MARIE KENDALL (1873 – 1964) was an artiste of remarkable ability and energy who spent nearly six decades performing in the music halls of Great Britain, France and touring America. Whilst comedy was an important part of her act and she would dress the part, she also cut an elegant figure to sing her famous song “Just Like The Ivy”. With this song she appeared in the first Royal Command Performance in 1912 and topped the bill at the 1932 Royal Variety Performance.
Marie was born on 27th July 1873 in Hackney, East London to William and Mary Holyome, part-time opera singers of Huguenot descent who used to play the “penny gaffs”.
She was five years old when her father named her Marie Chester and began taking her around the local pubs, standing her on a table to sing heart-rendering songs that made cockney gin and ale suppers “well up” so that coppers clinked into Papa Holyome’s cap.
When working girls automatically went “into service” or to factory benches, the Holyomes sent their daughter, aged twelve, for singing lessons at J.W. Cherry’s Music Hall Academy to prepare her for a career in entertainment.
William soon changed her name to Marie Chester – using the coach time time-table to select a name, as did fellow performers Ella Retford and Elsie Carlisle – and got her booked to play in Bermondsey’s packed “penny-gaffs”.
Her father took her to France, where she played similar venues, singing in both English and fluent French – the latter being her parents first launguage.
Back in the East End, her name was changed to Marie Kendall and she made her music hall debut at The Three Cups for a guinea a week. This was quickly followed by bookings at the Royal Albert, Sebright’s and the Star until a substantial increase in salary to £5 a week. Aged fifteen, she was playing Principal Boy in the pantomime Dick Whittington at the Pavilion, Mile End and the following Christmas (1889) saw her playing Aladdin in Drury Lane.
Marie was against any form of literary and theatrical censorship and publically supported fellow artiste Marie Lloyd when she was accused of being obscene by the narrow-minded for a song that included the line “she sits among the cabbages and peas”. She supported the theatrical strike of 1912 and was dragged into a police van singing Just Like The Ivy at the top of her voice.
Marie made a guest appearance in the film “Say It With Flowers”.
She married Steve McCarthy and had four children; Terry, Pat, Shaun and Moya.
Marie’s granddaughter Kay Kendall (1926-1959) was a successful movie actress, who married the actor Rex Harrison (1908-1990). Kay’s sister Kim Kendall was also successful as west end theatre actress, as was her brother Cavan Kendall (1942-1999) and cousin Fiona Kendall.
The great Marie Kendall passed away on 5th May 1964 at her home in Clapham, aged 90.
On Sunday 25th September 2011, a commemorative blue plaque was unveiled by granddaughters Kim Kendall and Fiona Kendall Lane at Marie’s last home at Okeover Manor, Clapham Common Northside.
The plaque, erected by The Music Hall Guild of Great Britain & America was supported by Michael Crawford, who used to be Marie's neighbour in the 1960s.