Barbara Lyon, actress: born Hollywood 9 September 1931; married 1956 Russell Turner, 1968 Colin Birkett (one son); died London 10 July 1995. Beautiful Barbara Lyon, curvaceous and charming, was for millions of British listeners radio’s perfect teenager, the love-lorn daughter of showbiz’s unique happy family – unique because they were the only radio family that was a real one. Barbara was 19 when Life with the Lyons first took to the air on 5 November 1950, and was touching 30 when the series finished in 1961. The opening lines stayed the same for all the 300-odd episodes: “I’m Richard Lyon! I’m Barbara Lyon! I’m Ben Lyon! And I’m Bebe Daniels Lyon!” Bebe and Ben were the rock-solid stars upon whom the series was built. Bebe had graduated from supporting Harold Lloyd in his short comedies to co- starring with Rudolph Valentino in Monsieur Beaucaire (1924). Ben, born the same year as Bebe, was also a silent movie star, co-starring with Colleen Moore in Painted People (1923). They married in 1930, and both made the hard grade into talkies, Bebe with Rio Rita (1929), in which she revealed to the public her attractive singing voice, and Ben in the notorious Hell’s Angels (1930), which introduced the sexy Jean Harlow (“Pardon me while I slip into something more comfortable”).Their daughter Barbara was born in 1931, and came to Europe with her parents when they made their British film debuts in 1933. They returned in 1935, making more films, a variety tour, and their first wireless series, for Radio Luxembourg, The Rinso Radio Revue. With the onset of the Second World War, while many British actors and film makers were hastening themselves to Hollywood, Ben and Bebe did the opposite. They decided to settle in London for good. With Radio Luxembourg closed down, they took their successful comedy format to the BBC. This became Hi Gang! and, from 26 May 1940, Bebe, Ben and the comedian Vic Oliver were on the air every week, introduced by Ben’s famous line, “Welcome to your own Hi Gang! show coming to you from the heart of London!” This fast-talking 45 minutes was packed with gags, dance-band hits, and surprise guest stars, and ran for an uninterrupted 52 weeks. When Ben enlisted into the United States Air Force, Bebe launched her own show for the hospitalised and war-wounded, Here’s Wishing You Well Again (1943). It was in this series that Bebe became known as “Auntie Bebe”, a term that eventually became applied to the BBC itself – “Auntie Beeb.” After a second series of Hi Gang! in 1949, less successful in its new half-hour format, Ben and Bebe took a new idea to the BBC. Situation comedies, a success in US radio, had yet to be tried in Britain. But Life with the Lyons, starring a real family in half-hour comedy playlets, was so new in concept that it could hardly be resisted. Bebe supervised the scripts, which were credited to the writing team of Bob Block and Bill Harding, and the family cast included Barbara, their daughter, plus Richard, the young boy Ben and Bebe had adopted, and who had already appeared as an actor in several Hollywood films. The new series was so successful it became a stage play and two cinema films, Life with the Lyons (1954) and The Lyons in Paris (1955). The competent Val Guest scripted and directed these fun-packed family comedies, produced by Hammer Films. The series moved to BBC Television in 1955, with a second run the following year, but proved too fast-moving for live studio production. It moved to the new Independent Television in 1957, the first series ever to cross the channels. It was a great success. Barbara, realising she was too old to play the eternal teenager, now determined to break out on her own as a singer. Naturally shy, she tried her voice out in a Blackpool summer show, then in April 1955 plucked up her courage to apply for a test at the Columbia Record Company. She sang “It Might As Well Be Spring”, which she felt in her heart had been a failure. Within the week, Columbia called her back, offering her a year’s contract. Thrilled, Barbara cut her first pop disc. It was called “Stowaway”, and within a few days of its release, Jane Payne, the bandleader turned disc jockey, invited her on to his television series, Off the Record. Her personal performance made it a hit, and on 24 June it was listed 12th in the week’s Top Twenty. Barbara was rewarded with her own television series, Dream Time With Barbara, and in 1956 she married her producer, Russell Turner. Although much fuss was made in the popular press, the marriage failed. She married again in 1968, to Colin Burkitt, an accountant, and they had a son, but another divorce followed. When Bebe died in 1971, Ben remarried; he died in 1979. Richard made a new career out of photography, but Barbara seldom saw him. Alone, unwell, and impoverished, she disappeared from public view into a home for forgotten entertainers, where she died at the age of 63. It is ironic to remember that her catchphrase, spoken week after week on Life with the Lyons, was: “I’ll die – I’ll just die!”
Posts Tagged With: Bebe Daniels
Agnes Ayres does not like to have anybody sing in her dressing room. But her chief faith in luck is bound up in a wonderful Columbia Clock which has been in her family for years. It is a marvelous mechanism, being made entirely of wood and although of a great age is still running. Miss Ayres firmly believes that her success depends upon the possession of this clock, and so carefully, does she guard the treasure she will not even allow it to be photographed. Her movie colleague, Rudolph Valentino has declared to friends he has no superstitions. But one might wonder why he waited until 14 March to be married to the delightful Natacha Rambova when he could of done so on the 13th as well. Perhaps the fascinating Mrs. Valentino objects to the fatal number. Who knows might be because his first wedding ceremony took place on 13 May. Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. has no faith in crystals or superstitions. Gloria Swanson loves black cats and so tender was her care of the original two pets of the Lasky Studio they sent for all their friends, in-laws, and descendants until 327 cats now live on the lot. This is lucky for the butcher and the cats. Theodore Kostloff treasures a pre-war ten rouble gold piece, now worth $2 million in paper money. Bebe Daniels grandmother has a wonderful collection of dolls and few people know this is a direct result of Bebes belief that good luck follows the purchase of a new doll. Lila Lee is very superstitious about the beginning day of a new film. If she leaves her home in the morning, forgetting something important, she will not turn back herself, but send a messenger after she reaches the studio.
Full of color and romance is “Monsieur Beaucaire” which will be screened at Wests on Saturday, with Rudolph Valentino and Bebe Daniels in the leading roles. It is an elaborate screen version of the popular play, which has been adhered to with remarkable fidelity. There is plenty of suspense in the picture, and an exciting combat between Valentino and six opponents. The Court of Louis, XV, forms a brilliant background for the action, and abounds in colorful scenes, depicting the mad, merry life in that famous court. Ordered to marry the Princess Bourboun-Conti, the Duc de Chartres, played by the star reuses. His efforts to resist the Kings guards provide some of the most thrilling moments that have graced the screen. Hugh sets were constructed for the picture, and the costuming and mounting throughout are on a lavish scale.
Fans and Exhibitors Agree that Gloria Swanson, Thomas Meighan and Rudolph Valentino are the biggest drawing cards in the industry and lead the “Regular Program Stars” in popularity. A “program star” is one who produces pictures at intervals of three or four months. The public in liking Thomas Meighan and Rudolph Valentino in the same breath, show two distinctly different sides. Thomas Meighan represents the red-blooded, two-fisted he man sort of person. The men like him because he lacks any sign of being effeminate or foppish. And the women like him because – oh, well, he’s just the kind of big, strong man women like. Valentino on the other hand, represents the great lover, the perfect escort. He dresses faultlessly, he dances divinely and makes love to perfection. He is the sort of man dreamt about by women with five children and a husband with the manners of a stevedore. He represents perfection of culture and refinement and it’s no wonder that women with a round of household duties think he’s simply grand. And flappers too, get their idea of the perfect man from the hair oil advertisements. The men don’t like Valentino so much. That is, they don’t “just adore” him. But they have to admit he’s a good actor and is there when it comes to the haberdashery. Gloria Swanson is popular with women because she represents what most women would like to be; she is the embodiment of al seductive, irresistible womanhood. She wears magnificent clothes and plays the wicked vamp. And has not almost every woman a secret desire to be exactly this? When they see Gloria beautifully gowned, faultlessly groomed, making one attractive man after another fall victim to her charms, does not Fanny Fox from Farmingdale see herself in Gloria’s place, the fascinating woman of the world, greatly desired, greatly loved? And of course the men like Gloria. She is so beautiful and so fascinating and seems to possess all the characteristics that men are attracted to – not necessarily the characteristics they look for in a wife and housekeeper, but, you know, the things that make them forget about what a sordid business life is. It was a movie magazine that first took up seriously the problem of finding out what actors and actresses were the most successful form a box office point of view. So they asked exhibitors to rate the various stars according to their ability to draw crowds. This result was rather a shock to movie fans, and many of them wrote in expressing resentment that their particular favourite was not in the ranks. So the magazine invited the fans to send in their own ratings on a chart and curiously enough the ratings were practically the same in most cases. But there were many others that fans indignantly demanded to be put at the top of the list. Many fans considered Pola Negri, Bebe Daniels, and Nita Naldi all had many strong defenders. In some other cases, the fans ratings were found to be considerably lower than the exhibitors. As we thought the fans were the enthusiastic ones, while the exhibitors were the cold, calculating ones that judge only from box office receipts. But it seems that there is a decided difference in the point of view, which makes the exhibitors seem more lenient. No player was rated at zero by an exhibitor because he judged the drawing power knowing nothing of the ones who stayed away. The fan, on the other hand, dragged down averages by giving zero to the other players whose presence in a picture would keep them away. Blanche Sweet was the only one on the fans list who received no zeros. Out of the hundred ratings compiled Barbara La Marr receiving many rating of 95 percent, but she also received many zeros.