George Robey

Sir George Edward Wade, CBE, known professionally as George Robey, was an English comedian, singer and actor in musical theatre. He became known as one of the greatest music hall performers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Robey was knighted a few months before his death in 1954.

About George Robey in brief

Summary George RobeySir George Edward Wade, CBE, known professionally as George Robey, was an English comedian, singer and actor in musical theatre. He became known as one of the greatest music hall performers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a comedian, he mixed everyday situations and observations with comic absurdity. Apart from his music hall acts, he was a popular Christmas pantomime performer in the English provinces, where he excelled in the dame roles. He scored notable successes in musical revues during and after the First World War, particularly with the song “If You Were the Only Girl “, which he performed with Violet Loraine in the revue The Bing Boys Are Here. One of his best-known original characters in his six-decade long career was the Prime Minister of Mirth. Robey was knighted a few months before his death in 1954. He was born at 334 Kennington Road, Kennington, London. His father, Charles Wade, was a civil engineer who spent much of his career on tramline design and construction. His mother, Elizabeth Mary Wade née Keene was a housewife; he also had two sisters. His paternal ancestors originated from Hampshire; his uncle, George Wade, married into aristocracy in 1848, a link which provided a proud topic of conversation for future generations of the Wade family. When he was 14, his father allowed him to move with his father to a clergyman’s family in the German countryside, which he used as a base while studying at Leipzig University.

At this time, trams were being introduced to the area, providing Charles Wade with a well-paid job to fulfil an offer of work. At the same time, he devoted his leisure hours to visiting the city’s museums, art houses and opera houses. He enjoyed life in the country and was impressed with the Germans’ high regard for the arts and held many operatic productions in the city. He later moved back to London, near the border between Camberwell and Peckham, to work as a trams driver. In 1913 Robey made his film debut, but he had only modest success in the medium. He continued to perform in variety theatre in the inter-war years and, in 1932, starred in Helen!, his first straight theatre role. His appearance brought him to the attention of many influential directors, including Sydney Carroll, who signed him to appear on stage as Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1 in 1935, a role that he later repeated in Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film, Henry V. By the 1950s, his health had deteriorated, and he entered into semi-retirement. He was an avid sportsman, playing cricket and football at a semi-professional level. Robey began his schooling in nearby Hoylake at a dame school. He also attended a German school in Dresden, and Robey’s father moved the family to Birkenhead, where he helped in the construction of the Mersey Railway.