Jack Buchanan (Walter John Buchanan)

Jack Buchanan

After a brief attempt to follow his late father’s profession and a failure at acting in Glasgow, Jack Buchanan came to London and became a music hall comedian under the name of Chump Buchanan and first appeared on the West End in September 1912 in the comic opera The Grass Widow at the Apollo Theatre. Hardship dogged him for a while before he became famous whilst on tour in Tonight’s the Night. He produced and acted in his own plays both in London and New York. Buchanan’s health was not robust, and, to his bitter regret, he was declared unfit for military service in the First World War. He appeared with some success in West End shows during the war, attracting favourable notices as a “knut” in the mould of George Grossmith Jr, and achieved front rank stardom in André Charlot’s 1921 revue A to Z, appearing with Gertrude Lawrence. Among his numbers in the show was Ivor Novello’s “And Her Mother Came Too”, which became Buchanan’s signature song. The show transferred successfully to Broadway in 1924. For the rest of the 1920s and 1930s he was famous for “the seemingly lazy but most accomplished grace with which he sang, danced, flirted and joked his way through musical shows…. The tall figure, the elegant gestures, the friendly drawling voice, the general air of having a good time.” During the Second World War he starred in his own musical production “It’s Time to Dance”, whose cast included Fred Emney. The musical show was based on a book by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose, and was staged at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

Jack Buchanan made his film debut in the silent cinema, in 1917 and appeared in about three dozen films in his career. In 1938, Buchanan achieved the unusual feat of starring in the London stage musical This’ll Make You Whistle while concurrently filming a film version. The film was released while the stage version was still running; thus the two productions competed with each other. Other starring roles included Monte Carlo (1930), Smash and Grab (1937) and The Gang’s All Here (1939). He also produced several films including Happidrome (1943) and The Sky’s the Limit (1938), which he also directed. He continued to work on Broadway and the West End and took roles in several Hollywood musicals, including The Band Wagon (1953), his best-known film, in which he plays camp theatre director Jeffrey Cordova opposite Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. He suffered from spinal arthritis, though this didn’t stop him from performing several dance numbers with Astaire in Band Wagon. Jack Buchanan’s Hollywood films included Paris, The Show of Shows (1929), Monte Carlo (1930) and The Band Wagon (1953). His British films included Yes, Mr Brown (1933), Goodnight, Vienna (1932), That’s a Good Girl (1933), Brewster’s Millions (1935), Come Out of the Pantry (1935), When Knights Were Bold (1936), This’ll Make You Whistle (1936), Smash and Grab (1937), The Sky’s the Limit (1938), Break the News (1938), The Gang’s All Here (1939), The Middle Watch (1940), Bulldog Sees It Through (1940), As Long as They’re Happy (1955) and Josephine and Men (1955). He made one French film (bilingual), The Diary of Major Thompson (1955). Jack Buchanan died in London in 1957 from spinal cancer, when he was 66 years old.

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Born

  • April, 02, 1891
  • Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Died

  • October, 20, 1957
  • United Kingdom
  • London, England

Cause of Death

  • spinal cancer

Cemetery

  • Golders Green Crematorium
  • Golders Green, London, England
  • United Kingdom

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