Star Archive


Anthony Newley (1931 - 1999)

There was a time when it seemed Anthony Newley could do anything and conquer any arena. Actor, singer, composer, writer in film, TV, radio, West End stage, Broadway or Las Vegas. No wonder we got sick of the bloody sight of him.

He was born in Hackney and brought up by his aunt and uncle. He left school at 14 to work as an office boy but then worked at the Italia Conti Stage School in exchange for tuition. His big break came early with the plum role of The Artful Dodger in Lean's Oliver Twist. From there he never really looked back. 

The 50s were spent in a steady succession of minor roles in films, though he was building a reputation for himself in review, and even took one (Cranks) to Broadway for a brief spell. By the end of the decade he was having regular hits in the top 40, mainly composed with his writing partner Leslie Bricusse. Together they would compose such songs as Goldfinger, Who Can I Turn To? The Joker, The Candy Man, Feeling Good and many others. Their musical Stop the World - I Want to Get Off was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and made Newley a star in the US.

At this point Newley could do no wrong but there were warning signs that his winning streak couldn't last. His much-hyped TV series The Strange World of Gurney Slade was quickly pushed into an off-primetime slot when its brand of absurdist comedy left audiences baffled. The musical The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd failed to leave the UK provinces when it starred Norman Wisdom, though when Newley took it to Broadway starring himself, he scored another hit.  

By now it was clear that America loved him more than the UK. The expensive flop that was Dr Doolittle damaged his career a little, but it was his autobiographical, written by, directed by, and starring Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? which really sealed his reputation as an ego out of control. It was a Felliniesque portrait of himself and his marriage to Joan Collins and was slated as a self-indulgent mess.

With his film career effectively over he spent the 80s guest-starring in US TV shows and the 90s in British ones. There were still stage roles and cabaret, but the heat had gone out his career. His last role was in Eastenders though ill health curtailed his run and he died from renal cancer.

 Now that he's gone and a new generation has a chance to discover his work, there is a bit of a Newley revival happening. Gurney Slade has resurfaced, and The Small World of Sammy Lee has be restored and appreciated. Even Heironymous Merkin seems set for a revival.    

Anthony Newley in Cockleshell Heroes 

Filmography 

1944 Henry V
1947 Dusty Bates
1947 The Little Ballerina
1948 Vice Versa
1948 Oliver Twist
1948 The Guinea Pig
1949 Vote For Huggett
1949 A Boy, a Girl and a Bike
1949 Don't Ever Leave Me
1950 Madeleine
1950 Highly Dangerous
1953 Top of the Form
1953 Those People Next Door
1954 Up to His Neck
1955 Above Us the Waves
1955 The Cockleshell Heroes
1955 The Blue Peter
1956 Port Afrique
1956 The Last Man to Hang
1956 The Battle of the River Plate
1956 X the Unknown
1957 The Good Companions
1957 Fire Down Below
1957 How to Murder a Rich Uncle
1957 High Flight
1958 Tank Force!
1958 The Man Inside
1959 The Lady is a Square
1959 Idol on Parade
1959 The Bandit of Zhobe
1959 The Heart of a Man
1959 Killers of Kilimanjaro
1960 Jazz Boat
1960 Let's Get Married
1960 In the Nick
1963 The Small World of Sammy Lee
1967 Doctor Dolittle
1968 Sweet November
1969 Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?
1975 It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
1975 Mister Quilp
1987 The Garbage Pail Kids Movie

Anthony Newley at Amazon UK  

Anthony Newley at Amazon US