Childhood & Early Life
Anthony Newley was born on September 24, 1931, in London, England, to Frances Grace Newley and George Kirby.
His parents had never married each other. They broke up during his early childhood. Following this, he was raised by his uncle and aunt, who had unofficially adopted him.
During the London Blitz, he stayed in a foster home in the countryside.
He dropped out of school, as he was not interested in studies. At 14, he started working as an office boy with 'Hannaford and Goodman,' an advertising agency on Fleet Street.
He responded to an advertisement in the English daily newspaper 'The Daily Telegraph,' which read “Boy Actors Urgently Wanted.” It was an ad for a vacancy at the 'Italia Conti Stage School,’ a renowned performing arts educational institution in London. However, the fee was exhorbitant. Nevertheless, he was offered a job of an office boy, with a salary of 30 shillings per week, along with tuition at the school.
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Newley was spotted by producer Geoffrey de Barkus at the school. Soon, he cast Newley as the titular character 'Dusty' in the children's movie 'The Adventures of Dusty Bates,' released in 1947. It was his first credited role. However, he had already made his on-screen debut with 'Henry V' in 1944. The movie had featured him in an uncredited role of a boy in the English camp.
In 1948, he appeared as 'Dick Bultitude' in the comedy 'Vice Versa' and as 'Artful Dodger' in 'Oliver Twist,' the movie adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel of the same name.
In the 1950s, he was featured in many British radio programs. He was also featured as 'Cyril' in 'Floggits.'
He gained recognition as a leading actor after his performance in the 1958 film 'No Time to Die,' released in the U.S. as 'Tank Force.'
In May 1959, his musical journey started with the single 'I've Waited So Long,' which was featured in the movie 'Idol on Parade.' The same film reinforced his career as a lead actor.
The following year, he released more hit singles, such as 'Personality,' 'Why (Cover Version),' and 'Do You Mind?'
The early 1960s marked the beginning of his partnership with Leslie Bricusse. The collaboration produced some of his best works in the 1960s and the 1970s, including singles, albums, original soundtracks, and musicals.
In 1961, the duo composed for Newley's creation 'Stop the World – I Want to Get Off,' which included the popular number 'What Kind of Fool Am I?' The film version was released 5 years later.
By 1963, his pieces such as 'Once in a Lifetime,' 'On a Wonderful Day Like Today,' and 'The Oompa-Loompa Song' became quite famous. ‘The Oompa-Loompa Song’ was a comic novelty song. His version of the folk songs ‘Strawberry Fair' and 'Pop Goes the Weasel,' too, were successful. The same year, his comedy album 'Fool Britannia!' became a hit with the audiences and was placed at the 10th spot on the U.K. charts.
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The title song for the 1964 ‘Bond’ movie 'Goldfinger' was penned by him and became a huge hit. 'Feeling Good' was another hit composition by him.
The following year, he co-composed the music and lyrics for the musical 'The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd.'
He was the host of Lucille Ball's character in the whirlwind London tour of the TV special 'Lucy in London' in 1966.
In 1967, he appeared in 'Doctor Dolittle.' The following year, he was seen in 'Sweet November.'
He directed, produced, wrote, scored, and starred in ‘Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?' in 1969. The movie featured him in the autobiographical role of 'Heironymus Merkin.’
He scored and wrote the lyrics for the 1971 musical 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.'
The song 'The Candy Man' from the movie 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' peaked on the 'Billboard Hot 100' chart (for Sammy Davis Jr. and ‘The Mike Curb Congregation’) in 1972.
In 1975, he appeared as 'Quilp' in 'Mister Quilp.' He also composed a few songs for this movie, including 'Love has the Longest Memory of All.'
His song 'Teach the Children' was placed at number 12 on the adult contemporary charts in 1976.
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The following decade, his career started going downhill. His decisions in Las Vegas did not yield any dividends.
In 1985, he portrayed the role of 'Mad Hatter' in 'Alice in Wonderland' and appeared as 'Trevor Peacock' in the 1986 remake of 'Stagecoach.' Both of them were TV films.
Between 1986 and 1987, he made a successful American tour of 'Stop The World – I Want to Get Off.'
He appeared as 'Captain Manzini' in 'The Garbage Pail Kids Movie' in 1987.
In 1990, he played 'Alfred' and 'Dabney Mayhew,' in 'Coins in the Fountain' and 'Polly Comin' Home,' respectively.
He appeared as 'Sal Manelli' in 'Boris and Natasha: The Movie' and as 'DI Keet' in 'Gone to Seed.'
His last role was supposed to be a regular character in the British soap opera 'EastEnders,' but it did not materialize as expected, due to his deteriorating health in his final days.
Family & Personal Life
Newley had married thrice in his lifetime. He married Ann Lynn in 1956. They had a son, Simon, who died in infancy due to a congenital infirmity. Newley and Lynn divorced in 1963.
The same year, he married actor Joan Collins. They had two children, Tara Cynara Newley and Alexander (also known as Sacha) Newley. In 1970, Newley and Collins divorced.
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His third wife, Dareth Rich, was a former air hostess. They had two children: Shelby and Christopher. Newley and Rich legally separated in 1989.
In the last 7 years of his life, British fashion designer Gina Fratini became his companion.
Honors & Legacy
In 1963, he won the 'Song of the Year Award,' as a songwriter, at the 'Grammy Awards,' for the song 'What Kind of Fool Am I?' The same year, he earned three 'Tony Award' nominations for 'Stop the World – I Want to Get Off' (in the categories of the ‘Best Author,' the 'Best Original Score,' and the 'Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.'
Two years later, he was nominated for the 'Best Original Score' and the 'Best Direction of a Musical' at the 1965 'Tony Awards,' for the musical 'The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd.' He also earned a nomination for the 'Best Original Score' at the 'Theatre World Award' that year.
His screenplay of 'Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?' was named the 'Best British Original Screenplay' by the 'Writers' Guild of Great Britain' in 1970.
In 1970, he was nominated for the ‘Academy Award’ for the 'Best Original Score,' for his movie 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.'
In 1989, he was inducted into the 'Songwriters' Hall of Fame.'
His biography, ‘Stop the World,' was authored by Garth Bardsley and released in 2003.
‘Dear Tony,' a book based on his long-lasting relationship with a young American lady, with whom he was in love, was published in 2013.
‘The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums’ described him as one of “the most innovative U.K. acts of the early rock years before moving into musicals and cabaret.”