The Sounds of Percival Mackey

Musician/composer Percival Mackey (Thomas Percival  Montague Mackey, 1894-1950) made his biggest mark in films, though he also figures in British variety history.

The son of a music publisher, Mackey was already playing piano professionally as a teenager. When only 14 he toured the halls with a one man act that combined ventriloquism, magic, comedy, and a silent film, which he accompanied. Later he toured Ireland, accompanying animated silent films. After serving in World War One, he moved to the seaside resort of Brighton, where he performed with Jack Hylton’s Orchestra.

By the ’20s Mackey was touring with his own bands, such as the Broadway Five, and The Percival Mackey Trio, and was acting as musical director for shows like the West End premiere of No, No, Nanette (1925). His band was featured in 1929 Deforest Phonofilm, and also a 1933 Pathefilm. He was also frequently on radio, served as a musical director at EMI, and composed music for British films between 1931 and 1951. Of special interest to vaudeville fans is the film Variety Jubilee (1943), an entertaining historical survey of the music hall. In numerous films, Mackey appeared on camera as the bandleader in dance band scenes: This is the Life (1933), Death at a Broadcast (1934), Honeymoon for Three (1935), Lily of Laguna (1938), Somewhere in England (1940), Garrison Follies (1940), Facing the Music (1941), Somewhere in Camp (1943), Somewhere on Leave (1943), What Do We Do Now? (1945), and Honeymoon Hotel (1946). He composed music for films starring the likes of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Stanley Lupino, Nervo and Knox, and Gert and Daisy. Percival Mackey was only 56 when he made his mortal exit.

To learn more about show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.