Dora BRYAN (1923-2014)

Dora Bryan This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 752
  • Subject No: second timer
  • Broadcast date: Wed 25 Jan 1989
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Tue 17 Jan 1989
  • Venue: Opera House, Manchester
  • Series: 29
  • Edition: 15
  • Code name: Honey

on the guest list...

  • company members of Hello, Dolly!
  • Bill Lawton - husband
  • Daniel - son
  • Georgina - daughter
  • William - son
  • Katie - daughter-in-law
  • Sheila Hall
  • Eileen McNeil
  • Tom Parkinson
  • Larry Grayson
  • Liz Smith
  • Robert Stephens
  • Rita Tushingham
  • John Broadbent - brother
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Cyd Charisse
  • Nicholas Parsons
  • Eartha Kitt

production team...

  • Researcher: Sue Green
  • Writer: Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Brian Klein, David Clark
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
  • with thanks to Marcus Bagshaw of the Grange Art Gallery and Museum, Rottingdean, for his contribution to this page
related pages...

Dora Bryan

first tribute

An Actor's Life For Me

spotlight on the stars

Life Second Time Around

surprised again!

The Night of 1000 Lives

a celebration of a thousand editions

Larry Grayson

Nicholas Parsons

Rita Tushingham


Daniel Lawton, son of Dora Bryan, recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in an exclusive interview recorded in October 2013

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Photographs and screenshots of Dora Bryan This Is Your Life - and a photograph of Dora Bryan's big red book

Dora Bryan's autobiography

Dora Bryan recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in her autobiography, According to Dora...

After a happy and successful tour of Charlie Girl... it was suggested I should revive Hello, Dolly! at the Playhouse Theatre in Nottingham. It was to be directed by Paul Kerryson, a new young director. Then we would do a national tour.

It was a wonderful production. In fact, I felt in lots of ways it was better than the London production. Unfortunately, on our opening night in Manchester my troublesome cough turned into bronchitis. Against doctor's orders, I struggled on for twelve weeks. But the doctor was severe with me after seeing some X-rays and said I would have to take two weeks off.

I was duly bundled up in blankets and Bill drove me home to Brighton, to my bedroom overlooking the sea. I rested there for two weeks, and then the doctor pronounced me fit enough to return to Manchester and carry on with the show. I can't say I felt fit enough, though, but the doctor said he thought I would be fine if I took it easy.

Little did I know that the doctor was being pushed by the This Is Your Life company to get me back to the show. It was all planned to do a second This Is Your Life on me. On my first night back I wondered what the TV vans outside stage door were all about, but was told they were doing a documentary on Northern theatres and they hoped I didn't mind the cameras backstage and in the auditorium. I never suspected a thing. After two weeks in bed I was only concerned about getting through the performance. It was a packed theatre and a wonderful audience, so when I took my call at the finale the applause was wonderful. Then I saw Michael Aspel walk on stage. More applause: the audience knew what was happening, but I had no idea.

My first though was, 'How dare he: he'll spoil our curtain call!' I never noticed the red book. I just said, 'Michael, do get off the stage, please.' Then came the famous line: 'Dora, this is your life.'

I answered, 'No, no, Michael, I've been done before,' as I had, exactly twenty-seven years previously. I was exhausted by the time the show was recorded – so much for the doctor's advice to take it easy!

The audience stayed on and there was a party afterwards, so it was 2.00 am before I could leave. My brother had been flown over from South Africa again but, as I had seen him and my sister-in-law a few months previously, it was not the enormous surprise it had been the first time round. In fact, the whole programme didn't hold the same excitement the second time.

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...

Dora Bryan was starring as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! when Michael Aspel walked onstage at the Opera House, Manchester. He presented the Life there and then, on 17 January 1989.

The audience was delighted, because 'Our Dora', born just a few miles up the road in Oldham, has been a firm favourite since she started her career at Oldham Rep. When she was assistant stage manager there, she didn't care for the heavy 'mood music' in the interval of a production of Ibsen's Ghosts - so she changed it for a swing recording of 'In The Mood'.

With her and Paul Nicholas in Charlie Girl was, of course, Hollywood's Cyd 'the legs' Charisse, who spoke to Dora from Beverly Hills.

From her dressing room in Follies at London's Shaftesbury Theatre we heard from Eartha Kitt. Larry Grayson arrived in Manchester, and so did Robert Stephens, who played Dora's shady boyfriend in the 1961 film A Taste of Honey.

Thirty-two years on we flew in from Canada the actress who had been Dora's daughter in that film, Rita Tushingham, to say 'Hello, Dora!'

Series 29 subjects

Mickey Rooney | Phil Collins | Paul Daniels | Tom Finney | Esther Rantzen | Richard Todd | Engelbert Humperdinck
Barry McGuigan | Robert Maxwell | Harry Corbett | Cliff Morgan | Roy Hudd | Claire Rayner | Cyril Bertram Mills
Dora Bryan | Margaret Hayles | Denis Healey | Gillian Lynne | Nigel Mansell | Su Pollard