by Glen Barnham
Despite her height of only 4 foot 1 inch
this performer achieved much and overcome prejudice to become one of this
countries greatest ever pantomime cats, and had cult status with her performance
in Rocky Horror Show movie.
was born in 1918 in Bognor, Sussex.Her first appearance was at the age of 7 on
the Palace Pier, Brighton and her first professional appearance, age 12,was
�Trouble� in Madam Butterfly at Streatham Hill Theatre, and she use to say
with a smile that her friends said she has been trouble ever since. Audiences
remarked on her acting ability when crying but did not know it was Joan Cross
trying to make her laugh. In return Sadie got her own back on Joan whilst she
was singing �One Fine Day�, when she did her best to make the great soprano
laugh. Despite that she was in demand for the same part by the leading opera
companies of the day. That sense of fun was to be her hallmark for the next
eight decades. The next appearance was �Where the Rainbow Ends�, at the
Holborn Empire. Films at the time included child roles with Marlene Deitrich and
Richard Tauber.By this time she was 14, and had been at Italia Conti stage
school for two years, where a classmate was Dinah Sheridan. After Holborn she
worked in Cavalcade in 1931 for 11 months at Drury Lane. Sadie spoke very fondly
of Noel Coward, who was a good friend to the entire cast during the run, and was
the perfect boss and remembered with affection for his personal kindness. Other
parts during the Conti period included cabaret work where her tap-dancing and
comedy was recognised even at that age. The next stage work was for Cochrane
during 1935/36 at the Adelphi Theatre in �Follow the Sun� with Vic Oliver
and Winston Churchill�s daughter Sarah was in the chorus.
her big break in 1937 when a young big star by the name of Hughie Green asked
her to join �His Gang�, where again her comedy and tap came to the fore.
That act of three started at Stratford Empire on 7th August 1937 and
disbanded at the outbreak of war. That act with Sadie and Hughie was top of the
bill at all the No 1 theatres. It gave her the opportunity to work the same
bill, as all the legendary acts of the time and her stories should have been
written up, as there was more fun backstage and some stories from this great
raconteur could never have been published. Such acts included Max Miller, Robb
Wilton,Georgie Wood(who after seeing her impersonation of him said �am I that
good�),and Jimmy James.
1939-40 she toured as Michael in �Peter Pan�. After that she spent the
wartime touring the length of the country with ENSA entertaining the troops. In
1947,whilst at the Gateshead Empire there was a call from Hughie Green to find
out if she was interested in touring with him in a new show called
�Opportunity Knocks�, which opened in Leicester and continued as top of the
bill at major theatres. When Sadie asked Hughie about rehearsal he said just do
what you did 10 years ago and that is what happened as if the years had not
separated these two professionals. After a year with Green and a huge bust up
which never healed, she was always very direct, it was time to part company and
move on with more tours and summer seasons, �Melody Inn�, with Jackson Earle
when such seasons ran for a year. Sadie was asked by both Harry Tate and Hilda
Baker to join there acts but declined. Other shows included Frank Randles
Scandals (he locked her in a dressing room in the nude and chased her with a
loaded gun but she sorted him out), Gulliver�s Travels, Folly to be Wise and
Godiver Rides Again, which toured the last of the number 5�s variety theatre
in 1956/58 in the last throws of old fashion variety tours with nudes but says
she managed to keep her clothes on. The venues were being demolished or going
over to bingo as they finished the weekly dates.
In 1948 a
chance meeting with Clarkson Rose saw her take the first of many animal roles in
Pantomime when engaged for �Goody Two Shoes� at Kings Theatre,
Hammersmith.From that day on she started a new career which was to make her one
of the greatest ever panto animals who ever worked in that field.Panto experts
rated her the greatest ever cat and she enjoyed that praise. Her legendary cat
was child friendly never to frighten and had its own personality. Such work
culminated in a four month season in 1960/61 at the London Palladium. That was
with Norman Wisdom in �Turn Again Whitington�.Much in demand for Panto she
worked with all the leading performers over four decades and helped many of
those first timers from the world of pop get through such shows. Many would have
been grateful for the advice coming from under the skin helping them if a
problem in the show. But for those who were trouble they got suitable treatment.
Some of her favourite co-stars in panto included Arthur Askey, Eddie Gray, Dana,
Spike Milligan, Joe Brown, Jimmy Wheeler, Tommy Cooper, Norman Vaughan and Jess
Conrad. All the biggest and best Xmas productions plus endless tours for Emile
Littler of �Snow White� kept her busy. Her last skin work was with Keith
Harris when she played Cuddles at the 1984 Command Performance. There was other
TV work as Cuddles. Only arthritis forced her to give up this work and the
famous cat costume was proudly given to the Theatre Museum along with recorded
memories that had the staff in stitches with laughter.
TV included Funnybones, Star Wars, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Wombling Free, Dark
Crystal, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Willow, Return to Oz, Brazil, Dummy Revenge of
the Jedi, Carravaggio, Video Stars (BBC drama), Spike Milligan series (BBC) Mr
Majieka (TVS). Two award winning documentaries(1960�s) about her were Lord
Snowdon�s �Born to be Small� and �Aquarius�(LWT) brought out the
serious side of being small but also vehicles for her dynamic personality. Her
role as a dancer in the film of �The Rocky Horror Show� (1974) gave her cult
status in many countries, and she was the favourite �Tranni�, and was in
demand for at conventions for this cult film. In her 80�s she continued to be
a star of the Internet on the Rocky Horror website.
It gave this totally professional artist satisfaction and encouraged her
to be available for work �as long as not too much running about and not in the sticks( outside of London)�.
Sadie appeared at all major Variety Theatre with the exception of Finsbury Park.
International tours included USA, Germany, France and Australia where her tap,
panto work were in demand. She recalled that the only time she went off to the
sound of her own feet was at Chorley, and even survived a number of appearances,
and was a noted success, at the legendary early evening audiences on Friday
nights at the Glasgow Empire.
worked in all aspects of show business except circus and worked on behalf of
fellow artists with her work as an active supporter of the Grand Order of Lady
Ratlings, where she was a past officer of that order. She had also sat on the
Board of the Variety Artists Federation.
In 2007 this very independent and active lady suffered cruel illness, a serious stroke, and went into a care home in St John�s Wood but still managed to bring a smile to staff and visitors. Sadie died 26th August aged 91.
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