WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-07 > 1185829047
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] EMMANUEL: Ivor Lewis Emmanuel
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2007 21:57:27 +0100
Last Updated: 2:26am BST 26/07/2007
Ivor Emmanuel, the Welsh singer who died on Friday aged 80, was often billed
as The Voice of Wales and was a popular concert fixture throughout the 1950s
and 1960s; he became known to a wider audience for his cameo role in the
film Zulu (1964), in which he memorably led the British in a defiant
battle-hymn chorus of Men Of Harlech.
A handsome, strapping figure, Emmanuel's virile looks and muscular voice,
hovering between tenor and baritone, made him a natural for big American
musicals, although he had originally wanted to sing light opera and in
particular Gilbert and Sullivan.
When he was 20, he auditioned unsuccessfully for the D'Oyly Carte company,
and drowned his sorrows in a London pub with his friend, the actor Richard
A fortnight later, Emmanuel received a telegram from Burton ordering him to
audition the following day for the original London production of Oklahoma!
starring Howard Keel at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Emmanuel landed the
part and launched his career.
Later Emmanuel did join the D'Oyly Carte company, first as a member of the
chorus in 1950 and the following year taking small featured parts in Trial
By Jury and The Gondoliers, in which he played Luiz.
He subsequently made a reputation as a popular singer, particularly on
television, and between 1958 and 1964 Emmanuel starred in Gwlad Y Gan (Land
Of Song), a Welsh-language music programme that earned him a large
Ivor Lewis Emmanuel was born on November 7 1927 at Margam and brought up at
Pontrhydyfen, the village near Port Talbot where his friend Richard Burton
had been born the year before.
Raised by his aunt Flossie after his parents and sister were killed by a
stray wartime bomb in 1941, young Ivor's working life began in the mines and
steelworks of south Wales.
Longing to sing for a living, he joined the Port Talbot Operatic Society and
would carry a wind-up gramophone up into the nearby mountains to listen to
the recordings of Enrico Caruso.
After getting his professional break in Oklahoma! Emmanuel returned to the
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, to play Sgt Kenneth Johnson in another Rodgers
and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific (1951).
More minor roles followed in The King And I (1953) and Plain And Fancy
(1956), but in 1957 Emmanuel was cast as the male lead in Damn Yankees at
His portrayal of the baseball player Joe Hardy led to another heroic part as
Woody Mahoney in a revival of Finian's Rainbow at Liverpool, but the show
folded during a subsequent tour.
Emmanuel's most enduring role was as Private Owen, the character who rallies
the men of the South Wales Borderers as they defy an attack at Rorke's Drift
in the film Zulu.
At a critical moment, as the British await another onslaught, Owen leads
them in a rousing rendition of Men Of Harlech - in English - to counter the
Zulu war chants.
Nearly 30 years later Emmanuel had reason to be grateful for the part when,
in 1991, he was overwhelmed by financial catastrophe, losing his life
savings of 220,000 in the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce
Although friends raised funds for him with a whipround, it was residual
royalties from the film that kept him afloat.
"Thank God for Zulu," he would say. "It pays for Christmas every year."
The film role also led briefly to Broadway, with Emmanuel starring as the
Protestant minister David Griffith in a musical version of How Green Was My
Valley called A Time For Singing. He also featured in the original Broadway
cast recording issued in 1966, but the show itself flopped and only managed
Back in Britain Emmanuel made guest appearances on countless television
shows, including those of Morecambe and Wise, Billy Cotton, Benny Hill, Tom
Jones and Alma Cogan. He also topped the bill at concerts of light music at
holiday resorts, perhaps most notably at the Pier Pavilion, Llandudno, where
he appeared regularly on Sunday night bills for many years.
His recordings include a collection of 24 of his most popular songs, The
Best Of Ivor Emmanuel, and studio cast recordings of Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate
and The King and I.
Appearing in court in 1968 for speeding down the M1 at night, Emmanuel
claimed that the headlights on his Vauxhall had failed, and would work only
by holding down the flasher button.
Disputing that he had been doing 110 mph, Emmanuel wrote that "if I could
get it to do that speed as well as driving by intermittent flasher, I shall
give up singing and enter for the next Grand Prix - blindfold."
Ivor Emmanuel married, in 1951, Jean Beazleigh, a fellow-member of the
D'Oyly Carte chorus. When this marriage was dissolved, he married, in 1963,
the musical actress Patricia Bredin. In 1982 he retired to Spain with his
third wife, Malinee Oppenborn, who survives him with their daughter and a
son and daughter from his first marriage.
|[WORLD-OBITS] EMMANUEL: Ivor Lewis Emmanuel by "Peter McCrae" <>|