Pat Kirkwood, Star of British Musicals, Dies at 86

Obituaries   Pat Kirkwood, Star of British Musicals, Dies at 86
Pat Kirkwood, a British actress who starred in a string of West End musicals, died Dec. 25 in Ilkley in northern England, the AP reported. She was 86.

Ms. Kirkwood was a vivacious stage personality known for her energy, strong singing voice and long, shapely legs — which earned her the title of the British Betty Grable. Cole Porter and Noel Coward both wrote parts for her talents. And critic Kenneth Tynan called her "the eighth wonder of the world."

Still, the British public probably best knew her because of persistent rumors that she had had an affair with Prince Philip, the husband of soon-to-be Queen Elizabeth II. In 1948, she was going out with the Court and society photographer Baron, who, one night, brought his friend Prince Philip to Ms. Kirkwood's dressing room. She and the Prince were later seen dancing together for several hours at the Milroy nightclub. Some accounts have them also having breakfast the next morning. Princess Elizabeth was eight months pregnant at the time, and the events led to rampant media speculation that would continue for half a century. Ms. Kirkwood consistently denied the rumors.

At the age of 18, she appeared in Porter's Black Velvet, singing "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love." She was a star thereafter. In 1942 she introduced Porter's "Just One Of Those Things" to London audiences in Let's Face It.

Noel Coward wrote the West End musical Ace Of Clubs especially for her in 1950. In 1955, she played the lead role in the London production of Wonderful Town. Three years later, she was in the musical comedy, Chrysanthemum, one of her biggest hits. In the 1960s, she acted in a revival Noel Coward's Hay Fever and Maugham's The Constant Wife.

Her attempt at Hollywood stardom proved ill-fated. After 1946's "No Leave, No Love," co-starring Van Johnson, proved a flop, Ms. Kirkwood suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. She had better luck on television. In 1954 she became the first female star to have her own one-hour series on British TV, "The Pat Kirkwood Show." The same year, she was also successful at caberet, selling out a three-month engagement at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

In 1981 she staged her own one-woman show, "An Evening With Pat Kirkwood." She published am autobiography, "The Time of My Life," in 1999.

Kirkwood married four times — to showbusiness executive Jack Lister; Greek shipowner Spiro de Spero Gabriele; actor, playwright and composer Hubert Gregg; and retired lawyer Peter Knight.

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