O'Shea, Tessie (c. 1913–1995)

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O'Shea, Tessie (c. 1913–1995)

British-born singer and actress. Born in Cardiff, Wales, around 1913; died in a nursing home on April 21, 1995, in Leesburg, Florida.

Selected theater:

headlined British revues On With the Show and High Time ; made American debut in The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963); appeared in A Time for Singing (1966), Something's Afoot (1976), and Broadway Follies (1981).

Selected filmography:

The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966); Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).

An old-fashioned music-hall performer who cheerfully capitalized on her wide girth, Tessie O'Shea was born around 1913 in Cardiff, Wales, and made her first tour at the age of seven. At 15, already the veteran headliner of the Bristol Hippodrome and other variety theaters throughout Britain, she appeared in a Blackpool revue singing "Two-Ton Tessie from Tennessee," the song that ultimately became her anthem. During her heyday in England, O'Shea sang for the royal princesses Elizabeth (II) and Margaret Rose .

O'Shea's American debut in 1963, as a fish-and-chip peddler in The Girl Who Came to Supper, turned into a Tony-winning performance for the actress. During a brief 12-minute turn on stage, she sang and danced her way through a medley of four Noel Coward songs, stopping the show. Her success led to a stint on the CBS variety series "The Entertainers" in 1964. O'Shea's later Broadway shows included A Time for Singing (1966), Something's Afoot (1976), and Broadway Follies (1981). She also played bit parts in the movies The Russians Are Coming, the Russians are Coming (1966) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). O'Shea, who never married, spent her later years in East Lake Weir, Florida.


"Obituary," in The Day [New London, CT]. April 22, 1995.

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O'Shea, Tessie (c. 1913–1995)

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