Queenie Leonard, English actress and singer who appeared in numerous British and American films during her lengthy career, died Jan. 17 of natural causes at her home in West Los Angeles. She was 86.
The daughter of an entertainer, she was born Pearl Walker in Manchester, England. Nicknamed “Queenie,” she took her father’s middle name and began appearing with him in cabaret acts by age 14.
She soon found her niche on the stage working under the banners of both Andre Charlot and C.B. Cochran and appeared in Cole Porter’s “Nymph Errant” with Gertrude Lawrence.
She became a favorite of London’s cafe society performing in swanky nightspots including the Mayfair Hotel, Claridge’s, the Cafe de Paris and the Cafe Anglals.
She appeared in British films ranging from “Who Killed Doc Robin?” (1931) to “Moonlight Sonata” (1938) with pianist Ignace Paderewski. She also found time to do radio work for the BBC.
In 1936, she married art director and set designer L.P. (“Bill”) Williams. Three years later, the couple came to Hollywood when Williams was hired to re-create Rugby School for the film “Tom Brown’s Schooldays.” When war broke out, he returned to England, joining the Royal Air Force while Leonard remained in California.
During that time, she appeared in numerous Hollywood films including “Ladies in Retirement” (!941), “Confirm or Deny” (1941), “This Above All” (1942), “Thumbs Up” (1943), “The Lodger” (1944), “And Then There Were None” (1945) and “Molly and Me” (1945).
The war separation eventually led to the couple divorcing in 1947, and Leonard went on with her career. Post-war films she appeared in included “Cluny Brown” (1946), “Life With Father” (1947), “Lorna Doone” (1951), Disney’s animated “Alice in Wonderland” (voice work, 1951) “The Narrow Margin” (1952), “Les Miserables” (1952), “Thunder in the East” (1951), “101 Dalmatians” (voice work 1961) “The Notorious Landlady” (1962), “Hatari!” (1962), “My Fair Lady” (1964), “Mary Poppins” (1964), “What a Way to Go!” (1964), “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” (1971). She also appeared in TV shows including “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”
During the 1950s she made her American nightclub debut at the Deauville on the Sunset Strip and later headlined the Blue Angel in New York City. In 1958, she married actor Tom Conway. That union ended in divorce in 1963.
In the 1970s, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which made it increasingly difficult for her to work. By the early 1980s, she was declared legally blind.
However her reputation lived on, she continued to dress immaculately, and a while back her handprints were placed in the Theater Museum at Covent Garden.
A memorial gathering will take place at the Westwood Cemetery on Sunday Feb. 17 at 1 p.m.
Contributions in her name can be made to the Braille Institute, the Actor’s Fund, the Motion Picture Relief Fund or any animal charity of the donor’s choice.