Today is the 108th anniversary of the birth of Jessie Matthews, one of Britain’s greatest screen stars. Jessie is incredibly under-appreciated, even by devoted classic film fans, so I’ve decided to pay tribute to her today in hopes to bring more attention to her spectacular films.
This triple-threat talent was born Jessie Margaret Matthews in London on March 11, 1907. One of sixteen children, Jessie spent her childhood in poverty. Her parents sold fruits and vegetables to make ends meet.
Despite her humble beginnings, she was able to take dancing lessons as a child, in a room above the local pub. Her talent was apparent from a very young age, and she began her stage career at just twelve years old, taking on a role in Bluebell in Fairyland.
She made the move to film quite early as well, with her first two pictures released in 1923. She went on to appear in over 30 film and television roles, most notably a set of wonderful musicals that showcased her wonderful singing voice, dance skills, and acting talents. These films include Evergreen, Sailing Along, First a Girl and It’s Love Again.
I could write in more detail about Jessie Matthews’ road to stardom and why I enjoy her films, but I think the best way for me to introduce those of you who aren’t familiar with her to her work is to share some of my favorite Jessie performances with you directly! I hope that you’ll all be discovering a new favorite, as I did when I watched my first Jessie film, Sailing Along! The following are a few of my favorite songs and scenes from her films.
Dancing in Sailing Along:
Clip from First a Girl:
“Got to Dance My Way to Heaven” from It’s Love Again:
Title song from It’s Love Again: