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Jean Telfer

February 12, 2012


We are grateful to Freddie Lees for letting us know that after a long illness veteran actress and pantomime star, Jean Telfer passed away on January 9th, 2012 at  Denville Hall, the theatrical residential home.  As well as being a leading lady in variousWest Endmusicals and the Fol de Rols , she was a highly respected Principal Boy in pantomimes for the Impresario Emile Littler.

One of Jean’s earliest pantomime appearances was in 1942 at the Finsbury Park Empire in “Jack and The Beanstalk”. She was principal dancer in a production that starred Alec Pleon as Dame Trott.

In 1946 she appeared in revue at the Playhouse Theatre,Londonfor a One Night Services show. The review “Between Ourselves” was by Alan Melville and featured Thora Hird, Bill Fraser, Wallace Eaton and Ian Carmichael. In this show Jean and three of her fellow artistes were described as “Obviously on their way to stardom” because of their “Mary Queen Of Scots” number. They were Irlin Hall, Joy O’Neill and Myrette Morven.

That year, 1946-7 Jean was asked to take over from Wendy Toye in the pantomime “Simple Simon” at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham. Wendy Toye had been cast in C.B.Cochran’s new show inLondon and left the cast during its long run. In this unusual pantomime Jean appeared with Margaret Thompson as Miss Prim and Miss Proper  before taking over as Diana, the leading role. It also featured Crazy Gang Stars Naughton and Gold. Later that year she appeared in Summer Season at Scarborough Spa Theatre in “Music Box”.

Pantomime season 1947-8 saw Jean Telfer at the Empire Sheffield in “Jack and Jill” for Emile Littler. She remained a firm favourite of Littler and appeared in several of his shows. This panto featured Jean as Principal Girl, with Marjorie Sandford as Jack, Roy Barbour as Simon, Jack Hayes as Dame and the double act Desmond and Marks.

Jean went on to appear in the Alan Melville review “A La Carte” at the Savoy Theatre later in 1948 appearing with comedian Dickie Henderson and Hermione Baddeley.

Christmas 1948 she returned to Littler’s “Jack and Jill” as Principal Girl at The Manchester Hippodrome with established Principal Boy Eve Acott as Jack, Henry Lytton as Dame Horner, Wendy Terry, Ellis Carlysle, Mildred Turner and once again Roy Barbour as comic.

Jean’s connection with Wendy Toye continued when she was cast in the musical “Tough At The Top” at The Adelphi Theatre London. It was Directed by Wendy Toye, and presented by C.B.Cochran. Among the cast were Carol Raye (Jean was to work with her again a year later), Geoffrey Bayldon, Beryl Kaye, Brian Reece, George Tozzi and Eddie Byrne.

That Christmas, 1949 Jean appeared in “Jack and Jill”with Eve Eacott for Littler at Leeds Empire as Principal Girl with the same cast, with the addition of Austin Harford.

In 1950 she appeared in Emile Littler’s play “Dear Miss Phoebe” which starred Peter Graves and Carol Raye at the Phoenix Theatre London, playing the role of Miss Charlotte Parratt. She understudied Carol Ray, and after an eight month run, took over in the title role alongside Peter Graves on tour. The show, similar in style to “Quality   Street” Noel Dyson also featured, alongside Gretchen Franklin. Her hit number was “I leave my heart in anEnglishGarden”. The show was staged by Freddie Carpenter. The tour ended at The Birmingham Royal in October 1951. In 1951 she featured in “The Passing Show” a series about fifty years of Show Business on Television, before playing the lead role in Littler’s revival of the 1920’s musical “Sally” on tour.


“Sally” featured  Clifford Mollison, Hilda Dixon, Pauline Johnson and Frankie Cariello, as well as starring Shamus Locker, Malcolm Goddard, Eddie Childs and Cyril Boganny. The Musical toured the length and breadth of the country through 1952- it opened in August at the Pavilion Bournemouth, and into 1953.

The 1953 Pantomime season was “Cinderella” at The Empire Sheffield for Emile Littler.It starred Albert Modley, Desmond and Marks, Helen Jutson, Willie Carlisle, Billy Nelson, Chuck O’Neill and Billy Morris.The following year 1954-55 this  production of “Cinderella” opened at the Palace Theatre, Plymouth. This cast remained the same with Tommy Fields replacing Albert Modley, with Harry Ristori, Sam Woodcock as Baron and Sylvia Norman appearing.

In 1955 Jean Telfer  starred in the West Endopposite David Nixon at the Palace Theatre , Cambridge Circus, London in “Cinderella” as Prince Charming. She appeared for Emile Littler in this role throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s. The Stage and Television magician Nixon played Buttons, Erica Yorke as Cinderella, with Paula Marshall as Dandini, and Desmond and Marks as The Ugly Sisters and Sam Woodcock as Baron Hardup.

Later that year Jean joined The Fol de Rols atScarborough-an association she was to continue for several summer seasons and a Christmas season.In 1956 she was appearing in the Empire Leeds in the same production of “Cinderella” this time joined by Pamela Beasley, and the following year, 1957 in “Cinderella” at the Manchester Hippodrome with the same cast.

During 1958-59 Christmas season Jean starred in the Fol de Rols at the Edinburgh Lyceum alongside Jack Tripp and Leslie Crowther, following this with seasons with the “Fols” in 1959 at Great Yarmouth with Jack Tripp and Glasgow with Leslie Crowther.    During pantomime season 1959 / 60  she played the title role in Aladdin at the Palace Manchester with Bernard Bresslaw, Lauri Lupino Lane and George Truzzi, Linda Walters as Princess, Artie Mayne, Norman Caley, Jack Skinner and his speciality act “Emerson and Jayne”

During the Summer of 1960 Jean appeared once again in the “Fol de Rols inBlackpool. In June she became engaged to Manchester Show Business Columnist Neville Wareham.By the August the show was at the White Rock Pavilion, Hastings appearing with Jack Tripp, Allen Christie, Kathleen West, Bruce Gordon, Peter Mander, Pat Ellis and John Gower.

Christmas  1960 – 61 she played Prince Charming in Cinderella at the Streatham Hill Theatre , with Frankie Howard as Buttons , Helen Cotterill as Cinderella and Dawkes and Webb as the Sisters . This pantomime also featured Christine Taylor, Chuck O’Neill, Billy Nelson and Billy Morris. Freddie Lees recalls seeing this show.The newly married Mrs Wareham appeared in Wendy Toye’s dance and mime short film “The King’s Breakfast” in 1963. Adapted from an A.A.Milne poem about the King who wanted butter for his bread it featured cameos from Richard “Mr Pastry” Hearne, Warren Mitchell, Una Stubbs and Lally Bowers.

In the April of 1964  Neville Wareham left the Manchester Evening News to take up his new job as Light Entertainment Publicity Officer for BBC Television , and they bought a house inLondon.

Jean Telfer was one of Emile Littler’s brightest musical stars throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, and one of pantomime’s finest “Boys”.

Our thanks again to Freddie Lees and thanks to Vivyan Ellacott for supplying information on Jean’s life and career.



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