Wendy Toye
Born(1917-05-01)1 May 1917
London, England
Died27 February 2010(2010-02-27) (aged 92)
London, England
Occupation(s)Dancer, choreographer, actress; film, television and stage director
Years active1929–1997
Spouse(s)Edward Selwyn Sharp

Beryl May Jessie Toye, CBE (1 May 1917 – 27 February 2010), known professionally as Wendy Toye, was a British dancer, stage and film director and actress.[1][2][3]

Life and career

Toye was born in London. She initially worked as a dancer and choreographer both on stage and on film. She joined the Markova-Dolin Ballet Company as a soloist and was taken under the wing of Dame Ninette de Valois. She was soon collaborating with the likes of directors Jean Cocteau and Carol Reed. She first appeared on film as a dancer in Anthony Asquith’s film Dance Pretty Lady in 1931. In 1936 she was working on the opera film Pagliacci with the director Karl Grune, who, caught up in technical matters, asked Toye to direct the actors for him.[4]

Toye directed the original production of the musical Bless the Bride in 1947. Her debut film short as a director, The Stranger Left No Card (1952), won the Best Fictional Short Film prize at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, while her Christmas-themed short On the Twelfth Day… (1955) received an Oscar nomination in the Best Short Subject category. She directed films from the early 1950s until the early 1980s. Toye also was an advisor to the Arts Council and lectured in Australia.[5]

She was attacked and robbed in her maisonette in Westminster on 27 November 1956. Two men stole jewellery and money.[6]

On 6 January 1958, she appeared as Roy Plomley's guest on the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs. Her choices were wide-ranging, including Bach, Mahler and Lena Horne.[7] She was the head of the jury at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival in 1963.[8]

Among the many charities supported by Toye were the Theatrical Guild (formerly the Theatrical Ladies' Guild), where she helped backstage and front-of-house staff, and became president, and the Actors' Charitable Trust, to which she was recruited by Noël Coward, and of which she was vice president.

Toye married Edward Selwyn Sharp in 1940; they divorced in 1950.[9]

Toye collaborated with the cartoonist and illustrator Ronald Searle on the stage play Wild Thyme (1955), and then on two films: On The Twelfth Day (1955) and The King’s Breakfast (1963). Searle designed the decor and costumes and painted the sets.[10] Based on a poem by A A Milne, The King's Breakfast, with music by Ron Grainer, tells of a quest to find an appropriate spread for the royal bread. Initially sponsored by the British Butter Board, the film ended up having its premiere at Cannes. On its re-release in 2022, The Guardian descried it as "a half-hour banquet of uproarious slapstick, dance and mime, with pantomime sets and costumes".[4]

She was awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1992 for services to the arts.[11] She was made an honorary D. Litt. in 1996 by the City University.[12] Toye was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1991, when she was surprised by Michael Aspel at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.[citation needed]

She died on 27 February 2010 at Hillingdon Hospital, Greater London.[5]

She refused to write or authorise a biography during her lifetime, in spite of encouragement by her friends and family. Her theatrical archive is mostly in the Wendy Toye Archive, V&A Theatre & Performance Department, THM/343 of the Victoria and Albert Museum, with some items in the University of Bristol Theatre Collection.

Selected work

This list is a collation from three biographical dictionaries, an obituary[12][13][14][15] and the information web sites from some of the theatres.

Early career

Dancer, choreographer and actress

Stage director


Chichester Festival

Watermill Theatre, Newbury

Other UK

Unknown location



Sadler's Wells Opera/ENO

ENO North






  1. ^ Obituary The Times, 1 March 2010.
  2. ^ Obituary London Guardian, 1 March 2010.
  3. ^ Obituary The Independent, 2 March 2010.
  4. ^ a b 'Backed by the Butter Board – then a Cannes premiere: rediscovering the films of Wendy Toye', in The Guardian, 18 November, 2022
  5. ^ a b "British film-maker Wendy Toye dies aged 92". BBC News Online. 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  6. ^ "Miss W. Toye attacked and robbed". The Times. No. 53701. London. 29 November 1956. col A, p. 7.
  7. ^ "BBC – Desert Island Discs – Castaway: Wendy Toye".
  8. ^ "Berlinale: Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  9. ^ "Decree Nisi Against Miss Wendy Toye". The Times. No. 51634. London. 8 March 1950. col D, p. 3.
  10. ^ "The King's Breakfast". Pamela Green: Never Knowingly Overdressed.
  11. ^ "No. 52952". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 1992. p. 9.
  12. ^ a b Who's Who 2010 Page 2316
  13. ^ Debrett's People of Today 2010
  14. ^ The International Who's Who 2004
  15. ^ a b c Clarke, Mary (April 2010). "Obituary". Dancing Times. London. 100 (1196): 82.
  16. ^ Programme in Bristol University Theatre Collection