The Bluebell Girls
Margaret Kelly was born in Dublin on the 24th June 1910 to Margaret O’Brian and James Kelly but it was spinster, Mary Murphy, who raised her.
Earning the name Bluebell from her clear blue eyes, Miss Bluebell originally took dancing lessons to help strengthen her slender legs. Mary Murphy both encouraged and supported Miss Bluebell’s love of dancing which was to turn into a most successful career.
Having left Dublin for Liverpool Miss Bluebell’s stage debut at the age of 12 was in Pantomime. At 14 a tour of Scotland with the Hot Jocks was the next step performing in numerous music halls. From Scotland Miss Bluebell joined a troupe run by Alfred Jackson and travelled to Europe as a Jackson Girl.
After a few months at the Scala, in Germany, Miss Bluebell went on tour to Copenhagen, Spain, Barcelona, Budapest and Hungary. In 1930 after a short spell in London the opportunity came for her to go to Paris as a holiday replacement at the Folies Bergere.
Her move from dancer to a more administrative role came about when she was asked to form a troupe to perform at the old cinema, the Paramount. Before long Miss Bluebell was back at the Folies with her second troupe and a third troupe touring Italy.
It was at the Folies in 1932 that the Bluebell Girls were ‘born’ and where she met Rumanian pianist Marcel Leibovici. They married on March 1st, 1939 and went on to have 4 children, Patrick, Francis, Florence and Jean Paul. (Their youngest son, Jean Paul, died in 1996.)
Unfortunately the Second World War now intervened and it was not until these stressful years were over that Miss Bluebell joined forces with Pierre Louis-Guerin and the Clerico Brothers at 78 Champs Elysees - The (old) Lido. The venue had been totally refurbished from the old swimming baths and the show was named Confetti. It was at the end of this show that Douglas Scott, a young dancer, stayed on and became the Lido’s stage manager leaving only in 1984 to return to America.
With Paris a huge success, Las Vegas beckoned and in 1958 the Bluebell Girls appeared at the newly built Stardust Hotel. In conjunction again with Donn Arden, the production of Hallelujah Hollywood featuring the Margaret Kelly Dancers opened at the MGM Grand Hotel where it ran for 6 years.
Despite humble beginnings, the global success of the Bluebell Girls shows what determination and a will to succeed can accomplish. ‘Retiring’ at 79, Miss Bluebell continued to take an active interest in the shows until her health deteriorated.
Miss Bluebell passed away on September 11th, 2004 at the age of 94.