Sadie Corré, appeared in ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show;’ dies at 91
Sadie Corré in Rocky Horror Picture Show
(Courtesy of Scott Michaels)
By Glen Barnham
Despite her height of only 4’,1” Sadie Corré achieved much and overcame prejudice to become one of this countries greatest pantomime cats, and achieved cult status with her performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Corré was born in 1918 in Bognor, Sussex. Her first appearance was at the age of 7 on the Palace Pier, Brighton and her first professional appearance at age 12, was as ‘Trouble’ in Madam Butterfly at the Streatham Hill Theatre; she would say with a smile that her friends said she has been trouble ever since.
Audiences remarked on her acting ability when crying, but did not know it was Joan Cross trying to make her laugh. In return, Sadie got back at Joan while she sang ‘One Fine Day’, doing her best to make the great soprano laugh. Despite that, she was in demand for the same part by the leading opera companies of the day. That sense of fun was to be her hallmark for the next eight decades.
Her next appearance was in, Where the Rainbow Ends, at the Holborn Empire. Films at the time included child roles with Marlene Dietrich and Richard Tauber. By the age of 14, she had been at the Italia Conti stage school for two years, where a classmate was Dinah Sheridan.
After Holborn she worked in Cavalcade in 1931 for 11 months at Drury Lane. Sadie spoke very fondly of Noel Coward, who was a good friend to the entire cast and was the perfect boss; he was remembered with affection for his personal kindness. Other parts during the Conti period included cabaret work where her tap-dancing and comedy was recognized even at that age. Her next stage work was for Cochrane during the 1935/1936 season at the Adelphi Theatre in Follow the Sun with Vic Oliver and Winston Churchill’s daughter Sarah, who was in the chorus.
Her big break came in 1937 when Hughie Green asked her to join His Gang, where again her comedy and tap came to the fore. That act of three started at the Stratford Empire on August 7, 1937 and disbanded at the outbreak of the war. The act with Sadie and Hughie was the top of the bill at all the top theatres and gave her the opportunity to work the same bill, as all the legendary acts of the time. Her acts included Max Miller, Robb Wilton, Georgie Wood (who after seeing her impersonation of him said ‘am I that good’), and Jimmy James.
Then in 1939/1940 she toured as Michael in Peter Pan. After that she spent the war touring with ENSA entertaining the troops. In 1947, while at the Gateshead Empire, Hughie Green asked if she was interested in touring with him in a new show called Opportunity Knocks. It opened in Leicester and continued as top of the bill at major theatres
After a year with Green and a huge bust-up which never healed (she was always very direct), they parted company and she moved on with more tours, including Melody Inn, with Jackson Earle, which ran for a year. Sadie was asked by both Harry Tate and Hilda Baker to join their acts but declined. Other shows included Frank Randles Scandals (he locked her in a dressing room in the nude and chased her with a loaded gun, but she sorted him out), Gulliver’s Travels, Folly to be Wise and Godiver Rides Again, which toured the last of the number 5’s variety theatres in 1956/1958 in the last throws of the old tours with nudes, but she managed to keep her clothes on.
Sadie Corré in Caravaggio
In 1948, a chance meeting with Clarkson Rose saw her take the first of many animal roles in Pantomime (Panto) for Goody Two Shoes at Kings Theatre, Hammersmith. From then on she started a new career which made her one of the greatest pantomime animals who worked in that field. Panto experts rated her the greatest cat – praise that she enjoyed. Her legendary cat was child friendly and had its own personality. Such work culminated in a four month season in 1960/1961 at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom in Turn Again Whitington.
Much in demand for Panto, she worked with all the leading performers over four decades and helped many of those first timers from the world of pop. Some of her favorite co-stars in Panto included Arthur Askey, Eddie Gray, Dana, Spike Milligan, Joe Brown, Jimmy Wheeler, Tommy Cooper, Norman Vaughan and Jess Conrad.
All the biggest and best Christmas productions, and the endless tours for Emile Littler of Snow White, kept her busy. Her last skin work was with Keith Harris when she played Cuddles at the 1984 Command Performance. Arthritis soon forced her to give up this work and the famous cat costume was proudly given to the Theatre Museum along with recorded memories that kept the staff in stitches.
Films and television included Funnybones; Chitty, Chitty, Bang Bang; Wombling Free; Dark Crystal; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Willow; Return to Oz; Brazil; Dummy; Return of the Jedi; Caravaggio; Video Stars (BBC drama); Spike Milligan series (BBC), and Mr. Majieka (TVS). Two award winning documentaries (1960’s) about her life were Lord Snowdon’s, Born to be Small and Aquarius (LWT), which brought out the serious side of being small but were also vehicles for her dynamic personality.
Her role as a ‘Trannie’ dancer in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) gave her cult status in many countries, and kept her in demand at conventions for this cult film. In her 80s, she continued to be a star of the internet on the Rocky Horror website. It gave this totally professional artist satisfaction, and encouraged her to be available for work “as long as there was not too much running about, and not in the sticks (outside of London).”
Sadie appeared at all major Variety Theatre’s with the exception of Finsbury Park. International tours included the United States, Germany, France and Australia where her tap and Panto work were in demand. She recalled that the only time she went off to the sound of her own feet was at Chorley where she survived a number of appearances. She was a noted success at the legendary early Friday evening shows at the Glasgow Empire.
Sadie worked in all aspects of show business except the circus and worked on behalf of fellow artists as an active supporter of the Grand Order of Lady Ratlings, where she was a past officer. She also sat on the board of the Variety Artists Federation.
In 2007, this very independent and active lady suffered a serious stroke, and went into a care home in St John’s Wood, but still managed to bring a smile to staff and visitors. Sadie Corré died on August 26, 2009 at age 91.