Bea Lillie was one of the funniest on-stage presences of her generation. The two photographs shown below were taken by Cecil Beaton in Jamaica during one of her many visits to Noel's home at Blue Harbour.
Review from 'Theatre World' September 1940 of the tour with Bea Lillie and Vic Oliver of items from 'Tonight at 8.30.'
One of the most successful of the present tours is the H. M. Tennent, Ltd., production of Noel Coward's Plays and Music, with a cast headed by Beatrice Lillie (see picture) and Vic Oliver. The one and only Bea. is seen as Lady Maureen Gilpin in Hands Across the Sea, and is enormously amusing as that feather-brained and much travelled lady who makes a point of asking everyone who gives her hospitality to call on her in London and then forgets all about them when they turn up.
She also plays in Red Peppers with Vic Oliver, and one of the most remarkable bits of casting must surely be these two "tops of the bill" as a couple of third-rate vaudeville hoofers.Vic Oliver himself figures as the downtrodden Henry Gow in Fumed Oak, the suburban worm who turns at last, deserts his whining spouse and sets out to see the world on the money he has managed to save, unknown to her. And both stars give their own songs, at intervals in the bill. If only a London home could be found for this show it should do very well, but so far the northern provinces and R.A.F. camps look like having a monopoly. Joyce Carey, Joan Swinstead, Alan Webb and Kenneth Carten are some of the supporting company.

I feel that Beatrice Lillie deserves an extra large size in medals for the way she has stuck to this country during the war, and helped to cheer everyone up. She has been tireless in her jaunts to the far points of England, Scotland and Wales to entertain various branches of H.M. Forces, and on one occasion, they say, she actually landed in the middle of " a spot of bother " with the enemy. I am sure that not a hair in that immaculate coiffure was out of place.

And she could have been in New York, where she is the biggest money-spinner of all entertainers. She is certainly an object lesson to some of our gallant New York and Hollywood exiles who are always on the verge of returning home to do something, but somehow or other never manage to make the trip.

 Copyright - The Noel Coward Society - May 2001