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Obituaries

Queenie Leonard, 96; Cabaret Singer Appeared in Films

January 29, 2002|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Queenie Leonard, British cabaret singer and actress who performed proper English maids and other character roles in more than 30 Hollywood films and was the lilting voice of a bird in Disney's 1951 "Alice In Wonderland," has died. She was 96.

Although legally blind for many years, the impeccably groomed Leonard maintained her independence until the end of her life. She died Jan. 17 of natural causes in her West Los Angeles apartment, said her friend Patience Cleveland.

Born Pearl Walker in Manchester, England, the young chanteuse took the name Queenie Leonard to perform onstage with her entertainer father, John Leonard Walker, when she was 14.

She quickly became popular in stage musicals, including Cole Porter's "Nymph Errant" with Gertrude Lawrence, and entertained London's cafe society at the Mayfair Hotel, Claridge's, the Cafe Anglais and Ciro's. She also began working in British films, beginning with the 1931 "Who Killed Doc Robin," and was on British radio and neophyte television programs.

In 1939, she moved to Hollywood with her set designer husband, whom she later divorced. She was cast as a switchboard operator in "Confirm or Deny" and as Sister Agatha in "Ladies in Retirement," both in 1941, and worked steadily in films through the mid-1960s. She was often uncredited, as was the case in "What a Way to Go!" starring Shirley MacLaine, and in "My Fair Lady," both in 1964.

Leonard unsurprisingly was popular in musical motion pictures, including "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music." For Disney, she also voiced Princess in "101 Dalmatians."

Moving her nightclub experience to the U.S., Leonard performed at the Deauville on Sunset Strip and the Blue Angel in New York, and became a regular in Hollywood's old Turnabout Theater.

She appeared occasionally on television, including episodes of the 1960s series "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeannie."

Her handprints were placed in London's Theatre Museum at Covent Garden, a part of the Theatre Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Twice divorced, Leonard had no children and no known survivors.

Cleveland said a memorial is planned for 1 p.m. Feb. 17 in Westwood Cemetery Chapel. Memorial contributions can be sent to the Braille Institute, to the Actors Fund, to the Motion Picture Relief Fund or to any charity of the donor's choice benefiting animals.

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