Husband and wife Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth were one of the most popular singing acts of the 1940’s. With her often appearing in Norman Hartnell gowns and he resplendent in evening dress they brought a touch of glamour to a war weary country with such signature songs as Only A Rose.
She was born Irené Frances Eastwood, the daughter of Ernest and Eliza Frances, on 22nd June 1910. Her father was a reasonably affluent cotton broker and at the time of her birth the family lived at 13 Marmion Road L17. Her maternal grandfather was James Francis Doyle (1840-1913), an architect responsible for many churches on Merseyside and the imposing Grand Hotel at Llandudno. The family had moved to 111 Hartington Road L8, their next door neighbours were the Guyler family, with their son Deryck also to make his name in showbusiness. Round about 1928 they moved to 103 Queens Drive L18, Irené living there until her marriage in 1938.
After being tutored at home she entered Belvedere School when 9 years old, recollecting in her autobiography her passionate hatred for the establishment. Her first passionate ambition was to be a ballet dancer but foot pains when she 13 was led to medical advice that she dance no more. She threw her energies into music and when she was 16 the Belvedere headmistress advised her father that she might as well leave school and concentrate upon her musical ambitions.
She was tutored at home in singing and piano and was a prize-winner at the Liverpool Music Festival which led to a performance at the old Philharmonic Hall. Shortly afterwards she received her first professional fee, 3 guineas, for performing the role of Lola in Cavelleria Rusticana in Warrington.
She joined the Liverpool Repertory Opera Company when she was 19 and received her first really professional training as a singer from its director, John Tobin. A fellow member of the company’s ladies choir, and a personal friend, was Nancy Evans who would go on to great success as an opera singer. In 1934 she had the opportunity to appear at the David Lewis Theatre in the premiere of the chamber opera, The Wandering Scholar. She received a letter of congratulations on her performance from no lesser personage than the composer of the work, Gustav Holst, written from a nursing home shortly before his death.
She recalled her early years as a period of happy affluence with “holidays abroad and comparative luxury at home”. However, in the early 1930’s that affluence was shattered by the slump in Lancashire cotton in which her father, Ernest, had invested considerably and “one morning he found that he was ruined”. Determined not to be a financial burden on her family she resolved to seek work in the theatre in London and set off on the night train from Liverpool, along with her friend Nancy Evans. She had an introduction to an agent and was successful in gaining a part in a play at the New Theatre. It was at this point that she dipped into the Liverpool phone directory and came up with her stage name, Anne Ziegler.
For two years she would supplement her income by singing in restaurants and in 1937 she secured a part in a film, Faust, the first colour film to be produced in Britain. The film clashed with a contract to appear in a pantomime and would actually bring her less money. Nonetheless she opted for the film and it was career changing decision in more ways than one. Playing the part of Faust was the singer Webster Booth and during the making of the film the two fell in love. They married the following year after his divorce.
Her return to the theatre after Faust was back in Liverpool, performing alongside George Formby in Mother Goose. Soon after a somewhat more glamorous assignment came her way when she sailed off to New York to appear on Broadway.
She made her first recordings with Webster Booth in 1939 for HMV and the couple enjoyed a decade of stardom. By the 1950’s tastes had moved on and their popularity declined. In 1956 they emigrated to South Africa. Returning to the UK in 1976 they settled at Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno and remained there for the rest of their lives. Webster Booth died in 1984 and Anne Ziegler on 13th October 2003.
The Eastwood family lived here from about 1919 to 1928.
Irené - Anne Ziegler lived here from 1928 until her marriage to Webster Booth in 1938.
There is a combined biography of Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Wikipedia entry is very limited. Booth and Ziegler published a combined autobiography in 1952 entitled Duet [Stanley Paul &Co Ltd.] which is an entertaining account of their careers and life together. They can be viewed singing So Deep Is The Night on YouTube. Other sources are the obituary in The Guardian and a website dedicated to the duo Webster Booth - Anne Ziegler
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