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child star, singer, actress
Petula Sally Olwen Clark was born in Ewell, Surrey, England, on November 15, 1932. She began her stage career at the age of seven., made her first broadcast as a singer for the BBC Radio Overseas Service in October 1942, became an overnight star on BBC National Radio in December 1942, and was hosting her own regular show, Pet's Parlour -- a series spotlighting patriotic songs designed to boost the morale of wartime audiences -- at the age of 11.
Clark made her film debut in A Medal for the General in 1945. Several films followed, including London Town (1946) and Vice Versa (1948), and her first leading role was in Don't Ever Leave Me (1949). In 1951, British film-goers voted her their 6th favorite actress, just behind Greer Garson and ahead of Jane Wyman.
Success on the silver screen did not keep Clark from pursuing her singing career, and 1954's "The Little Shoemaker" became her first Top 20 single, while 1960's "Sailor" was her first Number One hit, and 1961's "Romeo" sold over a million copies.
On June 8, 1961, Clark married Claude Wolff, with whom she eventually had three children -- Bara (1961), Kathy (1963), and Patrick (1972). The couple relocated to France after their marriage, and Clark established a new fan base there with hits such as "Ya-Ya Twist," "Chariot," and "Monsieur." By 1962 she was the top female singer in France.
Clark's popularity "crossed the pond" with 1965's "Downtown," which became the first single by a British woman ever to reach Number One on the American pop charts and to sell a million copies in the United States. Her American popularity was bolstered by many television and concert appearances, and by 1966 Clark was one of the most popular and best selling female singers in the world, and she continued to chart on both sides of the Atlantic well into the 1970's. Other hits during this period included "My Love," " I Know A Place," "This Is My Song," "Sign of the Times," "Don't Sleep In the Subway," and "Kiss Me Goodbye." She also appeared in two Hollywood musicals, Finian's Rainbow (1968) and Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969).
Although she began scaling back her schedule in the late-70's, Clark is still an active and popular performer today. Her last movie appearance was in the British production of Never Never Land (1980), and her last television appearance was in the 1981 French mini-series "Sans Famille," but she has never stopped recording and still performs before sellout concert audiences. She has also enjoyed great success on the theater stage, beginning with her critically acclaimed portrayal of Maria in The Sound of Music" (in London, 1981-1982). Other stage appearances have included "Candida" (UK 1983), "Someone Like You" (UK 1989-1990) for which she wrote the music, "Blood Brothers" (US 1993-1995), and "Sunset Boulevard" (London 1995-1997 and US 1998-2000).
Clark was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1998, and in 2012 was awarded the honor of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in Paris, for her distinguished career in France.
This page was last updated on 02/17/2017.