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Wartime entertainer Hutch remembered in Channel 4 documentary

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Exclusive: Channel 4 is to throw the spotlight on twenties cabaret star Leslie Hutchinson – once the UK’s highest paid entertainer – in a documentary that will feature dramatic reconstructions of key moments in the music legend’s life.

The 60-minute programme tells how the black entertainer, who was commonly known as Hutch, emigrated from the island of Grenada and became one of the UK’s biggest stars of the twenties and thirties.

Currently being produced with the working title Hutch – High Society’s Favourite Gigolo, it will also focus on the bisexual cabaret star’s relationships with the likes of Cole Porter, Ivor Novello and actress Tallulah Bankhead.

The documentary will tell how Hutch ended up having an affair with a member of the royal family, which eventually destroyed him socially and professionally.

Channel 4 specialist factual commissioning executive Liz Hartford described Hutch as a “trail-blazer for black entertainers” whose story has “largely been forgotten”. She explained: “We want to put that right. The film will chart Hutch’s spectacular rise and fall.

“It will also explore the prejudices of the period and how Hutch, as the first black superstar in Britain, challenged the class system in less socially mobile times.

“With his incredible musical talent, he became one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world during the twenties and thirties, and a much-loved wartime entertainer who lifted the spirits of the nation every bit as much as Vera Lynn.”

The documentary is being made by Maroon Productions and will feature a contribution from regular Stage columnist Patrick Newley.

It forms part of Channel 4’s High Society season, which comprises five documentaries about notorious figures from the higher echelons of British society, and will include archive footage of Hutch’s performances and previously unseen photographs.

Dramatic moments in his life will be recreated by actors who have yet to be cast. The programme is scheduled to be broadcast in October.

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