never been a “This Is Your Life” quite like it. The subject was the 89-year-old Mr A.E. Matthews, who declared it to be “The greatest night of my life in my few years on the stage.”

Mr Matthews is an unpredictable person and threw all the carefully pre-arranged timing plans out of gear. He chattered on about all manner of things – his boots, his leading ladies, his work, his pay on a long-forgotten Australian tour – and it was quite impossible at times for anyone else to get a word in edgeways. But the result was wonderful television.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 65
  • Subject No: 65
  • Broadcast live: Mon 5 May 1958
  • Broadcast time: 8.45-9.15pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 3
  • Edition: 31

on the guest list...

  • Ellaline Terriss (Lady Hicks)
  • Marie Lohr
  • Charles Moore
  • Pauline Chase
  • Margaret Lockwood
  • William Douglas Home
  • Cecil Parker
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Robert Morley
  • Gladys Cooper

external links...

production team...

  • Researchers: Ray Marler, Bill Nolan
  • Writer: Peter Moore
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 3 subjects: Albert Whelan > Colin Hodgkinson > Vera Lynn > Arthur Christiansen > John Logie Baird > Richard Carr-Gomm > Jack Train > Edith Muriel Powell > Anne Brusselmans > Norman Wisdom > Victor Silvester > Jack Petersen > Lucy Jane Dobson > David Bell > Matt Busby > Minnie Barnard > Gordon Steele > Louie Ramsay > Tubby Clayton > Daniel Angel > Anna Neagle > 'Dapper' Channon > Frederick Stone > Paul Field > Noel Purcell > Barbara Cartland > Harry Secombe > Archie Rowe > Humphrey Lyttelton > Francis Cammaerts > A E Matthews