Cathleen NESBITT CBE (1888-1982)

Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 545
  • Subject No: 542
  • Broadcast date: Wed 7 May 1980
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Thu 1 May 1980
  • Venue: New London Theatre
  • Series: 20
  • Edition: 24
  • Code name: Festival

on the guest list...

  • Tony Britton
  • Liz Robertson
  • company members from My Fair Lady
  • Anna Neagle
  • Alan Jay Lerner
  • Rex Harrison - via telephone
  • Mark - son
  • Jennifer - daughter
  • Crispin - grandson
  • Cary - granddaughter
  • Clifford Mollison
  • Wendy Hiller
  • Roland Culver
  • Irene Worth
  • Nicol Williamson
  • Jean Simmons
  • John Gielgud
  • Robert Flemyng
  • George Layton
  • Helen Shapiro
  • Elizabeth Seal
  • Michael Jayston
  • Maria Aitken
  • Jenny Quayle
  • Ian Collier
  • Lesley Gregson
  • William Franklyn
  • Richard Briers
  • Paul Eddington
  • Carmen du Sautoy
  • John Turner
  • Leslie Phillips
  • Andrew Sachs
  • Sylvia Syms
  • Derek Bond
  • Ian Ogilvy
  • Sheila Gish
  • Charles West
  • Catherine Marte
  • Cheryl Kennedy
  • company members from King and I
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Douglas Fairbanks Jr
  • Vincent Price
  • Coral Browne

production team...

  • Researchers: Brian Klein, Katie Lander
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Paul Stewart Laing, Terry Yarwood
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...
Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life

Screenshots of Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Cathleen Nesbitt, ninety-two years young, is the oldest – so far – subject to be surprised by the Life, and it happened on 1 May 1980 outside the New London Theatre, not far from where she made her first West End appearance seventy years before. [ editor: actually, the oldest subject is cricketer, Joe Filliston, surprised in April 1962 at the age of 100! And Cathleen was surprised outside the Adelphi Theatre!]

Among her favourite roles was the one she created in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady in 1955, and was about to play again in America, that of Professor Higgin's mother.

The surprise greeting that day was from the stars and cast of the London revival of the show, with Tony Britton and Liz Robertson.

Alan Jay Lerner, the lyricist who turned Shaw's Pygmalion into one of the world's biggest musical successes, told us how the late producer Moss Hart had to talk Cathleen into playing the part of Mrs Higgins.

Another former Mrs Higgins was also there – Dame Anna Neagle.

Professor Higgins himself, Rex Harrison, filmed a tribute, and there was an amazing West End turn-out: Clifford Mollison, Dame Wendy Hiller, Roland Culver, Irene Worth, Robert Flemyng, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Nicol Williamson, Vincent Price and Coral Browne, Jean Simmons and Sir John Gielgud.

It wasn't quite the curtain call. We were holding the 'curtain up' all over the West End for a unique salute from virtually every show then playing theatreland: we had George Layton and Helen Shapiro, Elizabeth Seal, Michael Jayston, Maria Aitken, Jenny Quayle, Ian Collier, Lesley Gregson, William Franklyn and two actors who had just captured television awards for The Good Life, Richard Briers and Paul Eddington.

From the RSC's production of Once in a Lifetime came Carmen du Sautoy; from Evita, John Turner; from Not Now Darling, Leslie Phillips, Andrew Sachs, Sylvia Syms and Derek Bond; from Stage Struck, Ian Ogilvy and Sheila Gish; and from Annie, Charles Weste and Catherine Marte. Cheryl Kennedy, soon to play Eliza in the US revival of My Fair Lady, sent greetings, and finally, to the oldest from the youngest, came a tribute from the 'Siamese children' from The King and I.

Quite a curtain call for the actress who had been seventy years a leading lady.

Cathleen Nesbitt This Is Your Life

And a further reference from the same book...

One of the most bizarre contributions to the Life was Rex Harrison's for Cathleen Nesbitt.

Rex and Eamonn had met before and not got on. To get Rex to contribute anything to the Life - and what a subject he would have made - was nigh impossible.

What was also nigh impossible was for him not to acknowledge the Life Eamonn was presenting on Miss Nesbitt. Harrison's agents said he was flying back to America the morning of our programme.

We persisted, and eventually he agreed to record - sound only – from the Rolls-Royce taking him to the airport.

Then we had a suggestion: would he object to our camera filming him recording the message from another car alongside?

That was the explanation for that strange contribution, looking at a man in the back seat of a car travelling at speed down a motorway, talking into a tape-recorder. Rex might have thought it a wheeze to cock a snook at Eamonn, and that we would never use it.

But we did. Who could resist?

Series 20 subjects

Pat Seed | Fred Trueman | Noel Barber | Charles Aznavour | Eric Sykes | Andrew Sachs | Gerald Harper | Terry Griffiths
Paddie O'Neil | George Martin | Geoff Capes | Roy Kinnear | Nyree Dawn Porter | Emlyn Hughes | Stewart Granger
Clare Francis | Jilly Cooper | Robin Cousins | Brian Bevan | Bill Beaumont | Mike Tetley
Alan Minter | Nat Jackley | Cathleen Nesbitt | Michael Aspel | Clive Lloyd