A fan of Gentlemen Jack? Then you’re going to love the story of forgotten stars, Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney…
BY ALISON CHILD. IMAGE COURTESY OF TELL ME I’M FORGIVEN.
Introducing a “new” story to delight fans of historical lesbian dramas like Gentleman Jack and Tipping The Velvet: Tell Me I’m Forgiven: The Story Of Forgotten Stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney. Set in the first half of the 20th Century against a backdrop of two world wars, with the sparkling era of the Bright Young Things sandwiched sensationally in between.
So, who were these two women? Well, Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney were partners offstage – as well as on. They lived together in the King’s Road Chelsea while appearing in London’s West End, singing the popular love songs of the day to each other.
Now, Gwen and Norah’s story has been told for the first time. Working with editor Helen Sandler from Tollington Press, we’ve produced a glossy biography of the two women, complete with over 60 photographs.
The book reveals how Gwen kept faith in her relationship with Norah despite her co-star’s three consecutive, heterosexual marriages. The women were constantly featured in the press for their antics behind the scenes. When Gwen was arrested for assaulting a policeman, she hired London’s top barrister and appeared on stage the same night dressed as a convict pulling a ball and chain.
Gwen and Norah partied alongside Tallulah Bankhead, Noel Coward, Radclyffe Hall and Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly. The lesbian motor boat racing champion, Joe Carstairs (made famous by Kate Summerscale’s book The Queen of Whale Cay) was another close associate of both of them, and Gwen visited the island in the Bahamas where Carstairs wooed Marlene Dietrich (and her numerous other women lovers…)
Gwen and Norah, known professionally as Blaney & Farrar, made over 30 recordings together. In songs like, Moanin’ For You and Maybe I’m Wrong Again they actually touched on secrets from their private life, doing it with such authenticity that audiences accepted them for who they were.
One producer they worked with, André Charlot, said: “Norah fills the stalls with all the young men, and Gwen has all the lesbians in London to see her. I’ve got the best of both worlds!”
Speaking of the book, Miriam Margolyes said: “I adored this lovely, moving story, so well researched, such amazing photos. Lesbian passion skilfully evoked in the 1920s showbiz milieu. Wish I’d been there!”
Get your signed copies of Tell Me I’m Forgiven: The Story of Forgotten Stars Gwen Farrar And Norah Blaney (for just £10!) here. #TellMeImForgiven
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