On this day in history : 14th April 1999 – The death of English singer, songwriter, actor and icon of the 1960s, Anthony Newley….

Anthony Newley – Fair use

Newley was born Anthony George Newley in Hackney, London on the 24th of September 1931, to parents Frances Grace Newley and George Kirby…. His parents never married and went their separate ways when Newley was still very young – he was to be brought up by his aunt and uncle….

He left school at the age of 14 and started working for an advertising agency in Fleet Street…. However, he had always been tempted by an career in acting – and when he saw an advertisement for ‘boy actors’ in the Daily Telegraph he decided to apply…. Only things weren’t quite so straight forward….. The ad was for available places at the Italia Conti Stage School – and it was obvious that Newley could not afford the high fees the school demanded…. But it must have been his lucky day! He was allowed to audition anyway – and was offered a job as an office boy, his wage being 30 shillings a week and lessons at the school….

Newley came to the attention of producer Geoffrey de Barkus, which landed him the role of ‘Dusty’ in the children’s film series ‘The Adventures of Dusty Bates’ in 1947…. The following year he was cast as ‘Dick Bultitude’ in Peter Ustinov’s ‘Vice Versa’ and then in 1948 as the ‘Artful Dodger’ in ‘Oliver Twist’….

Anthony Newley and Petula Clark in ‘Vice Versa’ – Fair use

After completing his National Service Newley resumed his acting career…. He married his first wife, Ann Lynn, in 1956 and they had one son, Simon – who sadly died in infancy…. It was always a turbulent marriage and ended in divorce in 1963….

Newley’s singing career was launched with his appearance in the 1959 film ‘Idol on Parade’ – about a rock singer called up for National Service (and inspired by the true story of Elvis Presley)…. From the film came Newley’s hit song ‘I’ve Waited So Long’ – which reached No.3 in the charts…. A string of a dozen or so top 40 hits were to follow between 1959 and 1962, including two No.1s – ‘Why?’ And ‘Do You Mind?’ – both written by Lionel Bart….

Poster of film ‘Idol on Parade’, 1959 – Fair use

1961 saw the beginning of Newley’s collaboration with Leslie Bricusse – when they started work on the hit stage show ‘Stop the World: I Want to Get Off’… After a successful run in London and on Broadway it was later made into a film….and included the song ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I?’ – for which Newley won the 1963 Grammy Award for Song of the Year….

Newley married Joan Collins in 1963 and the couple had two children, a daughter, Tara and a son, Sacha…. The marriage ended in 1970….

Newley was to become a prolific songwriter, showing great versatility…. From comical songs, such as ‘The Oompa Loompa Song’ to hard hitting ballads…. He was a great influence to many – including a young David Bowie, who was a big fan….

He wrote the theme song for the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’, – which was performed by Shirley Bassey…. He also wrote the hit song for Nina Simone ‘Feeling Good’…. He continued to collaborate with Bricusse on song writing projects and on the productions ‘The Roar of the Greasepaint – the Smell of the Crowd’ in 1965 and ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ in 1971….

Poster for ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ – Fair use

He was to marry his third wife, Dareth Rich, in 1971 and became father to another daughter, Shelby and a son, Christopher…. Only this marriage was once more to end in divorce in 1989….

Newley’s last main acting role was in 1998, as Vince Watson in the soap ‘Eastenders’…. It had meant to be a main, long lasting character role in the series but by now Newley’s health was failing and he had to pull out…. He had first been diagnosed with cancer in 1985 and in 1997 it returned, spreading to his liver and lungs…. He died of renal cancer at the age of 67 in Florida, on the 14th of April 1999…. At the time of his death he had been working on a musical production of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’

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