Date of Birth: 16 May 1937, Tayorville, Illinois, US
Birth Name: Yvonne Joyce Craig
Nicknames: Yvonne Craig
Dancer turned actress who brought a spirited grace to the high-kicking antics of the superheroine Batgirl
Yvonne Craig trained as a dancer and became the youngest-ever member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; but it was on television that her athletic grace won legions of fans, as Batgirl to Adam West’s Batman.
Now fondly remembered as an example of 1960s camp, Batman, made by the ABC television network, was steeped in the Pop Art sensibility of the era. The storylines were comic, the sets garish, and colourful bubble words like KAPOW!, BAM! and ZOK! livened up the fight sequences. When audience figures started to pall towards the end of the decade, the writers decided to freshen up the show by bringing in the character of Barbara Gordon, a good-looking librarian who pursues a second career as the crime-fighting Batgirl.
The producer, Howie Horwitz, was anxious to preserve the character’s femininity, so Batgirl was forbidden to punch her various on-screen nemeses, relying instead on high kicks and handily placed objects. While Adam West had his black Batcycle (with a detachable self-propelled sidecar for Robin), Yvonne Craig drove a purple version with a large yellow bow. She did most of her own stunts, which were made all the more uncomfortable by the bat wings that had replaced the motorcycle’s shock absorbers “like jumping off a table stiff-legged”, as she put it.
Such dedication could not halt the show’s decline, however, and after one more series it was cancelled in 1968. Looking back, Yvonne Craig expressed disappointment in the way the character was handled after her initial test screening. “When we did the pilot, Batgirl was supposed to be not only as good as the guys but better,” she recalled. “She ended up being this cute little bland character, when she could have been more in the style of Katharine Hepburn.”
None the less, her performance was eagerly taken up by feminist critics as a spirited example of the hard-working career girl an ally to the hero, rather than his dependant. In 1972 Yvonne Craig stepped into the role once more, this time on behalf of the US Department of Labor. A 30-second skit had Batgirl swinging to the rescue of a captive Batman and Robin but not before demanding equal pay.
Yvonne Joyce Craig was born on May 16 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois, and aspired to a career in dance from an early age. While attending the Edith James School of Ballet she was spotted by the Russian ballerina Alexandra Danilova, who helped her win a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York. Aged 16 she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but left three years later and eventually fell into acting after a chance meeting with John Ford’s son Patrick. Her first starring role was as the beautiful yet spoiled Elena in The Young Land (1959), which the younger Ford produced.
By the mid-1960s she had moved away from temptress roles to play more traditional leading ladies, appearing alongside Elvis Presley in It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). The two of them hit it off and Yvonne Craig spent time with Presley at his home in Bel Air though, coming from the insulated life of the professional dancer, she had little idea of his rock-and-roll credentials. The reality was finally brought home to her when, trying to find the light-switch in his bedroom late one night, she accidentally hit a panic button and was greeted by several carloads of policemen at the front door.
On television she made a foray into the spy arena with a guest part in the original series of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1965), gave a passionate performance as the creatively named Ecstasy La Joie in The Wild Wild West (1966) and was painted green for a memorable turn as a psychotic alien in Star Trek (1969). In later life she swapped acting for a career in property, but continued to make regular appearances at comic and fantasy conventions in America.
Date of Birth: 9 May 1932, Old Windsor, Berkshire, UK
Birth Name: Geraldine McKeown
Nicknames: Geraldine McEwan
Geraldine McEwan, could purr like a kitten, snap like a viper and, like Shakespeare’s Bottom, roar you as gently as any sucking dove. She was a brilliant, distinctive and decisive performer with a particular expertise in high comedy whose career incorporated West End comedy, Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre, and a cult television following in EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia.
She was also notable on television as a controversial Miss Marple in a series of edgy, incongruously outspoken Agatha Christie adaptations (2004-09). Inheriting a role that had already been inhabited at least three times “definitively” by Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury and Joan Hickson she made of the deceptively cosy detective a character both steely and skittish, with a hint of lust about her, too.
This new Miss Marple was an open-minded woman of the world, with a back story that touched on a thwarted love affair with a married man who had been killed in the first world war. Familiar thrillers were given new plot twists, and there was even the odd sapphic embrace. For all her ingenuity and faun-like fluttering, McEwan was really no more successful in the part than was Julia McKenzie, her very different successor.
Although she was not easily confused with Maggie Smith, she often tracked her stylish contemporary, succeeding her in Peter Shaffer roles (in The Private Ear and The Public Eye in 1963, and in Lettice and Lovage in 1988) and rivalling Smith as both Millamant and Lady Wishfort in Congreve’s masterpiece The Way of the World in 1969 and 1995.
And a decade after Smith won her Oscar for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, McEwan scored a great success in the same role on television in 1978; Muriel Spark said that McEwan was her favourite Miss Brodie in a cluster that also included Vanessa Redgrave and Anna Massey.
McEwan was born in Old Windsor, where her father, Donald McKeown, was a printers’ compositor who ran the local branch of the Labour party in a Tory stronghold; her mother, Nora (nee Burns), was working-class Irish. Geraldine was always a shy and private girl who found her voice, she said, when she stood up in school and read a poem.
She had won a scholarship to Windsor county school, but she felt out of place until she found refuge in the Windsor Rep at the Theatre Royal, where she played an attendant fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1946. Leaving school, she joined the Windsor company for two years in 1949, meeting there her life-long companion, Hugh Cruttwell, a former teacher turned stage manager, 14 years her senior, whom she married in 1953, and who became a much-loved and influential principal of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1965.
Without any formal training, McEwan went straight from Windsor to the West End, making her debut at the Vaudeville theatre in 1951 in Who Goes There? by John Deighton, followed by an 18-month run in For Better, For Worse… at the Comedy in 1952 and with Dirk Bogarde in Summertime, a light comedy by Ugo Betti, at the Apollo in 1955.
Summertime was directed by Peter Hall and had a chaotic pre-West End tour, Bogarde’s fans mobbing the stage door every night and in effect driving him away from the theatre for good; McEwan told Bogarde’s biographer, John Coldstream, how he was both deeply encouraging to her and deeply conflicted over his heartthrob star status.
Within a year she made her Stratford debut as the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost and played opposite Olivier in John Osborne’s The Entertainer, replacing Joan Plowright as Jean Rice when the play moved from the Royal Court to the Palace. Like Ian Holm and Diana Rigg, she was a key agent of change in the transition from the summer Stratford festival playing Olivia, Marina and Hero in the 1958 season to Peter Hall’s new Royal Shakespeare Company; at Stratford in 1961, she played Beatrice to Christopher Plummer’s Benedick and Ophelia to Ian Bannen’s Hamlet.
Kittenish and playful, with a wonderful gift for suggesting hurt innocence with an air of enchanted distraction, she was a superb Lady Teazle in a 1962 Haymarket production of The School for Scandal, also starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, that went to Broadway in early 1963, her New York debut.
She returned to tour in the first, disastrous, production of Joe Orton’s Loot, with Kenneth Williams, in 1965, and then joined Olivier’s National at the Old Vic, where parts over the next five years included Raymonde Chandebise in Jacques Charon’s landmark production of Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear, Alice in Strindberg’s Dance of Death (with Olivier and Robert Stephens), Queen Anne in Brecht’s Edward II, Victoria (“a needle-sharp gold digger” said one reviewer) in Somerset Maugham’s Home and Beauty, Millamant and Vittoria Corombona in The White Devil.
Back in the West End, she formed a classy quartet, alongside Pat Heywood, Albert Finney and Denholm Elliott, in Peter Nichols’s Chez Nous at the Globe (1974), and gave a delightful impression of a well-trained, coquettish poodle as the leisured whore in Noël Coward’s broken-backed adaptation of Feydeau, Look After Lulu, at Chichester and the Haymarket.
In the 1980s, she made sporadic appearances at the National, now on the South Bank, winning two Evening Standard awards for her fresh and youthful Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals (“Men are all Bavarians,” she exclaimed on exiting, creating a brand new malapropism for “barbarians”) and her hilariously acidulous Lady Wishfort; and was a founder member of Ray Cooney’s Theatre of Comedy at the Shaftesbury theatre.
In the latter part of her stage career, she seemed to cut loose in ever more adventurous directions, perhaps through her friendship with Kenneth Branagh, who had become very close to Cruttwell while studying at Rada. She was a surprise casting as the mother of a lycanthropic psychotic, played by Will Patton, in Sam Shepard’s merciless domestic drama, A Lie of the Mind, at the Royal Court in 1987. And in 1988 she directed As You Like It for Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company, Branagh playing Touchstone as an Edwardian music hall comedian.
She then directed Christopher Hampton’s underrated Treats at the Hampstead theatre and, in 1998, formed a fantastical nonagenarian double act with Richard Briers in a Royal Court revival, directed by Simon McBurney, of Ionesco’s tragic farce, The Chairs, her grey hair bunched on one side like superannuated candy floss.
The following year, she was a brilliant but controversial Judith Bliss in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, directed as a piece of Gothic absurdism at the Savoy by Declan Donnellan; McEwan tiptoed through the thunderclaps and lightning like a glinting harridan, a tipsy bacchanalian with a waspish lust and highly cultivated lack of concern (“My husband’s not dead; he’s upstairs.”)
Other television successes included playing Jeanette Winterson’s mother in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1990) and Carrie’s War (2004), while her occasional movie appearances included Tony Richardson’s The Adventures of Tom Jones (1975), two of Branagh’s Shakespeare adaptations – Henry V (1989) and Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) – as well as Robin, Prince of Thieves (1991), Peter Mullan’s devastating critique of an Irish Catholic education, The Magdalene Sisters (2002), in which she played cruel, cold-hearted Sister Bridget, and Vanity Fair (2005).
She was rumoured to have turned down both the OBE and a damehood, but never confirmed this.
Date of Birth: 21 June 1954, Oldham, Lancashire, UK
Birth Name: Anne Kirkbride
Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre, the bespectacled, careworn femme fatale in ITV’s record-breaking soap opera Coronation Street for more than 40 years, and became renowned for her cracked, throaty voice, caused by chain-smoking in real life, and straining neck cords that were even more alarming than her enormous glasses.
In 1998, during a bitter ratings war with the BBC’s EastEnders, when Deirdre was wrongfully imprisoned after a relationship with a con-man called Jon Lindsay, the nation reacted with the “Free the Weatherfield One” campaign. In Parliament, even Tony Blair passed comment on her sentencing. It was not, commentators agreed, the prime minister’s finest hour. Producers at Granada Television decided to free Deirdre after three weeks.
Anne Kirkbride first came to Granada’s notice in 1972 in the ITV series Another Sunday and Sweet FA and was offered the bit part of the teenage dolly-bird Deirdre Hunt in Coronation Street later that year. When the character’s popularity grew after a few appearances, Anne Kirkbride signed a contract in 1974 and had been in the soap ever since.
With her distinctive owlish spectacles, she played Deirdre with a passion, steering the character through a calamitous tangle of marriages, broken engagements and affairs that produced an on-screen daughter Tracy in 1977, 20 years later the programme’s most notorious wild child and the Street’s spectacularly dull husband, Ken Barlow (William Roache). Dumped, divorced and widowed, Deirdre’s edgiest moment came with her affair with Mike Baldwin (played by Johnny Briggs) only two years after her wedding to Ken in 1981, and which started a feud between the two rivals that ended only with Baldwin’s death 25 years later.
Anne Kirkbride’s Deirdre was nearly written out of the series in 1978, three years after her screen marriage to Ray Langton (Neville Buswell). When Buswell decided to leave the programme, the producers believed there were already enough single women in the fictional Street. After Buswell intervened, however, the writers decided that Deirdre the single mother would be an interesting concept, and Anne Kirkbride was asked to stay.
One of the highlights of her career was her on-screen wedding to Ken Barlow in July 1981, on the day the Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer. But even this was eclipsed by Deirdre’s extra-marital affair with Baldwin in 1983. As Britain held its breath, a bishop in London warned Granada of the dangers of it all seeming too realistic; a woman in Halifax gave birth in an ambulance, having delayed her departure to hospital to witness the lovers’ first illicit kiss; and the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, one of the Street’s greatest fans, declared that Ken Barlow deserved better.
The fling excited the divided consternation of Fleet Street’s finest, with Jean Rook of the Daily Express advising Deirdre to “stick with Ken” and her Daily Mail rival Lynda Lee Potter urging her to leave boring Ken for exciting Mike.
In the showdown between the two, Anne Kirkbride thought Bill Roache had gone mad when unrehearsed and unscripted he grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the Barlows’ front door as Baldwin stood on the step. “I was literally fighting to get away,” she remembered. Tracked by the cameras, she ran to an adjoining room and burst into tears.
When Deirdre and Barlow were reconciled in the next episode, the Daily Mail hired the electronic scoreboard at Old Trafford and, to the approving roar of 56,000 fans watching Manchester United play Arsenal, flashed up the news: “Deirdre and Ken united again!”
In 1987, when Deirdre by now working as a shop assistant became Councillor Barlow, Anne Kirkbride complained at this improbable turn of events, but soon realised that it got Deirdre out from behind the bacon slicer and into the swim of mainstream Street life. However, she remained upset at the decision to have Deirdre divorce Ken over his affair with his secretary.
Her character received a fresh lease of life in 1994 when Anne Kirkbride returned from a six months’ absence due to illness; at 39, she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but, after chemotherapy, recovered. On screen, however, a planned reconciliation with Ken Barlow had to be scrapped, and instead Deirdre embarked on a holiday romance with a 21-year-old toyboy, a Moroccan waiter, Samir Rachid (Al Nedjari), whom she later married.
“Anne Kirkbride is celebrating her return to health with a crackling storyline, a marvellous performance and a whole new vocabulary,” wrote Margaret Forwood in the Express.
The marriage was short-lived, however, and in 1995 Deirdre’s third husband died on his way to hospital to donate a kidney to Deirdre’s wayward daughter Tracy. She was reunited with Ken in 1999 and married him for a second time in 2005, despite Ken finding out that she had slept with the supersmooth corner shop owner Dev Alahan.
Anne Kirkbride was called as a character witness in Roache’s trial on sex assault charges in 2014 (he was found not guilty): she said her colleague was “always a perfect gentleman”.
As an actress, Anne Kirkbride possessed a photographic memory; she could read through a page of script and almost instantly know it by heart.
Anne Kirkbride was born on June 21 1954 at Oldham, Lancashire, the daughter of Jack Kirkbride, a painter and decorator who became a cartoonist for the Oldham Evening Chronicle. It was her father who encouraged her to go on the stage, having spotted her acting talent when she was only seven.
She developed it at Oldham Rep’s junior theatregoers’ club, and at the age of 11 joined the Saddleworth junior players and then the Oldham youth theatre. On leaving Count Hill grammar school she took a job at Oldham Rep as a student assistant stage manager at £1 a week, combining buying props and helping to build sets with several small acting parts.
When the company’s director, Carl Paulson, took her aside and told her she would be acting full-time on £18 a week, she said she ran through the streets “as if I’d just won the pools”. A Coronation Street talent scout saw her in a Jack Rosenthal play and she was asked to read for a walk-on part.
She hated her gravelly voice but revelled in the nine-to-five routine of a soap star, and never wanted to play Shakespeare or longed for the peripatetic life of a repertory actress. “Sometimes I think I should have made more of an effort to get out and do other stuff,” she admitted in 2001, “but then again I’ve never been terribly ambitious.” In a television confessional, Deirdre and Me (2001), Anne Kirkbride admitted to a compulsion to scrub and clean incessantly (even the lavatories at the Granada studios), and to the depression that in 1998 almost ruined her appearance on This Is Your Life, an ordeal she managed to survive only with the aid of Valium.
She took a leave of absence from Coronation Street in September 2014 and was written out of the script, but had been expected to return.
A lifelong heavy smoker, she also confessed to suicidal feelings and to a compulsion to iron her knickers.
In 1992 Anne Kirkbride married the actor David Beckett, whom she met on the Coronation Street set when he briefly played a handyman in the soap.
Date of Birth: 22 July 1932, Santa Domingo
Birth Name: Óscar Arístides Renta Fiallo
Nicknames: Oscar de la Renta
Whether dressing stars from Sarah Jessica Parker to Amal Alamuddin or first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama, Oscar de la Renta was both an establishment favourite and a cult hero. The Oscars red carpet wouldn’t be the same without him. Guardian fashion writers celebrate his glittering life in fashion
Oscar de la Renta could never be described as a groundbreaking or challenging designer. Whether he was dressing Hollywood actors in ruffles and silk or creating luxe skirt suits for the Park Avenue set, De la Renta’s approach was measured, feminine and appropriate. Having worked with the creme de la creme of European couturiers in his early career, de la Renta is old school, part of the fashion establishment. And yet, unlike American contemporaries like Bill Blass and Anne Klein, he has remained a worldwide household name, with his high-profile red carpet work speaking of a deep and very contemporary understanding of the power of celebrity. He attitude to women was modern, too. In 2013, he said: “‘The ladies who lunch’ is one of the corniest phrases and one I deeply hate … it doesn’t exist, not any more. Whether the woman is working for a salary or working as a volunteer, what’s important in the modern history of American fashion is the emergence of a woman who is no longer a socialite.”
Born in Santa Domingo in 1932 to a wealthy family, De la Renta was an immigrant whose name become synonymous with the American upper class. The youngest of seven brothers, he arrived in the US via Madrid and Paris, where he had worked for Cristóbal Balenciaga, Lanvin and Balmain. The money his father sent him while he was in Spain he spent on fancy clothes and “senorita” suits. He remained joyously and impeccably dapper three-piece suits with starched collars to entertain influential friends at his various holiday homes until his death. His close friendships with the women of the White House and the fact that his label represents American society (in the way that big gowns and Upper East side skirts suits just do) underlines his journey as the designer who arrived and made it big.
The designer’s work became relevant to a wider audience thanks to Carrie Bradshaw. The fictional character spoke of “Oscar’s” dresses in hushed, reverential whispers. But the high point of the SatC/OdlR love-in came in season six when Carrie’s Russian lover buys her a hot-pink cocktail dress by the designer, with a tight shell top and a cropped debutant full skirt, which she ends up wearing to McDonald’s, dancing and eating fries. It became a small-screen sartorial cult moment. It wasn’t the only time De la Renta was name-checked in recent pop culture. In the notable The Devil Wears Prada speech, when fictional editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly explains to her assistant the fashion food chain and why she is wearing a blue Gap jumper, she namechecked De la Renta’s 2002 collection of cerulean gowns. Meanwhile, in real life, Sarah Jessica Parker was a regular exponent of the brand on the red carpet.
De la Renta took pleasure in a spat. In 2012, the then New York Times fashion editor Cathy Horyn described his 2012 collection in damning terms, saying: “Mr De la Renta is far more a hot dog than an éminence grise of American fashion.” In bombastic fashion, he bought a full page advert in the trade sheet WWD to publish his retort: “If you have the right to call me a hot dog, why do I not have the right to call you a stale three-day old hamburger?” For her part, Horyn said that she meant hot dog as in “showman” rather than as a derisory comment. But De la Renta didn’t stop at the fashion establishment. He criticised Michelle Obama in 2009 when she wore J Crew to Buckingham Palace (“You don’t ... go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater.”) And Flotus came under fire again in 2013 from the designer for wearing foreign labels to welcome the Chinese prime minister to the White House.
De la Renta has been associated with the corridors of power from the beginning of his career. His big break as a designer came in 1956, when Beatrice Cabot Lodge daughter of the American ambassador to Spain wore one of his gowns on the cover of Life magazine. In the 1960s, he dressed Jacqueline Kennedy. In the 1980s, he was firm friends with Nancy Reagan, who wore his tomato-red, shoulder-padded gowns to presidential dinners. In the 1990s, he was credited with creating Hillary Clinton’s signature suited silhouette during her husband’s second term in office. Clinton who now describes herself as a “pantsuit aficionado” on her Twitter biog has said: “He’s been working for 20 years to turn me into a fashion icon.”
Though he had been sick with cancer for almost eight years, De la Renta’s business had been booming it grew by 50% in the last decade. His frothy, feminine, highly photogenic gowns continued to rule the Oscars from Cameron Diaz in shimmering gold in 2010 to Amy Adams in dove-grey ruffles in 2013. Even more recently, De la Renta enjoyed publicity his competitors could only have dreamed of when human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin wore a lace, ivory dress for her spectacular wedding to actor George Clooney. It was this month, too, that Michelle Obama who had previously broken with White House tradition by declining to wear the designer’s work for seven years finally wore a De la Renta cocktail dress. The choice was perceived by some commentators as a goodwill nod to the brand and its history.
De la Renta flirted with controversy by working with John Galliano on his autumn/winter 2013 collection. But his design legacy is really in the hands of Peter Copping announced as creative director of Oscar De la Renta earlier this month. Copping is, appropriately perhaps, a quieter fashion talent. The English designer worked for Nina Ricci for five years before moving to the American brand, and made clothes that had a kind of delicate elegance that chimes well with his new gig. Copping is cut from the same cloth as De la Renta one that’s reassuringly expensive and fits into a tradition of champagne reception glamour but appeals to the next gen of young socialites with clean lines and pops of colour. His first collection, to be shown in February, will no doubt be chockablock full of brand references. We also predict that the Oscars red carpet taking place in the same month will be awash with starlets wearing vintage OdlR dresses. Always a Hollywood favourite, Oscars for the Oscars seems like a fitting tribute.
Date of Birth: 16 September 1924, The Bronx, New York, US
Birth Name: Betty Joan Perske
Nicknames: Lauren Bacall
Tall, slim and sultry, with a hoarse voice and a cryptic personality, Miss Bacall was the perfect match for Bogart’s rugged cynicism, “a leggy, blonde huntress,” as one critic noted, “whose cat’s eyes never blinked before Bogart’s scowls”. In each film they created a special atmosphere of dry, terse comedy and tough-guy talk which masked their underlying affection for one another and seemed unique in popular cinema for the balance of power their roles created between the sexes.
Sensual but never sentimental, insolent, sharp-witted, laconic, cool and above all sophisticated, they seemed, as another observer put it, even to kiss out of the corners of their mouths.
Higher brows were moved to compare the tone of these mating games with that of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, though the style owed more to Raymond Chandler or Hemingway than to Shakespeare. At all events, they brought a new and personal chemistry to the screen which made the partnership refreshingly equal at every level.
Although Lauren Bacall was an actress of accomplishment in her own right, it was her acting in only four films with Bogart and their enduring marriage that turned them as a couple into the stuff of legend, and enhanced her own dramatic reputation more than any anything she did elsewhere in films or on stage.
One of her most famous lines was in To Have And Have Not when they were about to go their separate ways after bidding each other goodnight. At the door she turned and said: “You know how to whistle? You put your lips together and… blow.”
As the American critic James Agee wrote: “Whether or not you like the film will depend almost entirely on whether you like Miss Bacall. I am no judge... It has been years since I have seen such amusing pseudo-toughness on the screen.”
Lauren Bacall, who was born in New York City as Betty Joan Perske on September 16 1924, was the only child of William Perske, a salesman of medical instruments from Alsace, and his wife Natalia, of Romanian and German-Jewish extraction. They divorced when their daughter was six. The mother adopted the name Bacal; the daughter added an “l” to stop it rhyming with “crackle”. She always disliked “Lauren”, the name bestowed on her by Hollywood, preferring to be known as Betty.
Educated at the expense of wealthy uncles at a private boarding school, Highland Manor, Tarrytown, New York, and at the Julia Richman High School, Manhattan, Betty intended to be a dancer, having attended ballet classes since infancy. But in adolescence she was drawn to acting.
Inspired by Bette Davis films, she enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts when she was 15, dating Kirk Douglas, who was there on a scholarship; but as the academy precluded scholarships for girls, she was obliged to leave after a year before bluffing her way into a job modelling sportswear.
Sacked for being Jewish, or flat-chested (or both), she took another job modelling gowns for a Jewish dress shop and in the evenings worked as an usherette. In 1942 she made her stage debut at the Longacre Theatre, New York, as a walk-on in a melodrama called Johnny 2 X 4, and played the ingénue in a pre-Broadway tour later that year. Then she took a job modelling for Harper’s Bazaar.
Leafing through the magazine in 1943, Mrs Howard Hawks, wife of the Hollywood director, drew her husband’s attention to the girl on the cover. Hawks cabled the magazine asking if she was free; she subsequently turned up on their doorstep.
After a screen test she signed a seven-year contract with Hawks and the producer Jack Warner for $250 a week, changing her name from Betty to Lauren. Hawks went to work on her voice. Taking her to some waste ground, he made her shout Shakespeare and other writers for hours every day in order to lower the tone of what he called her high nasal pipe.
After the daily exercises in the open air her voice became for him (and for the rest of the world) what he called “a satisfactorily low guttural wheeze”. He then insisted that in future she should always speak naturally and softly. Above all, she should ignore suggestions for “cultivating” her voice.
Within a year of her discovery on the front of Harper’s, Hawks had cast her with Bogart in To Have And To Have Not and directed her in such a way that her acting, with its insinuating sexuality and offhand independence, caused a sensation.
Hawks had urged her to play each scene exactly as she felt her character would behave: to act as if she were living the part. If she were true to her own feelings, she would be true to the film.
One scene sprang entirely from her imagination. After an emotional episode in a hotel room with Bogart’s Harry Morgan, Bacall’s Marie left him, according to the scenario, and returned to her own room. Between takes, Bacall grumbled to Hawks: “God, I’m dumb.”
“Why?” he asked. “Well”, she replied, “if I had any sense I’d go back after that guy.” So she did.
At 19 she had become, in her first film, one of Hollywood’s most sensational, relaxed and dominating newcomers: husky-voiced, aloof and shrewdly impervious to insult. This was Bogart’s most interesting screen partner for years, in an otherwise hazy melodrama about the French Resistance at Martinique with Bogart as a sea skipper, edgy, grey-voiced, unsure of this strange girl called Marie.
Some of her lines entered film mythology, such as (after Bogart has kissed her for the second tentative time), “It’s even better when you help.” To everyone’s astonishment, she also sang (or rather croaked and growled, like a trombone) a suggestive song in a seamen’s bar.
She was promoted by Warner Brothers, her studio, as “The Look” because of her way of looking up suggestively with her lynx-eyes from under a high forehead (and through a haze of cigarette smoke) at the rugged, appreciative Bogart.
In 1945 she became his fourth wife; she was 25 years his junior, and the partnership endured until his death nearly 12 years later. Along with her husband, she actively campaigned for the Democrats and protested against Hollywood’s blacklist of suspected Communists.
Lauren Bacall was miscast in Confidential Agent (1945), a thriller derived from Graham Greene’s novel about the Spanish Civil War with Charles Boyer as a Spanish agent; she was, as one critic put it, about as English as Pocahontas, although her “very individual vitality made up for her deficiencies”. The following year, Hawks brought her back with Bogart in The Big Sleep.
The level-pegging of their partnership was curious, unusual and, in those days unexpected in films. One theory was that Hawks’s dislike of Bogart was behind it. Before The Big Sleep, the director was reputed to have said to Bogart: “You are about the most insolent man on the screen and I’m going to make the girl a little more insolent.”
And so it proved. In their second film together, in which she played the rich antagonistic daughter of Bogart’s employer, in a fine adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel, she proved every bit as cool and independent as she had been in To Have And Have Not.
Neither of their other two films together was a patch on their predecessors. In Dark Passage (1947), Lauren Bacall sheltered a heavily-bandaged Bogart in his attempt, as an escaped convict, to prove that he had not murdered his wife. All that Delmer Daves’s screenplay proved was that without sharp dialogue, an element of sexual rivalry or a more intelligent scenario, Bogart and Bacall were not themselves.
John Huston’s Key Largo (1948) was a far better film, but it still failed to find any of the old style of banter for them to exchange in its tense tale of a bunch of gangsters who invade a hotel run by Miss Bacall, a war widow.
It was as if, having awakened public interest in the pair as a screen partnership, Warner Brothers could not find material to keep their characters effectively together. This was the film in which, to get the right facial expression from Lauren Bacall, Huston twisted her arm. He got the right expression but he never got her into another of his films. Key Largo was also her last film with Bogart who, unlike Lauren Bacall, went on to make some of the finest films of his career.
In 1950 she was the socialite who married Bix Beiderbecke (Kirk Douglas) in Young Man With A Horn, and appeared with Gary Cooper in Bright Leaf. Her gift for acid comedy came out nicely in Jean Negulesco’s How To Marry A Millionaire (1953), with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, and in the same director’s A Woman’s World (1954).
As an occupational therapist and Richard Widmark’s mistress in Vincente Minnelli’s Designing Woman (1957), she was miscast as a scatterbrained fashion queen opposite Gregory Peck.
In Douglas Sirk’s Written On The Wind (1957) she was supposed to have been swept off her feet by an oil millionaire. Was the baby his (Robert Stack’s) or his best friend’s (Rock Hudson’s)? Nobody much cared, least of all Miss Bacall, for Bogart died that year .
Two years later, after playing a tough-talking American governess in the British melodrama North-West Frontier, with Kenneth More, Lauren Bacall decided to return to the stage after an absence of 17 years. As Charlie in Goodbye Charlie (Lyceum, 1959), the story of a man’s return to earth after death as a woman, she played with considerable success opposite Sidney Chaplin.
In 1961 Lauren Bacall married the actor Jason Robards. (There had been earlier talk of marriage to Frank Sinatra, “but Frank just couldn’t cope with the idea” she said years later).
In the 1960s her films became less reliable . In Shock Treatment (1964) she played a batty psychiatrist; in Sex and the Single Girl (1965) a squabbling neighbour (with Henry Fonda); and in Jack Smight’s Harper (1966) a vindictive wife in a film which paid homage to Bogart, with Paul Newman as a private detective.
After that she worked mostly on Broadway. Apart from more than a year’s run as Stephanie, the nurse, in Abe Burrows’s comedy Cactus Flower (Royale, 1965), which some admirers considered the best role of her career, she spent three years as Margo Channing, a stage star threatened by a young rival, in the musical Applause, first in New York (Palace, 1970), for which she received a Tony award, then in Toronto, Chicago and on tour, before making her London debut in the same part at Her Majesty’s (1972).
Her role in Applause was the one Bette Davis had filled more flamboyantly in the film All About Eve. Lauren Bacall’s stage acting showed the same agreeable insouciance as her film acting .
She returned to the screen in 1974 in the Agatha Christie derivation, Murder On The Orient Express; and two years later faced, with admirable and stylish antagonism, John Wayne in Don Siegel’s The Shootist. This brought together one tough hombre and one tough cookie, and was the sharpest match since Bacall had first met Bogart.
As an indefatigable journalist in the musical Woman of the Year on Broadway in 1981, she took a slight story, according to the The Daily Telegraph’s John Barber, and injected into it “all the dynamism of a fascinating personality”.
In 1985 she was back in the West End in Harold Pinter’s revival of Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth (Haymarket).
The Fan (1981) brought her back to the screen as a successful actress entangled with a young man in her first Broadway musical, and seven years later she contributed to another all-star Agatha Christie film, Appointment With Death. She also stole a child in a psychological film thriller, Tree of Hands (1989).
Of her many television appearances the most notable included Blithe Spirit and The Petrified Forest in 1956 and a role in the Frederick Forsyth Presents drama series.
Lauren Bacall was, perhaps, an actress more famous for whom she was thought to be than for what she actually did. “It was those pale eyes framed by a tawny mane, a way of walking that suggested a panther in her family tree, and a husky voice that could set a spinal column aquiver,” noted one reviewer.
She kept up the image of a sharp-tongued, no-nonsense feminist in interview after interview down the years. Journalists were slightly scared of her. But in truth — and unlike, say, Katharine Hepburn — she did not go on to create a substantial body of work. Her fame continued to rest largely on the early films with Bogart.
Her memoir, By Myself, appeared in 1978, followed in 2005 by And Then Some by way of an addendum. In this she described working visits to Paris making Robert Altman’s satirical Prêt à Porter (1994) and to Britain, where she starred in The Visit at the Chichester Festival in 1995.
Lauren Bacall received a Golden Globe and an honorary Oscar. In 1996 she was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role as Barbra Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces. She continued to make occasional appearances on screen, including, in 2006, appearing as herself in an episode of The Sopranos. In 2004 she had a supporting role alongside Nicole Kidman in Birth, a psychological drama directed by Jonathan Glazer.
Date of Birth: 2 February 2 1925, Detroit, Michigan, US
Birth Name: Elaine Stritch
Elaine Stritch, the American actress, who has died aged 89, was the femme formidable of Broadway, famous for her foghorn voice and deadpan comic timing, and notorious for her filthy temper and “cut-the-crap” frankness; but like many who adopt an abrasive outer shell, underneath there beat a softer heart.
Brassy, skyscraper tall and with a voice once described as “like a corncrake wading through Bourbon on the rocks”, Elaine Stritch was a natural scene-stealer. Not strikingly beautiful, though with wondrously long and shapely legs, there was no one quite like her in showbusiness.
In Britain, where she scored an instant hit as Mimi Paragon, the cruise ship hostess in Noël Coward’s Sail Away, she became everyone’s favourite American actress. She will be best remembered for the long-running 1970s BBC sitcom, Two’s Company, in which she played a rich, demanding American in London, opposite Donald Sinden as Robert, her plummy-voiced butler.
But it was on the Broadway stage that she began her career and where she continued to perform on and off for six decades in comedies and musical drama. She understudied Ethel Merman in Call Me Madam; and brought the house down in Pal Joey singing Zip in the famous 1946 revival. Stephen Sondheim gave her one of his greatest songs, Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch, in Company, in which she played beady-eyed lush Joanne in the original 1970 production. One reviewer noted that “she can race through the gears from a savage purr to an air-raid siren howl in five seconds without ever losing a note of the melody”.
Elaine Stritch partied with as much energy as she performed. She knocked it back with such dedicated topers as Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason. “Elaine, I never thought I’d say this, but goodnight!” said Judy Garland as she made an 8am exit from one marathon session. She dated John F Kennedy, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and even Rock Hudson, for whom she ditched Ben Gazzara a “bum rap”, she confessed.
The diva of the put-down, Elaine Stritch never learned the art of turning the other cheek. She always had the last word. “I’m sorry about what I said to you earlier today,” an interviewer heard her tell an assistant. “I meant every word.”
Yet underneath this spiky carapace there lurked a more fragile personality, at once addicted to, yet terrified of, performing a woman who fought a long-running battle with the bottle which nearly destroyed her altogether.
The youngest of three daughters, Elaine Stritch was born on February 2 1925 into an upper-middle-class Roman Catholic family in suburban Detroit. Her uncle Samuel was Cardinal Stritch of Chicago; her father a senior executive in Ford Motors. She was educated at a convent where “you daren’t speak in the lavatory and you bathed in your nightgown”.
Her more conventional elder sisters left school and got married, but Elaine’s tastes tended towards the bohemian. As a teenager she accompanied the family’s black maid, Carrie, to “Black and Tan” clubs, where she became familiar with “down and dirty” blues such as I Want a Long Time Daddy, which she sang without understanding the lyrics. She tasted her first whisky sour aged 13 and wanted more.
Her father sent her, aged 17, to New York, where she lived in a convent and studied acting at the New School in Manhattan. A contemporary of Walter Matthau, Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando, she made her student stage debut as a tiger. She “dated” Brando nothing more. When, after a night on the town, he took her back to his place, went to the bathroom, and reappeared in his pyjamas, the teenage Elaine Stritch shot straight back to the convent. “I kissed like a crazy woman,” she recalled. “But I was a virgin until I was 30. Somebody’d touch my breast, and I’d think I was pregnant.”
She was immediately successful. In 1945 she played the parlourmaid in The Private Life of the Master Race and, in 1946, Pamela Brewster in Loco and Miss Crowder in Made in Heaven. After Three Indelicate Ladies and The Little Foxes, she appeared in the review Angel in the Wings singing “Bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo...”. In 1949 she played the part of Joan Farrell in Yes, M’Lord. Having kicked her heels as an understudy to Ethel Merman in the Broadway production of Call Me Madam, she left a show-stopping role in Pal Joey to do the Merman part on tour to enthusiastic reviews.
After that she starred in shows by Irving Berlin, Noël Coward, Stephen Sondheim and Edward Albee, and was directed by such figures as Erwin Piscator, George Abbott, Harold Clurman and Hal Prince. Coward called her “Stritchie” and, after rescuing her from the flop musical Goldilocks (1958), gave her the lead in Sail Away, in which she sang Why Do the Wrong People Travel?
In his diaries, Coward saw her more vulnerable side: “Poor darling Stritch with all her talents is almost completely confused about everything. She is an ardent Catholic and never stops saying f*** and Jesus Christ. She is also kind, touching and loyal and, fortunately, devoted to me.” After “the Master’s” death, she attended his memorial service wearing a bright red blazer, and mistook Yehudi Menuhin for a busker friend of Coward’s.
Elaine Stritch began her film career inauspiciously with Scarlet Hour (1956). After attending a matinee, Richard Burton told her: “Halfway through your last number I almost had an orgasm.” “Almost?” she shrieked reprovingly. She contributed compelling performances to the 1957 remake of A Farewell to Arms, and Providence (1970). In 1971 she was offered a contract by 20th Century Fox but turned it down, not wishing to be typecast as the new Eve Arden the wisecracking girlfriend who never gets her man. Later she appeared in such films as September (1988) and Cocoon (1990),
On television, Elaine Stritch starred in the 1948 domestic comedy Growing Paynes, the short-lived 1960 sitcom My Sister Eileen, and co-starred as the star’s mother in The Ellen Burstyn Show (1986). She was a member of the supporting comedy troupe on the 1949 show Jack Carter and Company, a comic switchboard operator on the 1956 variety series Washington Square, and Peter Falk’s secretary in The Trials of O’Brien (1965).
Coward brought her to London in 1962 in Sail Away, and she returned in 1972 with Sondheim’s Company, winning more ecstatic reviews. She remained in London for several years, making her second home in the Savoy Hotel. Of her barnstorming performance in Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings, one reviewer described her “bashing through the play like a truck driver in a garage full of Minis”. “I love asking the way in London,” she told an interviewer. “A man actually left his shop to show me where to go. I thought 'I’m not that attractive and I don’t look like a hooker, so what’s in it for him?’ I finally realised he was simply good-mannered.”
By now she had triumphantly shed the title of the “oldest virgin on Broadway”, having lost her virginity aged 30 to the Fifties film star Gig Young, to whom she was briefly engaged before ditching him for Ben Gazzara. This was fortunate, as Young went on to experiment with LSD and ended up shooting his fourth wife and himself. Less percipient was her decision to get rid of Gazzara when she unwisely fell in love with Rock Hudson well known in green room circles as a rampant homosexual.
Eventually, in 1973 and aged 47, she met and married John Bay, her co-star in Small Craft Warnings. When they got engaged, Elaine Stritch called home to ask her father whether she should bring her fiancé home to see if he approved of him. “No, just marry him,” came the reply. “Don’t let him get away.” The marriage lasted a happy 10 years, until Bay died of cancer.
Since her early years Elaine Stritch had suffered from stage fright and, when prayers did not do the trick, she quelled her nerves with alcohol. By the late 1970s her opening gambit at every watering hole was “I’d like four martinis and a floor plan”. Sacked from shows and thrown out of clubs, she failed to stop drinking even after she became diabetic. But after suffering a severe attack in the hallway of a New York hotel (from which she was saved only because a passing waiter happened to be carrying a Pepsi), she went on the wagon and never touched another drop.
In 2002 she made a triumphant return on Broadway in her one-woman retrospective of her career, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, co-written with John Lahr, which played to sell-out audiences at London’s Old Vic the following year. “There’s good news and bad news,” she told her audience. “The good: I have a sensational acceptance speech for a Tony. The bad: I’ve had it for 45 years.” In a typical Stritchian postscript, when she really did make the speech after being awarded a Tony for her performance, it was so long that the orchestra cut her off in mid-flow. Afterwards she gave an angry, tearful press conference. The show also won her the Drama Desk award for best solo performance and a nomination for the Olivier Award for her performance at the Old Vic.
In 2003 she was made a “Living Landmark” of New York City for her contributions to Broadway, and in 2010-11 she appeared in a Broadway revival of A Little Light Music. She was the subject of a documentary film, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, released earlier this year.
Date of Birth: 10 August 1939, Leicester, UK
Birth Name: Frances M Carroll
Nicknames: Kate O’Mara
The British actress was best known for her role as sister to Joan Collins' Alexis Colby in the US soap.
She also had prominent roles in the '80s series Howards' Way and Triangle, and in Doctor Who.
Her agent said she died in a Sussex nursing home following a short illness.
He praised her "energy and vitality" and her "love for theatre and acting".
Kate O’Mara was born in Leicester on August 10 1939, the daughter of John F. Carroll, an RAF flying instructor, and actress Hazel Bainbridge. After boarding school she studied at art school before becoming a full-time actress (her younger sister, Belinda, followed suit). Her early television appearances during the 1960s included roles in series such as The Saint, The Champions, The Avengers and Z-Cars.
"A shining star has gone out and Kate will be dearly missed by all who knew and have worked with her," said agent Phil Belfield, who labelled the actress "extraordinary".
O'Mara's first television roles were in the 1960s, but she came to public attention playing the manipulative Cassandra "Caress" Morrell in Dynasty.
She played a ruthless businesswoman in BBC drama Howards' Way and was briefly a regular on the North Sea ferry drama Triangle.
She also appeared in Doctor Who, opposite both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, as renegade Time Lord The Rani - a role she said she would love to return to.
"If you put a much older woman in Doctor Who, they can identify with it," she told Digital Spy ahead of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the show, where she tweeted images of herself with former co-stars.
"I think it's quite an interesting concept and if you remember things like Grimm's Fairytales, the older woman is often the villainess, often the terrifying figure why I do not know, but often she is. I think it's an idea to be exploited."
On hearing the news of her death, Doctor Who co-star Baker tweeted: "Oh my goodness. Kate O'Mara is no longer with us. Sad sad news. A delightful, committed and talented lady and actress. We are the poorer."
In the 1990s, O'Mara starred in BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous as Joanna Lumley's on-screen sister Jackie, and in 2001, she made a string of appearances in ITV drama Bad Girls.
More recently she had appeared in ITV soap Benidorm and a 2012 stage adaptation of Agatha Christie's Death On The Nile.
One of her final public appearances saw her hosting An Evening With Kate O'Mara in London last October.
She published two autobiographies and two novels, When She Was Bad and Good Time Girl.
She was married to actors Richard Willis and Jeremy Young and leaves a sister, actress Belinda Carroll. Her son Dickon died last year.
The actress last posted a message on Twitter on 17 March.
"Thank you so much for your kind tweets," she wrote.
"It's both humbling and completely overwhelming to read all of your messages. Much Love x."
Date of Birth: 23 April 1928, Santa Monica, California, US
Birth Name: Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple was the screen’s most popular child star of the 1930s, receiving at the age of eight 135,000 birthday gifts from fans the world over.
Throughout the Depression years, her sunny disposition helped audiences forget their woes and a special Oscar was presented to her for “bringing more happiness to millions of children and millions of grown-ups than any other child of her years in the history of the world”. It might have turned many a tiny tot’s head, but Shirley had her mother constantly at her side to ensure she was kept on an even keel.
Gertrude Temple was the architect of Shirley’s career, masterminding every aspect, every contract, what she ate, when she slept. Before each take, she would coach her, ignoring the director, and give her last-minute instructions. “Sparkle, Shirley,” she would say. A shrewd businesswoman, she knew instinctively how to manipulate the studios and their publicity machines to her daughter’s advantage. For good or ill, she turned little Shirley into a phenomenon. Everything she did was news. In October 1936, the world gasped as a bulletin flashed over the Reuter wires: “Shirley Temple has been sent to bed with a slight fever resulting from a cold.”
She was acting in pictures from the age of four and rapidly captivated filmgoers with her blond ringlets and dimpled charm. Dolls, books and games were named after her in a merchandising campaign matched only by Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Yet her talent was modest. She sang off-key and cynics dismissed her dancing as “mere jigging up and down”. She liked to do impersonations but her acting was generally regarded as cute rather than compelling.
She had the child star’s built-in self-destruct mechanism what had seemed peachy in a moppet became arch in adolescence. Attempts to extend her career into young womanhood were unsuccessful and she made her last film in 1949 washed up in Hollywood at 21.
Yet that was not the end of the Shirley Temple story. Against all sceptics’ expectations, the little girl who had never had a normal childhood matured into a distinguished politician and diplomat. She stood (unsuccessfully) for Congress before representing America at the United Nations and serving as US ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia under her married name of Shirley Temple Black.
She was born on April 23 1928 in Santa Monica, California, the daughter of a bank teller. Like many a proud mother, Gertrude Temple enrolled her child in dancing classes at the age of three and promoted her vigorously. A talent scout from Educational Pictures, a small company specialising in shorts, spotted Shirley and invited her for a screen test, which led to her appearance in 1932-33 in a string of film spoofs known as Baby Burlesks. Among them were The Incomparable More Legs Sweetrick (as Marlene Dietrich), The Pie-Covered Wagon and Polly-Tix in Washington.
She alternated these performances with small parts in now forgotten feature movies such as The Red-Haired Alibi (1932) and To the Last Man (1933), opposite Randolph Scott. While filming a second series of shorts for Educational under the title Frolics of Youth, she and her mother were approached by the much bigger Fox Film Corporation (later Twentieth Century-Fox) with a view to Shirley featuring in the film Stand Up and Cheer (1934). She passed the audition and was signed up for $150 a week. When the film opened, she stole the show with the song and dance routine Baby Take a Bow.
Recognising her star potential, Fox swung its publicity department into action. But it did not have her under exclusive contract. Earlier in the year, the astute Mrs Temple had forged a two-picture deal with Paramount and it was that studio that initially reaped the benefit of her sudden fame. It rushed her into two pictures in 1934 to fulfil the contract Little Miss Marker, based on a Damon Runyan story, and Now and Forever, in which she was the go-between who reunites an estranged couple played by Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard.
On the strength of these pictures, Shirley’s Fox contract was renegotiated to $1,250 a week. She was cast in Bright Eyes, where she sang one of the songs indelibly associated with her, On the Good Ship Lollipop, and from then on vehicles were written especially for her. By the end of 1934, aged six, she was the eighth biggest draw in America.
A year later, she was number one and held that position four years in a row, attracting more fan mail than Greta Garbo and being photographed more often than the President himself. “I class myself with Rin Tin Tin,” she volunteered brightly.
She churned out pictures at a tremendous lick sometimes five a year through the late-1930s and the public clamoured for more. Features included, in 1935, The Little Colonel, Curly Top, a remake of Daddy Long Legs, and The Littlest Rebel, in which she told Abraham Lincoln that he was almost nice enough to be a Confederate. The 1936 clutch had Captain January, Dimples and Poor Little Rich Girl, while in 1937, the title role in an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Wee Willie Winkie was changed from boy to girl especially to accommodate her.
Her work in this film led to a notorious libel suit involving the future novelist Graham Greene, then employed as a film critic by the magazine Night and Day. At a cocktail party, after what he later described as “a dangerous third Martini” Greene dreamt up the idea of deflating the Temple balloon, but he peppered his review of her performance in Wee Willie Winkie with such litigious terms as “bilious coquetry”, “dimpled depravity” and “mature suggestiveness”.
Shirley and Twentieth Century-Fox sued. In court in March, 1938, Sir Patrick Hastings, counsel for the plaintiffs, was too mortified to bring himself to utter Greene’s words. “In my view”, he said, “it is one of the most horrible libels that one can imagine about a child. I shall not read it is better I should not but a glance at the statement of claim ... is sufficient to show the nature of the libel. This beastly publication appeared but it is right to say that every respectable news distributor in London refused to be party to its sale.”
The plaintiffs won; $5,250 punitive damages were awarded to Fox, $7,000 to the actress and Night and Day folded. But as a postscript to the episode, the mature Shirley Temple bore the novelist no grudge. In 1989, she sent him an inscribed copy of her autobiography, Child Star, and invited him to tea.
The year 1938 marked the high-water mark of her popularity. She appeared in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (without ringlets for the first time), in Little Miss Broadway and Just around the Corner at a fee of $100,000 a picture, which made her Hollywood’s highest-paid earner after Louis B Mayer. By 1939 he fee had jumped to $300,000, but public taste was changing. Susannah and the Mounties was disappointing and The Blue Bird was, by common consent, a “turkey”.
MGM had wanted to borrow her for The Wizard of Oz, but Fox refused, casting her instead in what it hoped would be a rival children’s attraction . But Maeterlinck’s arty symbolism in The Blue Bird found no favour with the public. It opened in selected cinemas a few days before Christmas 1939, but proved such a dud that it had to be withdrawn after only a few days and replaced by a Sonja Henie ice-skating musical. When generally released in 1940, The Blue Bird met with no warmer response, becoming Shirley’s first unmitigated flop.
Gertrude Temple blamed Fox and offered to buy out the remainder of Shirley’s contract. Fox raised no objections and, at the age of 11, she took a “sabbatical” from the cinema, ostensibly to repair gaps in her patchy education. Though her vocabulary was officially said to be 750 words, “all of which she can write”, she had trouble with numbers over 50. According to her teacher, she still thought 47 cents was more than 55 cents.
In fact, Shirley’s absence from the screen was an opportunity for her mother to negotiate a fresh contract with another studio. She picked MGM, but it was not a happy choice. The studio was grooming its own child prodigy in Judy Garland and found only one vehicle for Shirley, the lacklustre Kathleen (1941). Roger Edens, who was Garland’s coach, let it be known that Shirley would have to put in a lot of singing and dancing practice if she hoped to be worthy of the studio. Mrs Temple took umbrage and took off.
After a remake of a Mary Pickford picture, Miss Annie Rooney (1942) at United Artists, Shirley gravitated to David O Selznick, who signed her to a seven-year contract, but as a teenager she could no longer command lead roles. Selznick cast her only in supporting parts in Since You Went Away (1944) and I’ll Be Seeing You (1945). In that year, aged 17, she also completed her interrupted education by graduating from Westlake High School for Girls in Los Angeles. She then published her first autobiography, My Young Life, and was married to army sergeant-turned actor John Agar.
The last four years of her screen career were an anticlimax. Her infant precocity gave way to mere pertness (of which there is no shortage in Hollywood) in such films as The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (1947), That Hagen Girl (1947), with Ronald Reagan, and A Kiss for Corliss (1949), her screen swansong, opposite David Niven. This period also included the first film in John Ford’s cavalry trilogy, Fort Apache (1948), in which she co-starred, aged 20, with her husband.
When the marriage failed, she was married again (in 1950) to a wealthy San Francisco businessman, Charles Black. She largely retired from acting to concentrate on social work, though from 1957 to 1959 she narrated and appeared in a television series entitled Shirley Temple’s Storybook. This was followed in 1960 by Shirley Temple Presents Young America, a programme about the problems of high-school dropouts.
From 1960 she played a leading role in developing the San Francisco film festival, resigning in 1966 only over the decision to screen the Swedish film Night Games, which she denounced as “pornography for profit”. In 1967 she ran for Congress to fill a dead man’s shoes (Republican J Arthur Younger). Though her recording of On the Good Ship Lollipop was used as a theme song at rallies, she insisted that “Little Shirley Temple is not running. If someone insists on pinning me with a label, let it read Shirley Temple Black, Republican independent.” But in the era of Lyndon Johnson, her conservative stance on taxes, law and order and drug addiction lost her the seat.
After her election defeat, she continued to work for the Republican party, raising funds and urging Americans overseas to back Richard Nixon in the forthcoming presidential campaign. When elected, Nixon named her one of the five-member American delegation to the 24th session of the United Nations General Assembly. In this capacity she served in 1969 on the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee. Her subsequent diplomatic career included US ambassador to Ghana (1974-76), sparking a trend for Ghanaian children to be named Shirley (including boys), and to the former Czechoslovakia, to which she was appointed by President Bush in 1989.
Date of Birth: 3 September 1932, Los Angeles, US
Birth Name: Verla Eileen Regina Brennan
Nicknames: Eileen Brennan
Eileen Brennan, the American actress was best known for her role as the tough-talking Army captain Doreen Lewis in the 1980 film comedy Private Benjamin, in which she starred alongside Goldie Hawn.
As tormentor-in-chief to Goldie Hawn’s high society recruit, Eileen Brennan earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, and when she reprised the role in a television sitcom adapted from the film, she won two further awards, an Emmy and a Golden Globe. Guest roles on such television shows as Murder, She Wrote; thirtysomething; Taxi; and Will & Grace (in which she played an over-the-top acting coach) earned her six more Emmy nominations.
On film she made a brief appearance as the crazy Cat Lady in the horror film Jeepers Creepers in 2001. Her last big screen appearance was in the 2011 comedy film Naked Run.
Her role in Private Benjamin led to a lasting friendship with Goldie Hawn. In 1982, a couple of years after they had made the film, the two women had dinner in Venice, California. As they left the restaurant, Eileen Brennan was struck by a car, in an accident which smashed her legs, broke bones on the left side of her face, and shattered her left eye socket. She later recalled seething with rage at what had happened: “I was no saint. I was angry, and anger is a powerful emotion. It increased my determination not to go under, to get well.”
She took three years off work to recover, but became addicted to painkillers, and eventually entered the Betty Ford clinic to cure her dependency. She later received treatment for breast cancer.
Ten years after the accident Eileen Brennan said she was glad she had been hit by the car. “You learn from powerful things,” she said in 1992. “Initially, there’s enormous anger, but your priorities get shifted around.”
The daughter of a doctor of Irish descent, Verla Eileen Regina Brennan was born on September 3 1932 in Los Angeles. Her mother had acted in silent films. Educated in convent schools, she went on to study at Georgetown University and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.
Her first major role on the New York stage was in Little Mary Sunshine, a musical that earned her the 1960 Obie award for best actress. In 1964 she played Irene Malloy in the original production of Hello, Dolly! on Broadway. In Hollywood the director Peter Bogdanovich cast her as a weary waitress who inherits the café where she works in The Last Picture Show (1971).
Her other films included The Sting (receiving excellent reviews as the brothel madam with a heart of gold); The Cheap Detective; Clue and Divorce American Style. On television her versatility led to appearances in All in the Family; McMillan & Wife; Kojak; The Love Boat; Mad About You; and 7th Heaven.
As well as being cast as the gruff Capt Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin, Eileen Brennan applied her perfect sense of comic timing to several other sharp-tongued film roles including that of the aloof and world-weary Mrs Peacock in Clue (1985), and the cruel orphanage superintendent Miss Bannister in The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988).
Date of Birth: 30 October 1914, Hackney, East London, UK
Birth Name: Anna Eva Lydia Catherine Wing
Nicknames: Anna Wing
Anna Wing became a household name in her 70s as Albert Square's indomitable matriarch.
When Anna Wing took on her most famous role, in EastEnders in 1985, the Sun ran the headline: "Enter the dragon ... Lou Beale!" As hard as nails and as brittle as pressed flowers, Lou was one of a declining breed, a widowed East End mother whose power indoors was absolute, but whose attitude towards the outside world was one of mounting fear and alienation. She played Albert Square's indomitable matriarch for only four years but Wing became synonymous for many with her character.
The original character outline by Julia Smith and Tony Holland, creators of EastEnders, described Lou Beale thus: " the changing face of the area (especially the immigrants) is a constant source of fear to her, but then she doesn't go out much. She prefers to be at home, or on a trip down memory lane."
Wing recognised this stereotypical character since she had grown up among just such women. Born in Hackney, east London, she took along her birth certificate to the audition to prove she was the daughter of a greengrocer which was fitting since Lou and her late husband Albert had built up the Beales' business running a fruit and veg stall on Walford Market.
At the time of her audition, Wing was 71 and the show's producers worried about whether she was up to EastEnders' tough filming schedules. "All my life I've been an actress, now I want to be a household name," she told them.
She worked 70 hours a week for four years to achieve that aim, playing Lou largely from an armchair, dispensing reminiscences to the family faithful. "I can recall when there was 25 of us round this table for Sunday winkles, and separate tables out in the yard for the kiddies," she said once. She could even reflect on the menopause with her trademark combination of denial and sentiment: "I never had all that trouble. I just got on with it. In my day, we fetched ourselves by the bootstraps and carried on no matter what."
By 1988, Wing had had enough. She asked to be written out. "We had 31 million viewers and it was shown all over the world, and I suddenly thought 'Should I be in this?'... I had a crisis of conscience." So the scriptwriters obligingly killed Lou off. She returned from an outing to Leigh on Sea feeling ill and retreated to bed. After giving putative wisdom to her descendants, she said her last words: "That's you lot sorted. I can go now." At the Queen Vic after her funeral, her son Pete proposed a toast to that "bloody old bag".
Wing deserves disentangling from the legend of Lou Beale. She was several things unimaginable to her soap character, including a Quaker and CND supporter. She decided, aged 11, that she wanted to be an actor after seeing John Gielgud on stage at the Old Vic (in 1977, she appeared with her idol in Alan Resnais' film Providence).
After attending the Croydon School of Acting in south London, Wing worked extensively in repertory theatre. She also worked as a teacher and an artist's model, at tenpence an hour. "I had a very attractive body, a Renoir, and they were mad about it."
A lifelong pacifist, when war broke out in 1939 she took a nursing course and volunteered with the Red Cross. After the war, she worked both as a nursery school teacher and as a stalwart of repertory theatre, where she met her first husband, the merchant navy lieutenant and actor Peter Davey. The pair had a son, Mark, and were divorced in 1947.
In 2007, she reckoned to have appeared in at least 50 plays in 68 years, among them Early Morning in 1969 and A Man for All Seasons in 1971. During the 70s, she worked with her eldest son Mark Wing-Davey, the actor and director, in Sheffeld Crucible's production of Free for All. She also had small parts in films such as Billy Liar (1963) and an adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House (1973).
Between 1953 and 1960, she was the partner of the surrealist poet Philip O'Connor, whom she encouraged to write his first book, the extraordinary Memoirs of a Public Baby (1958). She once lamented that she had nothing to remember O'Connor by but a scribbled farewell note reading: "I love you, the gist of it is, I've been unfaithful. Have packed and gone." She said: "I pined for him for 15 years." She had a second son, John, with O'Connor.
Wing appeared in the ATV soap Market in Honey Lane between 1967 and 1969. The drama was set in a Cockney market, and made at Elstree studios where, 20 years later, she would film EastEnders. During this era, she also had roles in Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars and Play for Today. But EastEnders was to be her big, if belated, break.
After EastEnders, she had parts in Casualty, Doctors, French and Saunders, The Bill, Silent Witness and Doctor Who. In the cinema, in 2004, she appeared opposite Orlando Bloom in The Calcium Kid and as an ancient fairy in Tooth. That year, she was made an MBE for her services to drama and charity. Perhaps her strangest incarnation was in 2012 as a nonagenerian East End gangster in a music video for the band Quarrel. She played an indomitable woman bent on purging her manor of funk music.
Date of Birth: 1926, Wood Green, London, UK
Birth Name: Pat Ashton
Pat Ashton was an actor for over four decades. Probably her most important TV role was that of Annie, wife of a burglar (Bob Hoskins) who comes out of prison to find that his old friend (John Thaw) has moved in, in Thick As Thieves (1974). When Yorkshire TV declined a second series, the writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais took the idea to the BBC, where it was developed into the much-loved series Porridge.
Pat was born and raised in Wood Green, north London. During her early years, the piano was the focus of entertainment at home, with her brother Richard playing all the popular songs of the day. Her grandmother had been a trapeze artist, performing in front of the tsar in Russia, and Pat quickly became fascinated with music hall, learned to tap-dance from an early age and went on to study singing with Manlio Di Veroli.After the second world war she ran "concert parties", essentially variety shows, some of which, at the Gaumont cinema in Wood Green, featured the young Barry Took. After finding an agent, Pat performed at seaside resorts around England in summer season shows.In the early 60s, trading on her singing and dancing, she toured Europe with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in Oh! What a Lovely War.
Her early West End shows included Half a Sixpence and The Match Girls, and later she appeared in Stepping Out.
She also performed regularly at the Players' theatre in London.One of her first TV breaks was taking the role of Fanny Cornforth opposite Oliver Reed in Ken Russell's Dante's Inferno (1967), a film in the Omnibus series on the life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, this later led to a small role in Russell's 1971 film The Devils.By the 1970s other TV producers had picked up on her popular blonde, cockney persona. In fact, in 1970 she understudied Barbara Windsor in the Ned Sherrin-produced musical Sing a Rude Song, based on the life of music hall singer Marie Lloyd, and successfully took the lead role when Windsor was struck down with laryngitis.
Pat took TV roles in On the Buses (1971, and appeared in two spinoff films), Both Ends Meet (1972, with Dora Bryan), Yus My Dear (1976, with Arthur Mullard), Rooms (1977), The Benny Hill Show (1972-80), The Gaffer (1981-83, with Bill Maynard) and Tripper's Day (1984, with Leonard Rossiter).
Date of Birth: 17 September 1920, Hampstead, London, England, UK
Birth Name: Dinah Mec
Nicknames: Dinah Sheridan
Dinah Sheridan was a graceful actress fondly remembered for her performances in two of the most thoroughly British, good-natured and popular comedies in modern screen history Genevieve (1953) and The Railway Children (1970).
In the first she played the wife of a vintage car enthusiast and perched prettily but unenthusiastically atop a 1904 Darracq (named Genevieve) which is driven from London to Brighton by her dull barrister husband Alan (John Gregson). The journey is riddled with mishap, and on the return leg they try to beat another couple in a race back to Westminster.
Subtly deploying her smiling mouth and high cheekbones to express doubts about the sort of Englishman who puts more emotion and sincerity into the running of his car than his marriage, Dinah Sheridan’s comic instinct and control were precise and stylish. When the girlfriend of her husband’s racing rival confides that her escort “only thinks about cars and the other thing”, Dinah Sheridan, without batting an eyelid, replies: “Alan only thinks about cars.”
Genevieve proved hugely popular, and won a Bafta for best film.
Dinah Sheridan was then in the prime of her career, having made two dozen films. But having tasted success, she married John Davis, her boss at the Rank Organisation, and promptly had 13 years of retirement imposed upon her. It was only following her separation from Davis, her second husband, that she began acting again. Then, after bringing wit and elegance to a succession of West End comedies, farces and thrillers, she picked up on-screen where she had left off, joining the cast of another huge hit, Lionel Jeffries’s The Railway Children.
Taken from an Edwardian story by E Nesbit about a mother and her three children adapting to straitened circumstances in the Yorkshire countryside after the father, a Foreign Office official, is wrongly convicted of treachery, the film is best-remembered for the adventures of city-bred children exploring a new life in the countryside. None the less, Dinah Sheridan achieved through restraint an affecting emotional eloquence that was crucial to the film’s appeal.
She was born Dinah Mec on September 17 1920 at Hampstead Garden Suburb. A sickly child, she contracted tuberculosis at the age of five. “I was pushed around in a spinal carriage until I was well enough to learn to walk again at age six and a half,” she recalled.
Her father was Russian, while before the war her German mother ran a photographic business, for which Dinah posed willingly and often from an early age. Later the Royal family became clients, and only the Mecs, under the trading name of Studio Lisa (her mother’s first name), were allowed to photograph the royal pantomimes at Christmas.
Educated at the Italia Conti school of acting, Dinah made her professional debut aged 11 in Where the Rainbow Ends (Holborn Empire, 1932), and proved a particularly lovely Wendy in Peter Pan, a role she played, from the age of 15, at least 100 times. By then she had already appeared in her first feature film, Give My Heart (1935), having perused a telephone directory to select “Sheridan” as a stage name. The following year she was the first actress to broadcast on television from Alexandra Palace, in Picture Page. Her first film lead also came in 1936 with Irish and Proud of It.
After such domestic English epics as Father Steps Out (1937), Merely Mr Hawkins (1938), and Full Speed Ahead (1939) she spent two years during the early part of the war in provincial rep, also driving an ambulance at Welwyn Garden City. Then came such films as Salute John Citizen (1942); Get Cracking (1945, with George Formby); Murder in Reverse (1947); Calling Paul Temple (1948); The Story of Shirley Yorke (1949); The Huggetts Abroad (1949); and Paul Temple’s Triumph (1950).
Despite such regular work, it was not until she played the game warden’s wife in Harry Watt’s film about African wildlife, Where No Vultures Fly (1951), that her acting received wide acknowledgement. And only after further parts, in The Sound Barrier (1952), Appointment in London (1953) and The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan (1953), did she finally achieve in Genevieve stardom.
Success came at the same moment as the end of her 11-year marriage to the actor Jimmy Hanley, with whom she had a son and a daughter. Davis soon proposed on one condition that she give up acting “to have a happy home”.
It was a condition she seemed at first to accept: “I looked at films as a career from necessity but all I have really wanted is my home and children. The two things just do not work out together when one has to leave home at 5.30am in the morning to go to the studio.” Soon things changed. Two years later, in 1956, she resented having to turn down a big part in Reach for the Sky, the biopic about Douglas Bader. “I had promised my husband never to accept another engagement. It was hard. It was not a very happy time for me.”
It was two years after the end of her second marriage in 1965 that she returned to the stage in a drawing room comedy by Hugh and Margaret Williams, Let’s All Go Down the Strand (Phoenix). In it she had the only serious role that of a wife who insists on divorcing her husband after his first sexual lapse. Noting her “promising” comeback to the West End, the Telegraph’s critic WA Darlington praised her as “one of the clearest and best speakers on our stage”. “She had the task of winning our sympathy,” he added, “and brought it off with much charm.”
Subsequent stage productions included A Boston Story (Duchess, 1968); Out of the Question (St Martin’s, 1969); A Touch of Purple (Thorndike, Leatherhead, 1972); Move Over Mrs Markham (Vaudeville, 1972); The Card (Queen’s 1973); The Gentle Hook (Piccadilly, 1974); In the Red (Whitehall, 1977); and a tour of Half Life, which took her to Toronto.
If she rarely grappled with the classics, it was perhaps because she never could evoke persuasively that streak of hardness that goes with many great roles. So it was natural that, as she matured, it was as old flames, obliging widows, demure or indignant wives that she was most appreciated. Her femininity, likeability, integrity and sense of comedy contributed richly to the success of such West End hits as The Pleasure of His Company (Phoenix, 1976), A Murder Is Announced (Vaudeville, 1977) and Present Laughter (1981).
Despite the success of The Railway Children, she only made one more film The Mirror Crack’d, a Miss Marple adaptation starring Angela Lansbury as Agatha Christie’s detective. She did take several television roles, though, and could be seen thereafter in Don’t Wait Up (as Nigel Havers’s mother), and Winning Streak. In the early 1990s she also appeared frequently on the afternoon game show Countdown.