Ivor Emmanuel

Ivor Emmanuel

Ivor Emmanuel

Last updated: 08 January 2009

Welsh singer and star of stage, screen and musical theatre Ivor Emmanuel is most fondly remembered as Private Owen who led the rendition of Men of Harlech in 1964 film classic Zulu.

Born in Margam in November 1927, Emmanuel moved to Pontrhydyfen as a child. Family tragedy struck when he was 14 as a stray bomb from a British World War Two plane dropped on the village, killing his mother, father, grandfather and two year old sister.

He began working in the coal mine and later joined the Pontrhydyfen Operatic Society, getting his showbiz break after attending a London audition for the musical Oklahoma! (Legend has it due to the helping hand of friend and fellow Pontrhydyfen local boy Richard Burton.)

He joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1950 as a chorister, having previously auditioned a few years earlier at the age of 20.

Soon afterwards he moved into West End musical theatre, starring in shows such as South Pacific, The King and I, Plain and Fancy, Damn Yankees and Finian's Rainbow.

The late 1950s saw Emmanuel's screen career breakthrough. He starred in bilingual programme Gwlad y Gân (Land of Song) with Siân Hopkins between 1958 and 1964, which gave him a large following in Wales and the West of England.

He starred in the Broadway version of Richard Llewellyn's novel How Green Was My Valley, though it only ran for 40 shows. Following this he went on to perform in summer seasons alongside acts such as Morecambe and Wise, and also starred in cabaret and pantomimes.

Emmanuel also gained acclaim as a recorded artist, with studio cast recordings of his West End shows, but it is the role in 1964 historical war film Zulu for which he is most remembered.

He retired to Spain, swapping the showbiz lifestyle with which he had found fame for the quiet life. He died, aged 79, in July 2007.

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