Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

People We Like: the great dependables (2)

Last time round, my great dependables were those sterling British actors Jack Hawkins, Trevor Howard, Nigel Patrick and Harry Andrews. Here's another batch of people we like, the distaff side this time...

GLYNIS JOHNS. Born in 1923 Glynis Johns is still with us, in her 80s. What a fascinating career she has had, from those 40s ingĂ©nues (AN IDEAL HUSBAND) and that mermaid MIRANDA (reprised in ‘54’s MAD ABOUT MEN). Glynis’s husky voice and comedy sense made her ideal for films (where she began in the 1930s). In a very prolific career highlights include PERFECT STRANGERS, DEAR MR PROHACK in ’49 opposite the young Dirk Bogarde, THE CARD with Alec Guinness, THE COURT JESTER in ‘55, and opposite James Stewart in NO HIGHWAY (1951) as the air hostess, Disney fare like ROB ROY, THE WEAK AND THE WICKED, ANOTHER TIME ANOTHER PLACE, SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, with Kerr again in THE SUNDOWNERS, the mother in MARY POPPINS, THE CHAPMAN REPORT (where she is great fun gurgling over Ty Hardin in those spray-on shorts, below, as per my review), and a lot of television including her own tv series GLYNIS. Married and divorced 4 times her first husband Anthony Forwood became the lifetime partner of Dirk Bogarde.
I met Glynis in 1966 when she was doing a play THE KING’S MARE in London, I recall a very short lady with enormous eye-lashes! Of course her greatest stage success must be A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC where Stephen Sondheim wrote “Send In The Clowns” to suit her voice. She was Lady Penelope Peasoup in the BATMAN series in ’67 and other work included LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS (Mrs Squeezum), Myfanwy Price in the all-star UNDER MILK WOOD (1972) and an Amicus horror compendium VAULT OF HORROR in ’73 – Glynis was fun in it though and didn’t disgrace herself. What a trouper.

MARGARET LEIGHTON (1922-1976). Margaret was a leading actress in classical theatre who also took successfully to the movies. Her brittle manner and glamour was evident from the 1940s and in films like THE ASTONISHED HEART with Noel Coward and THE HOLLY AND THE IVY (both reviewed below). She also scored in Hitchcock’s 1949 UNDER CAPRICORN as Millie, the devious housekeeper who is secretly tormenting Ingrid Bergman as she is in love with Joseph Cotton. Other cinema roles include CARRINGTON V.C., THE GOOD DIE YOUNG opposite her husband Laurence Harvey, THE CONSTANT HUSBAND, THE BEST MAN, she is brilliant as the Blanche Du Bois type Caddie in the 1959 THE SOUND AND THE FURY (below, also reviewed here) and in the all-star THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT, '69. Among her television roles was AN IDEAL HUSBAND in 1969 and she won two Tony awards for theatre roles in SEPARATE TABLES and as the original Hannah Jelkes in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA in 1962. She had a late career resurgence with her fearsome mothers in Losey’s THE GO-BETWEEN (where she is no longer able to tolerate the deception going on between Bates and Christie) and she gets the last word as Lady Melbourne in Robert Bolt’s LADY CAROLINE LAMB. She was one of those SEVEN WOMEN for John Ford, his last film in 1966, where her missionary head clashes with Anne Bancroft, and she is fun as the aged hippie with Elizabeth Taylor in ZEE & C0, 1972.
She was also married to publisher Max Reinhardt, and after Harvey she had a happy marriage to Michael Wilding (below). She died aged 53 in 1976. Fascinating now catching up with her other roles, Miss Leighton was certainly a class act.

ANN TODD (1909-1993). A fairly new discovery for me, I now find Ann Todd fascinating. She had a fairly remote Garbo quality which with her patrician manner made her ideal for those upper class roles she portrayed for her third husband David Lean in the 40s and early 50s. In movies since the 1930s, I first noticed her in the 1945 PERFECT STRANGERS (or VACATION FROM MARRIAGE) for Korda, as the nice woman Robert Donat could have had a romance with, before he re-unites with wife Deborah Kerr. Hitchcock then took her to Hollywood (along with Alida Valli) for his rare misfire THE PARADINE CASE in 1947 as Gregory Peck’s wife. This is a fascinating oddity to see now. She is perfect in THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS for Lean in 1948, as per my review (Ann Todd label), as the wife of Claude Rains who meets her old lover Trevor Howard again at an Alpine holiday, so the stage is set for dramatics when her jealous husband turns up. MADELEINE was another created for her by Lean and she is also ideal in THE SOUND BARRIER (again, reviewed here) in ’52 as Ralph Richardson’s daughter who marries test pilot Nigel Patrick, as they try to break the sound barrier. Other roles include Losey’s TIME WITHOUT PITY in ’57 and a Hammer thriller A TASTE OF FEAR in 1961 – she even played in THE SON OF CAPTAIN BLOOD with Erroll Flynn’s son, Sean (which would be interesting to see now). She later took to directing and made some successful documentaries about travels in then exotic locations like Nepal.

PAMELA BROWN (1917-1975). One of the most fascinating British actresses, Pamela had memorable looks and that distinctive voice which made her ideal for some eccentric roles. She began in theatre and then in films with Michael Powell and Emeric Pessburger. She and Powell lived together until her death aged 58 in 1975. I have already written about her Catriona in I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING in 1945, one of my absolute favourite women in cinema. Other roles include RICHARD III, LUST FOR LIFE, BECKET, the seer in CLEOPATRA (above), in Losey’s SECRET CEREMONY and FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE, a silent cameo as Mrs Fitzherbert in the Brighton flashbacks in ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER, LADY CAROLINE LAMB, THE NIGHT DIGGER with Patricia Neal, and another Rumer Godden drama about nuns IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE. It is a very prolific career with lots of television also. Never a conventional beauty, Pamela added a dramatic presence to whatever she appeared in, and is always a pleasure to see.

Soon: British actresses of the 40s and 50s: Muriel Pavlow, Dinah Sheridan, Shirley Eaton, Yvonne Mitchell, Diana Dors, Sylvia Syms, Virginia McKenna, Rosamund John, Wendy Hiller, Celia Johnson, Margaret Lockwood, and Dame Flora Robson. I have already written extensively here on Kay Kendall, Joan Greenwood, Claire Bloom, Belinda Lee …

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