Elisabeth WELCH (1904-2003)

Elisabeth Welch
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Elisabeth Welch, American singer, actress and entertainer, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews, outside London's Palace Theatre.

Elisabeth began her career as a professional singer in New York in 1922, appearing in several Broadway shows. In 1929 she went to Paris and then to London - which became her base - and appeared in many West End shows, including revues.

She is most famously associated with the songs Stormy Weather, Love For Sale and Solomon.

“For the first time in my life - words fail me!”

Writer Stephen Bourne discusses This Is Your Life in an exclusive interview recorded in October 2013

Screenshots of Elisabeth Welch This Is Your Life

Elisabeth Welch's biography

Writer Stephen Bourne recalls Elisabeth's experience of This Is Your Life in his biography Soft Lights and Sweet Music...

Meanwhile, Elisabeth received the surprise of her life when she was the subject of one of Britain’s most popular television shows, This Is Your Life.

Recorded on October 8 and televised on November 6, the programme, hosted by Eamonn Andrews, included tributes from Elaine Delmar, Liz Robertosn, Adelaide Hall, Mary Ellis, Peter Graves, Betty Driver, Hermione Baddeley, Tommy Trinder, June Whitfield, Paul Jones, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth.

Evelyn Laye closed the show with the following tribute: “I’ve admired you since the Cochran days. I saw everything you ever did. I saw the last thing that you have just done (Kern Goes to Hollywood) and you were equally as great. Great you are! But the thing that I’ve loved more than anything over the years is the charming friendship that we’ve had together and may it long go on, my dear.”

Lena Horne, friend and fan, appeared in a pre-recorded tribute. There was a big surprise when John Welch greeted his sister – in person – having travelled form his home in New York. Looking more beautiful and animated than ever, Elisabeth was over whelmed and in tears throughout:

It was absolutely fantastic. Wonderful. It was such a surprise. If I’d known it was going to happen I wouldn’t have been there! It’s terrifying. I didn’t know how I’d get down those stairs at the beginning. Eamonn Andrews told me to put my hand on his arm because it was a long flight of stairs through the audience to the stage with no banisters. I’d already been crying with nerves in the dressing-room. When I walked onto the stage I was absolutely shivering. It was marvellous afterwards because then I got to talk to everybody. When I came home I sat in a chair and I was in shock for about an hour and a half. Then I went to bed and didn’t sleep.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 681
  • Subject No: 675
  • Broadcast date: Wed 6 Nov 1985
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Tue 8 Oct 1985
  • Venue: Royalty Theatre
  • Series: 26
  • Edition: 3
  • Code Name: Shanty

on the guest list...

  • Liz Robertson
  • Elaine Delmar
  • Acker Bilk
  • George Chisholm
  • Kenny Ball
  • Tony Pitt
  • Richie Bryant
  • John - brother
  • Adelaide Hall
  • Mary Ellis
  • Peter Graves
  • Hermione Baddeley
  • Tommy Trinder
  • June Whitfield
  • Paul Jones
  • Cleo Laine – via satellite
  • John Dankworth – via satellite
  • Evelyn Laye
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Lena Horne
  • Betty Driver

external links...

production team...

  • Researcher: Colin Williams
  • Writer: Norman Giller
  • Directors: Terry Yarwood, Michael D Kent
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 26 subjects: William Roache > Dennis Taylor > Elisabeth Welch > Sheila Mercier > Richard Branson > Maurice Denham > David Ellaway > Terry O’Neill > Gerry Marsden > Joyce Carey > Chas n Dave > Oliver Reed > Felix Bowness > John Harris > Bonnie Langford > Henry Cotton > June McElnea > Derek Jameson > Richard Vernon > Martyn Lewis > Peter Shilton > Ted Rogers > Simon Williams > Larry Slater > Lena Kennedy > Denis Quilley