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article imageFriday 13th was not unlucky for Jessie Matthews

By Alexander Baron     Feb 13, 2013 in Entertainment
Toronto - Whatever the reason for the superstition about Friday 13th, the date is not unlucky for everyone, and was certainly just the opposite for Jessie Matthews.
If the thirteenth of the month is regarded by the superstitious as unlucky, then Friday 13th is doubly so. February 13th this year is a Wednesday, but Friday, February 13, 1925 was unlucky for the actress Gertrude Lawrence, because while starring in a revue at Toronto, she came down with pneumonia. Lawrence was playing opposite Noël Coward, who after an indifferent career as a child actor and an unsuccessful stab as a lyricist had shot to fame on both sides of the Atlantic with his play The Vortex the previous year.
Lawrence had been ill for some time, but in Toronto she was hospitalised, and replaced by her understudy, Jessie Matthews. Up until then she had performed one song in the show, the Coward composition Parisienne Pierrot, now a month short of her 18th birthday she was a leading lady.
Although she became a big star and was popular all through the 1930s, she never made the transition to Hollywood. It remains to be seen if as claimed by Dirk Borgarde in a 1987 documentary she was a far greater dancer than Ginger Rogers, but after the Second World War she did go on to slightly heavier work, although as Bogarde pointed out, she will probably be best remembered for appearing in the radio soap Mrs Dale's Diary.
The music and entertainment business is notorious for adultery and substance abuse; Matthews appears to have avoided the latter, but she was married three times, and in 1930 she was said by a High Court Judge in a divorce case to be "quite of an odious mind", a statement that says more about the morality of the day than it does about her.
Her last film was a 1978 remake of The Hound Of The Baskervilles, which with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson was evidently not to be taken too seriously. She made a few TV appearances after that until her death in August 1981 at the age of 74.
In May 1995, a commemorative plaque was unveiled by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ruthie Henshall on the building where as a child she took dancing lessons.
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