Alicia MARKOVA CBE (1910-2004)

Alicia Markova This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 118
  • Subject No: 118
  • Broadcast live: Mon 11 Jan 1960
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8.00pm
  • Repeated: Wed 14 Aug 1963 9.50pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 5
  • Edition: 20

on the guest list...

  • Dorothy Thorne
  • Irene Webb
  • Serge Lifar
  • Marie Rambert
  • Audrey Taylor
  • Suzanne Abbott
  • Doris - sister
  • Vivienne - sister
  • Bunny - sister
  • Margot Fonteyn
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Jessie Matthews

production team...

  • Researcher: Nickola Sterne
  • Writer: Nickola Sterne
  • Director: unknown
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Alicia Markova

second tribute

A Dancer's Life

from ballet to ballroom

Life Second Time Around

surprised again!

The Big Red Book

the programme's icon

Maurice Leonard

the researcher's story

The Night of 1000 Lives

a celebration of a thousand editions

Jessie Matthews

Marie Rambert

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Photographs and screenshots of Alicia Markova This Is Your Life

Alicia Markova biography

Former This Is Your Life researcher and production associate Maurice Leonard recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book Markova: The Legend, reproduced here with kind permission of the author...

I first met Markova on 31 March 1974. At the time I was working for Thames Television's This Is Your Life programme and researching a 'life' on Anton Dolin, Markova's dancing partner. I was about to ask her to come on his show.

They were a distinguished couple whose lives were so intertwined that at times they seemed as one. Many of their fans suspected a romance between them, and hoped for it.

They coursed along brilliantly and sometimes stormily, all their lives, always, in their brilliant ways, caring for each other.

She had met him when she was a child of ten, a professional even then, and billed as 'The Child Pavlova'. He was seven years older and a student. He became a star before her.

I was walking into a potential minefield by asking Markova to appear on Dolin's life. Her own This Is Your Life had been broadcast by the BBC in 1959 and Dolin had been conspicuous by his absence. He had refused to have anything to do with it. He had thought he should be the subject and was jealous. Such temperament was nothing new for the great Dolin, his arrogance matched only by his talent. On this occasion he felt affronted.

It would have been inappropriate to have had Dolin as a subject before Markova. By then she was by far the more durable star. Try explaining that to Dolin.

Markova had been curious as to why Dolin has not appeared on her 'life', but she had known him for over forty years and, helped by a few hints from colleagues, it did not take long for the penny to drop. I was well aware of this when I called to interview her.

She willingly agreed to come on Dolin's show. Had she decided to play tit for tat I would have been in trouble as we could not have done Dolin's 'life' without Markova. It would have been incomplete. She never mentioned the fact that he had not appeared on hers.

In 1959 Alicia herself was the subject of This Is Your Life. She was, as is the policy of the show, in ignorance of what was about to happen until Eamonn Andrews surprised her. Doris (her sister) had been the initial contact, providing the names and whereabouts of the guests. She nearly had a breakdown trying to keep the secret from Alicia who always seemed to be in the room every time a member of the team rang.

Among the guests were Jessie Matthews, who filmed from Australia, Marie Rambert, who told of Alicia's relish for steak and kidney puddings, Serge Lifar, who burst on with the force of a volcano and nearly hugged her to death (she was clearly delighted to see him, all thoughts of their problematical Giselle forgotten), and the show was topped by Fonteyn who told how Alicia was 'both my inspiration and my despair.'

Fonteyn nearly did not make the show. She would not leave home until she had seen the show start. For some reason she was terrified, at that time, of being the subject herself and thought Alicia might have been in on a ruse to ensnare her. Later, when she lived in Panama, she changed her mind and would have been delighted to have been a subject.

As noted, Dolin was conspicuous by his absence. He was disgruntled that Alicia was being honoured rather than he.

Series 5 subjects

Evelyn Laye | Donald Caskie | Eva Turner | Billy Butlin | James Slater | Edmund Arbuthnott | Louis Langford | O P Jones
Richard Hearne | Francoise Rigby | John Barclay | Thomas Drake | William Merrilees | John Lord | Russ Conway | Stanley Bishop
Leonard Stanmore | Arthur Askey | Robert Oldfield | Alicia Markova | Frederic Morena | Hilda Rowcliffe | Thomas Salmon
Harry Welchman | Harry Webb | Nat Gonella | David Barclay | Richard Todd | Thomas Bodkin | Gracie Fields | Michael Ansell