She was born Gertrude Alexandria Dagmar Lawrence-Klasen in London, England, and was a professional performer by the age of ten. She understudied Bea Lillie in Andre Charlot's London revues on the 1920s, and became their star when they were brought to Broadway in 1924 and 1926. She was one of the foremost comediennes of her time, capable of playing both slapstick clowns and elegant ladies. Her great charisma is attested to by those who saw her onstage, but her films fail to convey her charm.
She married Francis Gordon-Howley in 1924, and they had a daughter, Pamela. They divorced in 1927. She married Richard Aldrich in 1940. She is also thought to have had lesbian affairs, notably with Daphne Du Maurier.
Her onstage persona inspired composers and writers. George and Ira Gershwin wrote Oh Kay for her, with the song Someone to Watch Over Me, which became a standard. In this play she was the first British actress to create a lead role on Broadway. Cole Porter wrote Nymph Errant for her to star in in London in 1929. Noel Coward wrote Private Lives and Tonight at 8:30 (a cycle of nine one-act musicals and plays) for her.
She starred as Liza Elliot in Kurt Weill & Ira Gershwin's psychoanalytic musical Lady in the Dark, and was a popular entertainer of the troops in World War II.
She won the 1952 Tony Award for Best Actress for her role as Anna in Rogers and Hammerstein's The King and I.
She died of cervical cancer in New York, New York and was buried in her pink Shall We Dance gown from the second act of The King and I in Lakeview Cemetery, in Upton, Massachusetts.
In the 1968 film, Star!, based on her life, Gertrude Lawrence was played by Julie Andrews.
Gertrude Lawrence Facts
|Birth Name||Gertrude Alexandria Dagmar Lawrence-Klasen|
|Birthday||June 4, 1898|
|Birthplace||London, England, United Kingdom|
|Date of death||September 6, 1952 (age 54)|