Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.
by Angus McBean
bromide print, 1959
14 in. x 10 5/8 in. (355 mm x 270 mm)
Artistback to top
- Angus McBean (1904-1990), Photographer. Artist associated with 276 portraits, Sitter in 79 portraits.
Linked publicationsback to top
- 100 Fashion Icons, p. 134
- Pepper, Terence, Angus McBean Portraits, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 July to 22 October 2006), p. 101 Read entry
Shirley Veronica Bassey was born in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, the youngest of seven children. She became an overnight sensation when she appeared in Jack Hylton's production Such is Life at the Adelphi Theatre. Her recording career, which has included over thirty hit singles and thirty-three hit albums, was launched in 1957 with 'Banana Boat Song', followed by other major hits such as 'Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss Me' (1958) and 'As I love you' (1958), which reached number three in the charts in early 1959. She won a Britannia Award in 1977 for 'Best Solo Singer in the Last 50 Years', and was created a Dame in 1999. The portrait of the 22-year-old Bassey was selected as the cover shot for The Fabulous Shirley Bassey album of 1959, which carries another, more restrained McBean portrait on the reverse. A further iconic McBean portrait of Bassey appears on the cover of Show Boat from the same year. After her visit to the Endell Street studio, Bassey signed McBean's visitors' book, 'Can't wait to come back.'
Events of 1959back to top
Current affairsHarold Macmillan wins the general election with an increased majority, returning to office as Conservative prime minister. The victory was the result of perceived economic improvement under the Conservative government, and his (misquoted) boast: 'you've never had it so good.' During his premiership he earned the nickname 'Supermac', coined by cartoonist, Victor 'Vicky' Weisz.
Art and scienceClaudia Jones organises the first West Indian-style carnival in the country, starting the tradition of the annual Notting Hill carnival. The event was a response to the race riots of 1958, and an attempt to celebrate West Indian culture and help overcome racial prejudice by giving the whole community the opportunity to join in the event.
InternationalFidel Castro becomes leader of Cuba. After defeating the American-backed Batista government, Castro's revolutionary army arrived in Havana on 8th January where Castro proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Within a month, Prime Minister José Miró Cardona had resigned, and Castro took over.
In Tibet, an uprising against Chinese rule is brutally crushed, and the Dalai Lama flees to India, beginning his long exile.
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