Douglas Byng (1893 - 1987)

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Birthplace: Nottinghamshire, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died
Managed by: Michael Rhodes
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About Douglas Byng

<The Times, August 26, 1987>

MR DOUGLAS BYNG

Mr Douglas Byng, who was, throughout the 1920s and 1930s, among the most triumphant of all cabaret stars and pantomime dames, died on August 24, at the age of 94.

In his early days he designed theatrical costumes. He migrated from this to concert parties; toured in musical comedy; appeared in cabaret, for which he wrote and composed his own songs; appeared in a number of Sir Charles Cochran's revues at the London Pavilion, and, finally, established himself as a firm favourite in pantomime were his services as a Dame were in great demand.

Douglas Byng was born in Nottinghamshire on March 17, 1893.

In 1921, he appeared in his first pantomime as the Grand Vizier in "Aladdin" at the Palladium; but it was not until three years later that he first played the Dame part, this being in "Dick Whittington and his Cat" at the New Oxford. Cochran, with his customary perception was quick to see his possibilities as a female impersonator.

Byng appeared under Cochran's banner from 1925 to 1930 in a long series of musical entertainments. In female parts he could always be a dignified and imposing figure.

His regular venues were the Cafe de Paris, the Cafe Anglais, and the Monseigneur, the modish London pre-war nighspots, where, in the words of one of his own ditties, he entertained "the smarter members of the class called upper".

There were occasions, in his cabaret entertainments, when he was inclined to employ the double entendre, for which indiscretion he found himself reported to the police on at least one occasion. But the reputation which he enjoyed for being risque was never carried over into pantomime.

His Dame, if not more sophisticated, was certainly more elegant and better dressed - a throwback to his early training as a costume designer.

When, after the war, his own particular world began to disintegrate, he turned to the straight theatre and was the only one of the "Hotel Paradiso" cast to go right through the London and New York runs of that farce and then on into the film.

He had been off the stage since 1968 and made his home in an elegant mansion flat on the Brighton seafront. The BBC, which in its infancy found him much too outrageous and banned him several times, fussed around him on his 90th birthday, compressing to his bemused delight, his expansive life into a half-hour programme.

Byng published, in 1970, his reminiscences entitled "As You Were" - a collection refreshingly free from pomposity, sentiment, introspection and snobbery.

END

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Douglas Byng's Timeline

1893
March 17, 1893
Nottinghamshire, England, United Kingdom
1987
August 24, 1987
Age 94