|Beatrice Lillie as Auntie Mame|
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The famed Beatrice Lillie (1894-1989) was billed as "the funniest woman in the world." Lillie made her West End debut in 1914 and went on to become a huge star in revues, on radio, in television, films, and one-woman shows. Her charm, wit, and liveliness made her an international sensation.
This caricature depicts Lillie in the title role of Auntie Mame by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. The show played at Oxford New Theatre in August of 1958.
Gilbert Sommerlad (1904-1976), a rehearsal pianist and orchestral violinist for over forty years often sketched the stars on stage when he wasn’t needed in the orchestra pit. This drawing of Lillie is his handiwork. Over the decades, thankfully, Sommerlad complied his sketches in a series of albums, preserving them for posterity.