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Gertrude Lawrence and the du Mauriers

We recently received a post on the Daphne du Maurier website Forum Page asked about Gertrude Lawrence and her relationship with Daphne du Maurier.

The post came from Germany, and this is what it said:

Autobiographie von Gertrude Lawrence
Gertrude Lawrence veröffentlichte meines Wissens viele Liebesbriefe der du Maurier in der Autobiographie "A Star danced". Dadurch erfuhr doch letztlich die ganze Welt von Daphnes Leidenschaft für die Gertrude, was doch die du Maurier lebenslang verheimlichen wollte - ihr Lesbizismus sollte nicht "ruchbar" werden. Nirgends jedoch las ich von irgendwelchen Reaktionen - von welcher Seite auch immer - zu diesen Veröffentlichungen. Auch die sehr detaillierte und einfühlende Biographie von Margaret Foster schrieb davon nichts. -- Was hab´ ich da übersehen? Dank für eure Hinweise und Hilfen.... Ronald Tannheiser; Hamburg (Germany)

This translates as follows:

Gertrude Lawrence's Autobiography
To my knowledge, Gertrude Lawrence published many love letters of du Maurier in the autobiography "A Star Danced". As a result, the whole world finally learned about Daphne's passion for Gertrude, which the du Maurier wanted to hide for life - her lesbianism was not to become "nefarious". Nowhere, however, did I read of any reactions - from whichever side - to these publications. Even the very detailed and empathetic biography of Margaret Foster did not write anything about it. -- What did I miss? Thanks for your hints and help.... Ronald Tannheiser; Hamburg (Germany).

Gertrude Lawrence at about the time she played Stella in September Tide

Gertrude Lawrence published her autobiography, A Star Danced, in 1945.  It tells of her life from early childhood until late in WW2 and ends with her returning to the US after completing a tour of the UK and then parts of Europe with ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association).  In her book, she briefly mentions that she took part in a play called Behold We Live in 1932, in which she co-starred with Gerald du Maurier. In addition, she says Gerald's wife Muriel coming to the theatre to see the play on one occasion, bringing her daughters Angela and Daphne with her. 

Daphne du Maurier's play September Tide was written after the war, and Gertrude performed in it in the role of Stella.  The play premiered at Oxford in 1948 and then moved to the London stage at the Aldwych Theatre, where its run continued until 1949.  Her time with the play lasted about ten months.  She then reprised the role briefly in August-September 1949, at the Falmouth Playhouse, Coonamessett-on-Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the theatre where her husband Richard Aldrich was managing director. 

Theatre programme from September Tide

Although Daphne du Maurier was very aware that her father had worked with Gertrude Lawrence and reputedly had an affair with her, she had no memory of meeting Gertrude before she flew to the UK to take the role of Stella in September Tide.  Their friendship, and we really do not have clear evidence, despite much speculation, of what form that friendship took, began while Gertrude was in the UK for the duration of the run of September Tide.

There are no references to any love letters or any other form of correspondence between Gertrude and Daphne in A Star Danced, simply because they did not know each other as early as 1945 when the book was published. 

There are other biographies about Gertrude Lawrence, one written by her husband Richard Aldrich, called Gertrude Lawrence as Mrs A.  This was published in 1954 in the US and 1955 in the UK, and included a foreword by Daphne du Maurier.  Another is called Gertrude Lawrence and was written by Sheridan Morley.  Neither of these books has any reference to love letters linking Gertrude and Daphne either.

As always, if anyone knows of another biography or any other information source that matches with what Ronald Tannheiser asked in his Forum post, dated 18th June 2021, please let us know by email to: info@dumaurier.org

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Last updated 26th November 2021           Website by WesternWeb Ltd