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Arthur Wimperis


WIMPERIS, Arthur (b London, 3 December 1874; d Maidenhead, 14 October 1953). Lyricist and librettist for a quarter of a century of London shows.

Wimperis began his working life as a black-and-white artist, and it was not until after the Boer War, in which he served with Paget's, Horse (1899-1902), that he began a writing career. He made his theatrical mark at first as a lyricist, contributing to Robert Courtneidge's production of The Dairymaids and to the Seymour Hicks and Ellaline Terriss musical The Gay Gordons, before he found major success with his songwords for a second Courtneidge show, The Arcadians ('The Pipes of Pan', I've Got a Mot-ter', 'Arcady is Always Young', 'Half Past Two' etc). He next supplied some replacement lyrics to a rewrite of the in-trouble The Mountaineers at the Savoy Theatre (1909) but, with the coming of the Viennese musical, he found a new area of activity. He adapted a number of such pieces to the English stage, winning a major success with The Girl in the Taxi (Die keusche Susanne) and a second good run with the Hungarian musical Princess Charming (Alexandra), and he also adapted Julius Wilhelm and Paul Frank's German original as the libretto for the lavish American musical Louie the Fourteenth.

Several attempts at an original musical libretto, with the clever, Faustian My Lady Frayle (130 performances), the pretty Pamela (172 performances) and a vehicle for Binnie Hale as a tea-shop Nippy (137 performances), did well enough without establishing themselves as genuine hits.

Wimperis provided musical burlesques and lyrics for The Follies pierrot show during its period in London, scored two of his most memorable song hits with 'Gilbert the Filbert' and 'I'11 Make a Man of You' in The Passing Show (1914) and contributed scenarios, scenes and song-words to a large number of other revues including By jingo If We Do ..., Bric a Brac, Irving Berlin's Follow the Crowd, Vanity Fair, the French As You Were, Buzz Buzz, just Fancy, London, Paris and New York, The Curate's Egg and Still Dancing. He also put out a number of plays, most of which were adaptations from French or German originals.

In 1932 Wimperis both made his last contribution to the musical stage with a disastrous version of a piece by Girl in the Taxi composer, Jean Gilbert (Lovely Lady, 3 performances) and had his first great success in the film world with the screenplay for The Private Life of Henry VIII. There-after, filmland became his chief occupation and his subsequent screen credits included Sanders of the River (1935), The Four Feathers (1939), the wartime Mrs Miniver (Academy Award) and Random Harvest.

1906 The Dairymaids (Paul Rubens, Frank E Tours/w Rubens/Alexander Thompson, Robert Courtneidge) Apollo Theatre 14 April

1907 The Gay Gordons (Guy Jones/w others/Seymour Hicks) Aldwych Theatre 11 September

1909 The Arcadians (Lionel Monckton, Howard Talbot/Mark Ambient, Alexander M Thompson) Shaftesbury Theatre

1910 The Balkan Princess (Rubens/w Rubens/Frederick Lonsdale, Frank Curzon) Prince of Wales Theatre 19 February

1910 Our Little Cinderella (Herman Löhr) Playhouse December

1911 The Mousmé (Talbot, Monckton/w Percy Greenbank/Thompson, Courtneidge) Shaftesbury 9 September

1912 The Sunshine Girl (Rubens/w Rubens/Rubens, Cecil Raleigh) Gaiety 24 February

1912 The Girl in the Taxi (Die keusche Susanne) English version w Frederick Fenn (Lyric Theatre)

1913 Love and Laughter (Oscar Straus) English version w Fenn (Lyric Theatre)

1913 The Laughing Husband aka The Girl Who Didn't (Derlachende Ehemann) English version (New Theatre)

1914 Mam'selle Tralala aka Oh! Be Careful (Frkulein Tralala) English version w Hartley Carrick (Lyric Theatre)

1914 The Slush Girl (Herman Finck) 1 act Palace Theatre 14 September

1916 My Lady Frayle (ex-Vivien) (Talbot, Finck/w Max Pemberton) Shaftesbury Theatre 1 March

1917 Pamela (Frederic Norton) Palace Theatre 10 December

1920 The Shop Girlrevised version (Gaiety Theatre)

1925 Louie the Fourteenth (Sigmund Romberg/Julius Wilhelm, Paul Frank ad) Cosmopolitan Theater, New York 2 March

1926 Princess Charming (Alexandra) English version w Lauri Wylie (Palace Theatre)

1928 Song of the Sea (Lady Hamilton) English version w Wylie (His Majesty's Theatre)

1930 Nippy (Billy Mayerl/w Frank Eyton/w Austin Melford) Prince Edward Theatre 30 October

1932 Lovely Lady (?Die grosse Siinderin) English version Phoenix Theatre 25 February


Adapted from The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre by Kurt Gänzl.

Page created 10 October 2004