By George!

Every day, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography sends me an e-mail containing an entry from the Dictionary. Recently I received the entry about Phyllis Dixey (1914-1964), the English striptease artiste.

After making her start in the chorus line, Phyllis graduated to a leading role in stage tableaux. These comprised static ensembles of thinly veiled women who recreated scenes from classical art or adopted poses deemed of artistic merit, a requirement needed to evade the government’s theatrical censor. (This situation was depicted in the 2005 movie Mrs Henderson Presents.) These tableaux – and Phyllis’ later fan-dance routine – came to the attention of the censor in the Lord Chamberlain’s office, who said:

“The Lord Chancellor considers that this is carrying stage nudity too far…. The Lord Chancellor desires me to warn you that unless more reasonableness is shown in the inclusion of nudity in your programme he will have no alternative to prohibiting it altogether.”

The name of the theatrical censor was George Titman.

I’m not making this up.

Here are some relevant photos. The first is a publicity photo for Phyllis Dixey. The second is a photo of the real George Titman with the actress Lesley Anne Down, who played Phyllis Dixey in a TV program in 1978.

phyllisdixey george-and-lesley

George Titman (1889-1980) was not only the Secretary of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office during the Dixey era; he was also the Duke of Edinburgh’s Serjeant-at-Arms at the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. For those not already snickered out, I can additionally inform you that George Titman was also one of only five people to know the whereabouts of the Crown Jewels during the Second World War.

Later, George’s son, John Titman (1926-2003), also held the posts of Secretary of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office (1978-91) and a Serjeant-at-Arms to the Queen (1982-91).

And so to the clerihew:



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