Francis King

Coarse and Classy

Coral Browne: ‘This Effing Lady’

By

Oberon 322pp £19.99 order from our bookshop

Like the American actress Tallulah Bankhead, the Australian-born Coral Browne was celebrated not only for her mastery of any role, however feebly written or demanding, but also for her imperious elegance and savage wit. As with Bankhead, the edge of that wit was continually sharpened by the word to which the subtitle of this biography demurely makes reference. When, at the first performance of Pygmalion, Mrs Patrick Campbell’s Eliza uttered her ‘Not bloody likely!’, the audience initially gasped and then surrendered to shocked laughter. It was the same when Coral Browne came out with an expletive shorter and far cruder.

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