Sally Bowles is a fictional character from the novels of Christopher Isherwood “Mr Norris Changes Trains” and “Goodbye To Berlin” (also known as The Berlin Diaries) published in 1935 and 1939.
She is a 19 yr old English actress and cabaret singer who has come to Berlin with dreams of stardom.
Isherwood’s description of seeing her perform for the first time, at a cabaret called The Lady Windermere off the Tauentzeinstraße in Autumn of 1930, is not a promising one:
“She had a surprisingly deep, husky voice. She sang badly, without any expression, her hands hanging down at her sides – yet her performance was, in its own way, effective because of her startling appearance and her air of not caring a curse of what people thought of her,”
He later adds
” Sally’s German is not merely incorrect, it is all her own”
It is thought that the character was loosely based on Jean Ross, a cabaret singer and political writer who Isherwood met whilst rooming at Fraulein Thurau’s guesthouse at 17 NollendorfStraße during late 1920′s and early 30′s.
The character continues in the adaptation of the novels into the award-winning Broadway play “I Am A Camera’ in 1951, then further into the Kander and Ebb musical play “Cabaret” in 1966, with Judy Dench taking the role of Sally in the first London production.
Watch Judi Dench performing “Don’t Tell Mama” Here
The most famous incarnation of the character is in Bob Fosse’s multi-award winning film adaptation of “Cabaret” in 1972. By this stage the character is very much American to accommodate Liza Minnelli, whose iconic performance went on to win her an Oscar, one of eight Oscar awards the film received in 1973, along with seven BAFTA awards and a Golden Globe for Best Picture.
It is,without doubt, the definitive performance. Watch “Maybe This Time”.