Papers of Hylda Baker (1905-86), actress and comedienne
|Title:||Papers of Hylda Baker (1905-86), actress and comedienne|
The collection is unusual in its nature - both by its survival and in being available in the public domain. Its rarity is reflected, for instance, in the records concerning the management of a touring theatrical production in the 1940s, by insights into the early days of TV performances in the 1950s, and by the fan-mail showing the effects of instant fame. However, although several series of records are apparent - the scripts, the fan-mail - they appear to be complete only for fairly specific periods of Hylda's working life.
|Held by:||Lancashire Archives, not available at The National Archives|
This collection of Hylda Baker's papers has many anomalies. She appears to have kept everything - all her scripts, fan mail, bills and theatrical ephemera; but not everything has been deposited. Nor was there much organisation or arrangement apparent in the mass of papers received. Most of the arrangement has had to be imposed on the collection, resulting in more anomalies, particularly bearing on the definition of Hylda's "business": papers concerning her revue management have been catalogued together with similar papers relating to her work as an individual performer, for instance. But the precise relationship between Hylda as a performer and as a manager is not clarified by the presence of documents relating to the company "Stars of the Century Ltd".
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Some material has not been retained: duplicates of scripts etc., some truly ephemeral items of correspondence, and some unannotated printed music scores have been destroyed. Audio tapes originally accompanying the collection have been transferred to the North West Sound Archive.
"It was in the streets, boarding houses and fish-and-chip shops of Lancashire that the garrulous, lovable stage figure with the famous catchphrase "she knows y'know" was created." Titbits, 22 Jun. 1963 (see DDX 1683/5/2) Hylda Baker (1905-86), daughter of the music-hall comedian Harold Baker, and the eldest of seven children, started her theatre career at the age of 10, when she appeared in pantomime at the Opera House, Tunbridge Wells. She branched out as a singer and dancer, and as a comedienne, writing her own material, sketches and songs. She went on to manage her own revue show, designing scenery and costumes, writing scripts and music, organizing the finance and touring, and starring in them herself. During a brief break from showbusiness in 1950, she owned a fish and chip shop in Farnworth, the town of her birth. In 1955, after 40 years in the theatre business, she became an overnight star following an appearance on television's The Good Old Days: her act with her tall, silent friend Cynthia and the famous catch-phrase "She knows y'know" became a national favourite, and for four years in the mid-1950s her show during the Blackpool summer season was a triumphant success. Hylda went on to perform in various TV shows and sitcom series, summer shows, films and theatre productions, including "serious" acting parts as well as in comedies. Perhaps her most famous work was in TV sitcoms in the late 1960s and early 1970s, starring alongside Jimmy Jewel in Nearest and Dearest and as landlady of the "Brown Cow" in Not on Your Nellie.
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