Anthony Newley  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Anthony George Newley (24 September 1931 – 14 April 1999), was an English actor, singer and songwriter.



Anthony Newley was an actor, singer, and composer with an international following, equally adept and prodigious in all three fields. Moreover, he enjoyed success as a performer in such seemingly mutually exclusive fields as rock & roll and the legitimate stage.

Born to a single mother in the London working class neighbourhood of Hackney, Newley was evacuated during the Luftwaffe bombing of London during The Blitz and was thereby exposed to the performing arts when he was tutored during this time by George Pescud, a former British music hall entertainer. Though recognized as very bright by his teachers back in London, he was uninterested in school, and by the age of fourteen was working as an office boy when he read an ad for "boy actors." After an audition, he was offered a job including free tuition at the prestigious Italia Conti Stage School. He accepted and his career was launched. His first major film role was as Dick Bultitude in Peter Ustinov's Vice Versa (1948) followed by the Artful Dodger in David Lean's 1948 rendition of Oliver Twist, the classic Charles Dickens tome. He made a successful transition from child star to contract player in British movies of the 1950s (broken up by a short and disastrous stint in the military), to a top-of-the-pops crooner in the 1960s. During the 1950s he appeared in many British radio programmes and for a time was a regular cast member of Floggits starring Elsie & Doris Walters about a couple of cockney sisters that opened a rural village shop. Newley played Cyril. But it was probably the film Idol on Parade that changed his career direction the most. In the movie he played a rock singer called up for National Service.

He wrote many mega-ballads, many with Leslie Bricusse, that became signature hits for Sammy Davis Jr., Shirley Bassey, and Tony Bennett. During the sixties he also added his greatest accomplishments on the London West End theatre and Broadway theatre stage, in Hollywood films, and British and United States television. In the 1970s he remained active, particularly as a Las Vegas and Catskills Borscht belt resort performer and talk show guest, but his career had begun to flounder. He had taken risks that eventually led to his downfall in Hollywood. Throughout the 1980s and 90s he worked valiantly to achieve a comeback but always one obstacle or another hindered him. Finally it was his health, when cancer began to plague him in the 1980s and returned to claim his life at the age of 67, soon after he had become a grandfather.


Newley had a successful pop music career as a vocalist, with two number-one hits in 1960: "Why" (originally a 1959 U.S. hit for Frankie Avalon) and "Do You Mind?" (written by Lionel Bart). As a songwriter, he won the 1963 Grammy Award for Song of the Year for "What Kind of Fool Am I?", but he was also well-known for "Gonna Build a Mountain", "Once in a Lifetime", "On a Wonderful Day Like Today", "The Joker" and comic novelty songs such as "That Noise" and "The Oompa-Loompa Song", and his versions of "Strawberry Fair" and "Pop Goes the Weasel". He wrote songs that others made hits including "Goldfinger" (the title song of the James Bond film, Goldfinger, music by John Barry), and "Feeling Good", which became a hit for Nina Simone and the rock band Muse. With Leslie Bricusse, he wrote the musical Stop the World - I Want to Get Off in which he also performed, earning a nomination for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. The play was made into a (poorly-received) film version in 1971 (see[1]), but Newley was unable to star in it due to a schedule conflict. The other musicals for which he co-wrote music and lyrics with Bricusse included The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd (1965) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), based on the children's book by Roald Dahl.

Newley's many albums combine his talent as a vocal stylist with his abilities as a songwriter. The consensus of critics and fans rates "Pure Imagination", "Ain't It Funny", "Love Is a Now and Then Thing", and "In My Solitude" at the top of the list. Amongst the many compilations now available, the better ones are Anthony Newley: The Decca Years (1959-1964), Once in a Lifetime: The Anthony Newley Collection (1960-1971), and Anthony Newley's Greatest Hits (Deram). When he collaborated with Bricusse, they referred to themselves as the team of 'Brickman and Newburg', with Newburg concentrating mainly on the music and Brickman on the lyrics. Ian Frasier often did their arrangements and it has been suggested that his contributions were more extensive than has been acknowledged. For the songs from Hieronymous Merkin, Newley collaborated with Herbert Kretzmer.

Image:Fool Britannia.jpg
The comedy album, Fool Brittania, starring Anthony Newley, Joan Collins and Peter Sellers
In 1963 Newley even had a hit comedy album called Fool Britannia!, the result of improvisational satires of the British Profumo scandal of the time by a team of Newley, his then-wife Joan Collins, and Peter Sellers. Newley's contributions to Christmas music are highlighted by his heartfelt rendition of "The Coventry Carol" which appears on many anthologies. He also wrote and sang a hilarious novelty Christmas song called "Santa Claus is Elvis". And there is a notorious album of spoken poetry which has Newley appearing in the nude on the sleeve with a similarly-attired young model.

In his later years as a mature singer Newley recorded songs from Fiddler on the Roof and Scrooge. He enjoyed his final popular success onstage when he starred in the latter musical which showed in London and toured UK cities including Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester, in the 1990s. At the time of his death he had been working on a musical of Shakespeare's Richard III.

Newley's vocal style has been recognised as a major influence on that of the early David Bowie. Johnny Depp acknowledges Newley's vocal style as his model for "Sweeney Todd." His Cockney / Jewish accent, which he did not attempt to disguise, was combined with the humorous touch evident even in his non-humorous recordings. He has been described as a male, British Edith Piaf for his heart-on-the-sleeve delivery, underdog attitude, and music-hall charisma; yet he remains one of a kind.

In recognition of his creative skills and body of work, Newley was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989 [2].


The short-lived 1960 ATV series The Strange World of Gurney Slade, in which Newley starred, continues to have a cult following owing to its postmodern premise that the Newley character is trapped inside a television programme. Apart from a repeat of one episode on Channel 4 in 1992, it has not been seen in the UK in recent years. The show's theme tune by Max Harris, which was later utilized in the "animated clock" segments on the BBC children's show Vision On, may be better known today than the series itself. The piano figure prominent in the recording was lifted (unacknowledged) from Mose Allison's song "Parchman Farm".

Newley's acting career can be divided into four distinct eras: his original stardom as a child actor thanks to 'Dusty Bates,' 'Vice Versa' and 'Oliver Twist'; his young adulthood career in the 1950s mainly as a supporting comic or dramatic actor and contract player for the Rank Organisation; his second stardom as musical comedy lead in theater and film (with some second banana roles such as Matthew Mugg), which led to several years headlining on the casino/resort circuit; and his mature years in the 80s and 90s as he fought for a second comeback, accepting many roles in U.S. and U.K. television shows ('Fame') and in some forgettable films such as 'Garbage Pail Kids.'

Newley played Matthew Mugg in the original Doctor Dolittle and the repressed English businessman opposite Sandy Dennis in the original Sweet November. He also hosted Lucille Ball on a whirlwind tour of mod London in the Lucy TV special "Lucy in London." He performed in the autobiographical, Fellini-esque and X-rated Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?, which he also directed and co-wrote with Herman Raucher. He scored another over-the-top performance in 'Quilp' (based on Dickens's 'The Old Curiosity Shop'), for which he composed some haunting melodies ('Love Has the Longest Memory of All').

Newley possessed an irreverent attitude and enjoyed playing jokes on the set. Often cast opposite Anne Aubrey in the 1950s, he would stuff a soft drink bottle into his front trouser pocket just before a scene in which she was expected to embrace him. He took the resultant slap with his characteristic cackling laugh.

His last feature role in the cast of the long-running British TV drama EastEnders was to have been a regular role, but Newley had to withdraw after a few months when his health began to fail.

Personal life

He was married to Ann Lynn from 1956 to 1963, but the marriage ended in divorce. A son was born to them but died in infancy from a congenital infirmity. He then was married to the actress Joan Collins from 1963 to 1971. The couple had two children, Tara Newley and Sasha Newley. Tara became a broadcaster in England and Sacha is a renowned portrait artist based in New York and represented by four paintings in the National Portrait Gallery (United States) in Washington D.C. Newley's third wife was former air hostess Dareth Rich, and they also had two children, Shelby and Christopher.

Newley had been raised by his mother Grace and, from the age of eight onward, by his stepfather, whose name was Ronald Gardner. The latter wound up in Beverly Hills working as a chauffeur. Gardner soon ran off with a household employee of Newley's collaborator Leslie Bricusse, leaving Grace single again. Newley searched with the help of a detective and found his biological father George Kirby and effected a bittersweet reunion with the man who was a complete stranger to him, but who had secretly followed his son's career with fatherly pride all along. Newley bought his father a house in Beverly Hills, in the hopes that he would reunite with Grace--but it was not to be.

Newley died on 14 April 1999, in Jensen Beach, Florida from renal cancer at the age of 67. He was said to have passed in the arms of his companion, the designer Gina Fratini. He was survived by his four children, a granddaughter Miel, and his mother Grace, then in her mid-90s. Since then two more grandchildren have been born: Weston (Tara's second child) and Ava (Sasha's first, with his wife Angela Tassoni).

Newley's life is the subject of a biography by Garth Bardsley called Stop the World (London: Oberon, 2003). Although Newley alluded to some degree of bisexual activity in the kinky 60s in his epic autobiographical film 'Merkin', the allegation in the Bardsley biography that he had been "kept" by an older man while he struggled to restart his career in the 1950s was a shock to his fans. Several sources, including friends of Newley, attest to his being of Jewish ancestry, but the Bardsley biography makes no mention of this. He was, however, undisputedly left-handed. Newley was known for his dalliances, which included Diana Dors, Barbra Streisand, and chorus girls too numerous to mention. Also, tinged with both bitterness and affection but relevant to the subject of Newley's life are Joan Collins's interesting autobiographies Past Imperfect and Second Act. And in 2007 the actress Anneke Wills published a memoir that details her involvement with Newley just before he took up with Collins, producing a daughter named Polly who perished in an automobile accident.



  • 1959 I've Waited So Long/ Sat'day Night Rock-A-Boogie (Decca F11127, reached #3 in UK)
  • 1959 Idle On Parade/ Idle Rock-A-Boogie (Decca F11137)
  • 1959 Personality/ My Blue Angel (Decca F11142, reached #6 in UK)
  • 1959 Someone To Love/ It's All Over (Decca F11163)
  • 1960 Why/ Anything You Wanna Do (Decca F1194, reached #1 in UK)
  • 1960 Do You Mind/ Girls Were Made To Love And Kiss (Decca F11220, reached #1 in UK)
  • 1960 If She Should Come To You/ Lifetime Of Happiness (Decca F11254, reached #6 in UK)
  • 1960 Strawberry Fair/ A Boy Without A Girl (Decca F11295, reached #3 in UK)
  • 1961 And The Heavens Cried/ Lonely Boy And Pretty Girl (Decca F11331, reached #6 in UK)
  • 1961 Pop Goes The Weasel/ Bee Bom (Decca F11362, reached #12 in UK)
  • 1961 What Kind of Fool Am I?/ Once In A Lifetime (Decca F11376, reached #36 in UK)
  • 1962 D-Darling/ I'll Walk Beside You (Decca F11419, reached #25 in UK)
  • 1962 That Noise/ The Little Golden Clown (Decca F11486, reached #34 in UK)
  • 1963 There's No Such Thing As Love/ She's Just Another Girl (Decca F11636)
  • 1963 The Father Of Girls/ I Love Everything About You (Decca F11767)
  • 1964 Tribute/ Lament To A Hero (Decca F11818)
  • 1966 Why Can't You Try To Didgeridoo/ Is There A Way Back To Your Arms (RCA RCA1518; RCA 47-8785)
  • 1966 Moogies Bloogies (recorded with Delia Derbyshire) [Unreleased Demo]
  • 1967 Something In Your Smile/ I Think I Like You (RCA RCA1637)
  • 1968 I'm All I Need/ When You Gotta Go (MCA MU1061)
  • 1968 Sweet November (Warner Bros. Records 7174)


  • 1959 "Idle On Parade" - I've Waited So Long/Idle Rock-a-boogie/Idle On Parade/Sat'day Night Rock-a-boogie (Decca DFE6566)
  • 1960 "Tony's Hits" - Why/Anything You Wanna Do/Personality/My Blue Angel (Decca DFE6629, reached #6 in UK)
  • 1960 "More Hits From Tony" - If She Should Come To You/Girls Were Made To Love And Kiss/Do You Mind/Lifetime Of Happiness (Decca DFE6655)
  • 1961 "This Time The Dream's On Me" - Gone With The Wind/This Time The Dream's On Me/It's The Talk Of The Town/What's The Good About Goodbye? (Decca DFE6687 )


Studio Albums

  • 1955 "Cranks" (HMV CLP1082)
  • 1960 "Love is a Now & Then Thing" (Decca LK4343; London LL3156)
  • 1961 "Tony" (Decca LK4406; London PS244)
  • 1964 "In My Solitude" (Decca LK4600, RCA Victor LSP2925 )
  • 1965 "Who Can I Turn to?" (RCA Victor LSP3347 [Mono]; RCA Victor LSP3347 [Stereo])
  • 1966 "Who Can I Turn to?" (RCA Victor 7737 [Mono]; RCA Victor 7737 [Stereo])
  • 1966 "Newley Delivered" (Decca LK4654)
  • 1966 "Newley Recorded" (RCA Victor RD7873; RCA Victor LSP3614)
  • 1966 "The Genius of Anthony Newley" (London PS361)
  • 1967 "Anthony Newley Sings Songs from Doctor Doolittle" (RCA Victor LSP3839)
  • 1969 "The Romantic World of Anthony Newley" (Decca SPA45)
  • 1970 "For You" (Bell Records 1101)
  • 1971 "Pure Imagination" (MGM SE4781)
  • 1972 "Ain't It Funny" (MGM/Verve MV5096)
  • 1977 "The Singers and His Songs" (United Artists LA718-G)
  • 1985 "Mr Personality" (Decca Tab 84)
  • 1992 "Too Much Woman" (BBI (CD); GNP/Crescendo 2243)


  • 1962 This Is Tony Newley (London LL362)
  • 1963 Peak Performances (London LL3283)
  • 1969 The Best of Anthony Newley (RCA Victor LSP4163)
  • 1990 Anthony Newley's Greatest Hits (Deram 820 694)
  • 1990 Greatest Hits (Decca)
  • 1995 The Best of Anthony Newley (GNP Crescendo)
  • 1996 The Very Best of Anthony Newley (Carlton 30364 00122)
  • 1997 The Very Best of Anthony Newley (Spectrum Music 552 090-2)
  • 1997 Once in a Lifetime: The Collection (Razor & Tie RE 2145-2)
  • 2000 A Wonderful Day Like Today (Camden)
  • 2000 On a Wonderful Day Like Today: The Anthony Newley Collection (BMG 74321 752592)
  • 2000 Decca Years 1959-1964 (Decca 466 918-2)
  • 2001 Best of Anthony Newley (Decca)
  • 2002 What Kind of Fool Am I? (Armoury)
  • 2002 Remembering Anthony Newley: The Music, the Life, the Legend (Prism Leisure)
  • 2003 Stop the World! (Blitz)
  • 2004 Love Is a Now and Then Thing/In My Solitude (Vocalion)
  • 2004 Pure Imagination/Ain't It Funny (Edsel)
  • 2005 The Magic of Anthony Newley (Kala)
  • 2006 Anthology (Universal/Spectrum)
  • 2006 Anthony Newley Collection (Universal/Spectrum)
  • 2006 Newley Delivered (Dutton Vocalion
  • 2007 Best of Anthony Newley (Sony)
  • 2007 Best of Anthony Newley (Camden)


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anthony Newley" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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