This starts a new series, called: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…
After last week’s Lionel Bart post, I wanted to re-viewOliver!, which was the first movie musical I EVER saw, and still one of my favorite films. Although I still find it difficult to watch the part where Nancy is bludgeoned to death by Bill Sikes. It won 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Score, and Choreography.
After it finished, I asked myself: “Whatever happened to Shani Wallis?”, who played the part of Nancy isOliver!
For the record, she was born in 1933, and she’s still alive.
And although she was spectacular in Oliver!, shehasn’t done much since, outside of some voice work on The Great Mouse Detective and The Pebble and the Penguin.
There is a glowing review of her pre-Oliver! stage career at Musical-Theatre.net, under the heading of Unsung Heroines, which is a very cool collection of great British theatre actresses. It also includes this bit on Shani Wallis’ career in the ’80s:
From 1985-87 she did service in 42nd Street, and for five years from 1985 went on a world tour with her old mate Liberace. It was ten years later that she came back to Britain to play Aunt Bessie in Always at the Victoria Palace (May 1997). She was third-billed, in rather smaller type, below the show’s so-called stars, Jan Hartley (excellent as the Duchess of Windsor) and Clive Carter (embarrassingly awful as that lovable tinker Edward VIII). She endured rehearsals during which her part was trimmed, and by the time the show opened she gave performances that seemed to suggest she had a proper contempt for what was going on around her. She made the most of her one big number, ‘The Reason For Life Is To Love’, seizing centre-stage and belting out as if, seventeen again, she had just taken the Princes Theatre by storm in a really good American musical. She was an example to anyone who cared to take notice.
What a shame. I’d love to meet her sometime…