In the years before her death, Chili Bouchier billed herself as the last surviving star of British silent cinema. The claim is dubious since there were other survivors at the time, but in her day she certainly had more glamour and sex appeal than any of her contemporaries.
Despite her exotic image, Dorothy Boucher was born and raised in London. Though she was hooked on the movies at an early age, her first job was at Harrods in the packing department. Her workmates here gave her the nickname Chili. She was a finalist in a Daily Mirror beauty contest thanks to a picture her mother sent in. This helped her move into modelling and then into acting.
Her striking looks soon set her apart from her contemporaries and she worked steadily. She met her first husband Harry Milton on the set of Chick and was instantly smitten. They married in 1929. Regular stage work meant she made the transition to sound with ease.
When it was announced that Herbert Wilcox was remaking Carnival, Chili went for the lead since the original had made a big impression on her ten years earlier. She got the role and a long-term contract with Wilcox' British and Dominion studio. Wilcox changed her name back to Dorothy and changed her image from a Clara Bow flapper to a sleeker, more mysterious look.
Carnival was a success. She made a handful of films at British and Dominion but her relationship with Wilcox cooled when she made it clear she wouldn't sleep with him. He transferred his affections to his new discovery Anna Neagle and Chili asked for her contract to be terminated.
At around the same time as her career was being usurped by Neagle, her husband was being taken over by Jessie Matthews. Chili was soon being comforted by band leader Teddy Joyce. She continued her career in quota-quickies and was soon whisked off to Hollywood by Warner Brothers. This interlude proved even more disastrous than for most English actresses. After weeks of hanging around doing nothing, an attempted rape sent her fleeing back home.
By now her film career was in terminal decline. Teddy Joyce died after a sudden illness and Chili was made bankrupt. She toured with ENSA during the war and had another short-lived marriage with young actor Peter de Greef.
Following her second divorce, she formed a longer-lasting relationship with assistant director Bluey Hill. She kept busy in the theatre and spent two years in The Mousetrap. She also appeared in revivals of Follies, A Little Night Music and Jimmy Stewart's revival of Harvey.
After twenty-three years of living with Bluey she finally married him which got her some publicity. By now she was becoming an institution and was kept particularly busy during the celebrations for the centenary of cinema. She died a few weeks short of her ninetieth birthday.
Though she never had a decent part in a classic film, her reputation stands high with film buffs. She's one of the best examples of the sort of glamorous, sexy actress British cinema finds hard to cope with.
|1927||A Woman in Pawn|
|1928||Palais De Danse|
|1928||You Know What Sailors Are|
|1928||The Silver King|
|1929||The City of Play|
|1930||The Call of the Sea|
|1930||Enter the Queen|
|1930||Kissing Cup's Race|
|1931||The Blue Danube|
|1932||The King's Cup|
|1934||It's a Cop|
|1934||To Be a Lady|
|1934||The Office Wife|
|1935||Death Drives Through|
|1935||The Mad Hatter|
|1935||Get off My Foot|
|1935||Mr Cohen Takes a Walk|
|1935||The Ghost Goes West|
|1936||Change for a Sovereign|
|1937||The Minstrel Boy|
|1937||The Dark Stairway|
|1938||The Return of Carol Deane|
|1938||Everything Happens to Me|
|1938||The Singing Cop|
|1939||The Mind of Mr Reeder|
|1941||My Wife's Family|
|1941||Facing the Music|
|1945||Murder in Reverse?|
|1946||The Laughing Lady|
|1949||The Case of Charles Peace|
|1949||Old Mother Riley's New Venture|
|1957||The Counterfeit Plan|
|1959||The Boy on the Bridge|
Chili Bouchier at Amazon UK
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