Born November 15, with "a voice as sweet as chapel bells," Petula Clark first broke into the limelight during World War II when as a child she entertained the troops, both on the radio and in concert. Petula made her radio debut on the BBC Empire Service on October 17th, 1942 on a request programme called IT'S ALL YOURS when she sang Mighty Lak a Rose for her uncle serving in Iraq. the reaction was so great that she was invited to join stars like Vera Lynn and Michael Redgrave at the Queensbury All-Services Club (now London's Prince Edward Theatre ) in December 1942 and soon was being dubbed Britain's Shirley Temple and "Radio's Merry Mimic" with over 500 concert appearances before she was 12.
Petula was spotted by producer Maurice Elvey while performing at London's Royal Albert Hall, and offered a part in what would become the first of thirty British films roles. Her first film was MEDAL FOR THE GENERAL (1944). Her most memorable films include: the classic I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING (with Wendy Hiller,1945); LONDON TOWN (In Technicolor, starring opposite Sid Field,1946); VICE-VERSA (Directed by Peter Ustinov and also starring an equally young Anthony Newley, 1948); THE HUGGET FAMILY Films (1948-49); and her first starring role in DON'T EVER LEAVE ME (1949). In the 1950's as a young adult she would co-star in such films as DANCE HALL, THE CARD (with Alec Guinness), and WHITE CORRIDORS (earning Petula a BAFTA nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category). It is interesting to note that in 1951, British cinema-goers voted her their sixth favourite ACTRESS just behind Greer Garson and ahead of Margaret Rutherford!!
It's All Yours radio show - Radio debut
First film role: A MEDAL FOR THE GENERAL
Playing Sid Field's daughter in LONDON TOWN
VICD-VERSA with Anthony Newley
Giving Alec Guinness his first screen kiss in THE CARD
WHITE CORRIDORS film still
Merry Mimic cartoon series
Throughout the forties and fifties Petula was a regular guest on a vast number of British radio shows. Notable radio shows on the BBC include her singing songs every week to the overseas forces in CALLING ALL FORCES, LIFE OF BLISS with George Cole, Petula singing with Joe "Mr Piano" Henderson, etc. She appeared on experimental TV in the forties. and in the fifties, she hosted several of her own television series beginning in the very early years of British programming. Petula made her television debut on her own BBC television series on the 3rd of November 1946, and from that date she would be a regular performer on the BBC with PETULA CLARK (1946-47), PET'S PARLOUR (1950-53), and THE PETULA CLARK SHOW (1956-57). Her television debut as an actress was in GUEST IN THE HOUSE in 1957.
Petula cut her first recording, House in the Sky /Put Your Shoes on Lucy in June 1949 for the Columbia label, but it was not until 1954 that she had her first official Top 10 chart success with The Little Shoemaker, which also topped the charts in Australia. More fifties hit singles followed including Suddenly There's a Valley, Majorca, and With All My Heart.
In 1957, she was invited to sing at the famed Olympia theatre in France. After one song the French crowd went wild, and an entirely new career was launched. In answer to the rock-and-roll craze of the late fifties, Petula was back on the charts again in England when she recorded Alone and Baby Lover which were more upbeat than the sweet earlier ballads.
Recording for Polygon with Laurie Johnson and his orchestra 1955
First commercial recording advertisement.
In the recording booth circa 1957
With George Cole in LIFE OF BLISS
With Joe Henderson
On experimental TV singing Miser, Miser.
With her sister Barbara and father rehearsing for PET'S PARLOUR
On PET'S PARLOUR, circa 1951
Asked to record in French, Petula declined at first but was quickly persuaded to do so by Frenchman Claude Wolff with whom she fell madly in love - they were married in June 1961. By the early sixties, Petula found herself reinvented as a French chanteuse, even rivaling the legendary Piaf--during Piaf's own lifetime. (She was always classified as a "French" singer on the shelves in French and French-Canadian record stores.) In 1962 Petula was voted France's top female singer above Edith Piaf, touring with Jacques Brel and headlining seasons at the famous Paris Olympia. Petula would work with many of the French legends including Charles Aznavour, Serge Gainsbourg, Dalida, Claude Francois, Johnny Hallyday, and Sacha Distel, and host many of her own television specials live from Paris, as well as her own French variety series. In addition to her newfound French pop star status, Petula also began to enjoy success with the songs that she had begun to record in German and Italian. One of her French language hits Ya,Ya Twist even found its way on to the British Top 20 charts. In 1962, gold discs included Romeo (sung in English ) Chariot (sung in French) and Monsieur (sung in German) and Petula was awarded two prestigious French recording awards: the Grand Prix du Disques Francais (1962) and Bravo du Music Hall (1965). By the mid-sixties she'd established herself as superstar throughout Europe with Number One tunes sung in different languages in different countries all across the Continent. (Interesting to note, each of her early European hits were with entirely different songs--a feat not duplicated by any other singer since!)
Urged by her friends in Britain to record something in English, Petula allowed Tony Hatch to visit her in Paris where he presented his new song, Downtown. Petula recorded it in 1964. Although it was kept off the top spot by the Beatles in the UK, it reached Number 1 in the USA in early 1965 without her promoting it at all. It earned her a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording, beating the Beatles, and narrowly missing Record of the Year (awarded to Herb Alpert for A Taste of Honey) and Best New Artist of the Year, (won by the Beatles.) Petula became the first British female to sell a million copies in the USA, the first Female Brit to win two Grammys with Downtown and I Know a Place and to top the American charts twice with Downtown and My Love. In 1966 she was voted Top Female Singer in the USA by Cashbox. In 1965, Petula also reached the American Top 5 as a songwriter with the Vogues cover of her British hit You're The One, which she co wrote with Tony Hatch. (Petula's own recorded version features guitar work by, then studio musician, Jimmy Page!) Overall, Petula has had 15 Top 40 hits in the USA including A Sign of the Times, I Couldn't Live Without your Love, and Don't Sleep in the Subway (with superb lyrics by Jackie Trent and music by Tony Hatch. Kiss Me Goodbye, written by Les Reed and Barry Mason also hit the Top 20 in 1968. Internationally, Petula Clark has charted in the top 40 somewhere, sometime, with over 160 recordings!
In the sixties, she starred in two Hollywood musicals, FINIAN'S RAINBOW and GOODBYE MR. CHIPS opposite the likes of Fred Astaire and Peter O'Toole. In addition to film roles, Petula became a regular on American variety shows, appearing with such legends as Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan, Sammy Davis Jr., Lucille Ball, Danny Kaye, and dueting with Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Dinah Shore, Bobby Darin, Perry Como and Glen Campbell. Her first American television special with her guest Harry Belafonte is still remembered today for combatting racism when she insisted a duet of her song On the Path of Glory, was broadcast with her naturally touching Harry's arm, which in 1968 was seen by the sponsor to be unacceptable: a white woman touching a black man. Other memorable American specials included Portrait of Petula (with Andy Williams in 1969) Petula (with Peggy Lee and the Everly Brothers, 1970) She was the host of two popular variety series for British television: The Petula Clark Show (1956-7) and This is Petula Clark (1966-67). In 1969 her televised concert An Evening with Petula Clark performed at the Royal Albert Hall holds the distinction of being the first British show to be broadcast in colour. In addition to British Television concert specials (1969, 1974, and 1983), there were also televised Petula concerts all over the globe, from Live at the Sydney Opera House (1973), Live in Japan (1973, to Live in Montreal (1976), to the very recent Live in Berlin in 2016. Additionally, Petula is the only person in the UK to be surprised three times for This is Your Life.
Finina's Rainbow with Fred Astaire
Goodbye Mr. Chips with Peter O'Toole and the boys
Harry Belafonte and Petula, featuring the infamous "touch."
PORTRAIT OF PETULA DVD,
Petula's second American variety special.
With Dean Martin
Guest appearance on HERE'S LUCY with Lucille Ball
Glen Campbell and Petula at the Talk of the Town London in 1970.
In Petula's third American variety special, featuring Peggy Lee.
Petula Live in Berlin
Petula first played Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace with Woody Allen in 1966 and by 1969 long term contracts which had her headlining at Caesars and the Riviera with opening acts such as Joan Rivers, The Osmond Brothers, and the Righteous Brothers. Her nightclub act took her all over America from the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles to the Copacabana in New York and broke house records at the Waldorf Astoria in 1975.
By the seventies, she'd been well established as a Vegas superstar--garnering critical acclaim by both critics and the American public. She gave a series of concerts in France and Canada, made appearances on European TV, hosted two more popular variety series in England (for which she was awarded "Most Popular TV Star" by the TV Times) and continued to be a much sought after guest star on American television.
In the eighties she found fame as an American country recording star with her top-20 hit Natural Love, before reinventing herself as a highly successful stage star in London's West End, beginning with the role of Maria in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Petula's theatre credits actually date back to the fifties. In 1950 she starred in SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE, THE CONSTANT NYMPH in 1954, and the pantomime HUMPTY DUMPTY in Southampton for Christmas 1959, before leaving for France. In 1981 her starring role as Maria in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (at the cavernous Apollo Victoria theatre in London) boasted the highest attendance figure for a single week (October 26-31, 1981) of any British musical production in history. The 2600-seat theatre played to 101 percent of seating capacity for over a year. In 1983 she starred in the classic George Bernard Shaw play as CANDIDA in Guildford, England with Michael Craig. In 1989 she premiered a musical for which she wrote the music, set during the American Civil War called SOMEONE LIKE YOU in Cambridge England, followed by a successful national tour before opening at the Strand Theatre in London in 1990. Unfortunately it closed after a few weeks due to production problems which was heartbreaking for Petula and her company, but the musical is fondly remembered by her fans.
In the nineties, Petula made her Broadway stage debut, starring opposite David and Shaun Cassidy in the highly successful production of BLOOD BROTHERS followed by a well-received American tour of the same production. In 1998 Petula returned to England, where she was presented with a prestigious CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by her Majesty the Queen of England, in honor of Petula's legendary career.
In September, 1995, Petula appeared on stage in the starring role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's SUNSET BOULEVARD; a role she has now played more than any other actress to date. After appearing at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End, she embarked on a national tour of most major cities in the U.S. with the musical.
Live at the Copacabana
New York City
Postcard from Las Vegas featuring Caesar's Palace marquee
Live in Las Vegas, 1976
As Maria in THE SOUND OF MUSIC
As Abigail in SOMEONE LIKE YOU
Starring as David and Shaun Cassidy's mother in the
Broadway production of BLOOD BROTHERS
Petula Clark, CBE,
with two of her children.
Starring as Norma Desmond in
Andrew Lloyd Webber's SUNSET BOULEVARD
On October 28, 2000 Petula presented a new one-woman show--a concert highlighting her life and career to tremendous acclaim at the St. Denis Theatre in Montreal, Canada. In May 2001 she was spotlighted in a 2-hour concert spectacular, the finale to the month-long Virginia Arts Festival. The show was taped by PBS and was broadcast nationwide as part of the PBS pledge drives in December 2001. A companion documentary by MPI Home Video, PETULA CLARK: A SIGN OF THE TIMES was also broadcast on many PBS stations nationwide. In this all-new biography, Petula's extraordinary life is chronicled and features
the stories behind her upbeat, ever-popular music, including her signature song, the Grammy Award-winning Downtown. Petula's remembrances, taped in Norfolk, Virginia, at the time of the concert, offer a candid and insightful look into her long and fascinating life in show business.
Early 2002 saw Petula performing in concert in California at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts and also appearing in Los Angeles in March for a tribute show to legendary composer, Johnny Mercer. She then embarked on a 24-city tour of the UK to coincide with her newest UK album, The Ultimate Collection, which charted in the British Top 20.
In 2003 "Downtown was inducted into the Grammy Hall of fame. In her career, Petula has charted with over 150 songs in various languages and countries from around the world. Over the years, Petula has recorded with such artists as Charles Aznavour, Michael McDonald, Andy Williams and Rod McKuen, and is in the chorus of John Lennon's iconic Give Peace a Chance. In 2011 she recorded a cover of Downtown with the Saw Doctors which hit the Irish charts at Number 2 in 2011. Memorable television duets with such artists as Cliff Richard, Helen Reddy, Peggy Lee, Matt Monro, Jack Jones,the Pointer Sisters, Anthony Newley and The Everly Brothers are fondly remembered, as is a duet with Scottish star Paolo Nutini at a Quincy Jones gala in Montreaux in 2008.
Since 2000, Petula has continued to tour the world in concert taking in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, the Phillipines, and Canada. Her albums "The Ultimate Collection"(2002), "Then and Now" (2008), "Lost in You" (2013) and "From Now On" (2016) all hit the British pop album charts--giving her one of the largest chart spans--with new material-- of any other recording artist in history, alongside such legends as Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Vera Lynn, and Cliff Richard. In 2018, her album "Vu d'ci" debuted at Number One on the French Canadian I-tunes chart and even made an appearance on the National Canadian top 60 I-tunes chart, despite being totally sung in French! To date she has recorded thousands of songs in English, French, German, and Italian, and many recordings have been hits from Australia to Brazil, and Thailand to Japan. Petula has also reached new generations with dance club remixes of Downtown in 1988, and again in 2013 with Cut Copy Me. The latter recording had already reached the Top 30 pop charts in Belgium the previous year. In her long career, she has sold well over 75 million records and still counting! With her latest French-Canadian album, "Vu d'ici", finished, Petula toured the province of Quebec in May 2018 to rave reviews. Later that fall, Petula toured the US, from the East Coast to the West Coast, performing in various venues all across the country. In May 2019 she embarked upon a concert tour of Australia, follwed by a return to Quebec and Toronto for two very special concerts in June. In September, she will return to London to begin rehearsals for her upcoming role in MARY POPPINS, where she will play the Bird Woman, performing the iconic song, Feed the Birds.
Petula has three children, Barbara, Catherine, and Patrick, and two grandchildren. When not touring or recording, she divides her time visiting them and her sister, Barbara, and her residences in Geneva, London, and Megeve.
With Charles Aznavour
With Cliff Richard.
With Serge Gainsbourg.
Making an appearance in the Irish Band, Saw Doctor's,
Goin' to Chicago with Paolo Nutini
©Montreux Jazz Festival Foundation
Claude, Kathy, Bara, Petula, and Paddy.
Live in Montreal, 2018.