Over the course of a career spanning more
than half a century, performer and composer Anthony Newley enjoyed great
success in the theater, in films and on the pop charts. Born in London
on September 24, 1931, he attended the Italia Conti Stage School before
appearing as a child actor in a number of films including The Little Ballerina
and Vice Versa; in 1948 he starred as the Artful Dodger in David Lean's
acclaimed adaptation of Oliver Twist. In 1955 Newley made his theatrical
debut in the revue Cranks, with close to two dozen more onscreen character
roles prior to starring as a rock 'n' roll star in 1959's Idle on Parade;
the feature's soundtrack EP launched the hit ballad "I've Waited So Long,"
the first in a string of seven U.K. Top Ten hits between 1959 and 1961
including "Personality," "Pop Goes the Weasel," "If She Should Come to
You" and the chart-toppers
"Why" and "Do You Mind." In 1960,
Newley issued his debut LP Love Is a Now and Then Thing, followed a year
later by Tony.
With collaborator Leslie Bricusse, Newley
wrote the book, music and lyrics for the 1961 stage musical Stop the World,
I Want to Get Off!; he also directed and starred as Littlechap. The production
was a major success, running in London's West End for over 16 months before
appearing on Broadway for some 500 performances; adapted by Hollywood in
1966, it also launched the hits "What Kind of Fool Am I?," "Once in a Lifetime"
and "Gonna Build a Mountain." After recording the 1963 comedy album
Fool Brittania with wife Joan Collins and Peter Sellers, Newley and Bricusse
wrote the theme to the James Bond entry Goldfinger before mounting their
next musical, 1965's The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd;
Newley later starred on Broadway in the lead role, although the production
did not equal the success of Stop the World.
Upon appearing with Rex Harrison in the
1967 film musical Doctor Doolittle, Newley directed and starred in 1969's
Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?
He soon reunited with Bricusse to compose the music for 1971's Willy Wonka
and the Chocolate Factory, which included the Sammy Davis Jr. hit "The
Candy Man;" the team also wrote a number of songs for an NBC television
adaptation of Peter Pan that same year. The 1972 stage musical The Good
Old Bad Old Days was the Newley/Bricusse team's last collaboration; some
of their compositions also reappeared on the 1972 Newley LP Ain't It Funny.
In 1975, he starred in the motion picture It Seemed Like a Good Idea at
the Time, quickly followed by both acting and musical contributions to
the features The Old Curiosity Shop and Old Dracula.
After the 1978 LP The Singer and His Songs
and the musical film Sammy Stops the World, Newley spent the majority of
the 1980s away from music, accepting only small roles in projects like
a 1982 PBS production of Alice in Wonderland, the 1983 TV miniseries Malibu
and the reviled 1987 feature The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. In 1989 he helmed
a short-lived London revival of Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!; that
same year, he and Bricusse were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 1990, Newley mounted a theatrical anthology of his past material titled
Once Upon a Song, and later continued performing the material in a cabaret
act. -- Jason Ankeny, All-Music Guide