Gladys Mabel Morgan (7 November 1898–16 April 1983) was a Welsh comedian, billed variously as the 'Queen of Comedy' or 'the Queen of Laughter', and was renowned for her toothless, ear-splitting, infectious laugh.
Gladys Mabel Morgan
7 November 1898
|Died||16 April 1983 (aged 84)|
|Children||Joan Laurie, Graham Lorriman|
Early life and careerEdit
Gladys Morgan was born in Swansea, Wales, in 1898 and, though her family was not theatrical, she was always interested in the stage and by the time she turned eleven she had her own song and dance act. She joined a children’s concert party called The Brilliant Gems, where one of her colleagues was Albert Burdon, who was later to become known as an actor and comedian.
Four foot ten inch Morgan then formed an act called The Three Virgins, with the equally diminutive Betty Jumel on violin and Vy Vivienne on piano.
While touring as a solo singer in a concert party in the Isle of Man, she was asked by the company manager to play the part of an old deaf woman in a sketch. She reluctantly agreed to do so, and was amazed and delighted to find that the audience found her hilarious. She teamed up with and married fellow comedian Frank Laurie, whom she had first met when he was only sixteen. The act was not successful until it was suggested that they swap jobs, with Morgan becoming the comic and Laurie the straight man. The scheme worked and plentiful dates followed. By this time she had dropped her broad Welsh accent in favour of a Lancashire one, possibly in imitation of her hero Frank Randle.
Like many other entertainers Morgan and Laurie worked for ENSA during the war, being joined in the act by their daughter, Joan. The ENSA organiser for northwest England at the time was a man called Bert Hollman. Joan later became Mrs Hollman, with Bert joining the act both as a performer and manager.
Morgan's big break came when she auditioned for the popular BBC radio variety show Welsh Rarebit. As the show was for Welsh performers only, producer Mai Jones was reluctant to cast her, as Morgan was well known for her Lancashire accent. A week performing at the Town Hall, Pontypridd using her natural accent was enough to convince Mai that Morgan was indeed Welsh, and she was given a two-minute spot on the show. Her great friend, comedian Wyn Calvin, is reported to have said, "Her maniacal laugh created such a furore it practically filled the two minutes." Morgan became resident comedienne on the show, sharing top billing with a rising young star, Harry Secombe.
Morgan's success on Welsh Rarebit led to many successful variety tours around all the major theatres in the UK, including supporting Frankie Vaughan at the London Palladium in 1961. Along with many television appearances in shows like The Good Old Days, she was frequently heard in popular radio shows such as Workers' Playtime and Midday Music Hall. Regular appearances on Educating Archie and The Frankie Howerd Show, with her trademark striped blazer and cheeky grin established her as one of the country's best-loved performers.
Throughout the nineteen sixties she was kept busy with pantomime and summer season, five tours to Australia, and four sell-out tours of South Africa where the family also had their own series on Springbok Radio called The Morgans.
A joke from Workers Playtime: "I gave the lodger a boiled egg for his tea. Me and the kids had egg soup".
- Roy Hudd's Cavalcade of Variety Acts. Robson Books, 1998, p. 126, ISBN 1-86105-206-5
- "Plaque unveiled in memory of Worthing screen legend". Worthingherald.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
- "The Stage Online :: Features :: Queen of laughter". 8 May 2005. Archived from the original on 8 May 2005. Retrieved 24 April 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "BBC - Wales On Air - Welsh Rarebit". 9 September 2005. Archived from the original on 9 September 2005. Retrieved 24 April 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "BBC - South West Wales Entertainment - Radio Wales shines the spotlight on comedy legend". 14 April 2009. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Roy Hudd's Cavalcade of Variety Acts. p. 126 Robson Books, 1998, ISBN 1-86105-206-5
- "The Good Old Days: The Good Old Days - Gladys Morgan". TV.com. Archived from the original on 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2020-02-09. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "The Wild Affair". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-07-04. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)