Had she wanted it, Diana Wynyard might have had a screen career as long and distinguished as that of Davis or Hepburn. As a stage actress she was excellent but seldom outstanding, nor was her later screen work likely to make anybody’s eyes pop out.
But her early film work is quite, quite stunning. Quiet, cool, gracious, ladylike, she was warmer and more believable than those adjectives imply: either her acting has not dated an iota or it was years before it’s time.
In “Rasputin and the Empress” the Barrymores are acting away like mad and about as convincing as a tree-full of parrots, but Wynyard simply exists ion the same way that someone like Spencer Tracy existed.
In “One More River” the cast are expectedly more subdued, the film is still Galsworthy junk but when Wynyard is on screen at any point, you might be watching a film made yesterday” – David Shipman in “The Great Movie Stars” (1970).
Diana Wynyard was born in London in 1906. She had a cool calm presence on film and was seen to best effect in the UK made “Gaslight”, and “An Ideal Husband”.
In the earlier part of her career she made films in Hollywood including “Rasputin and the Empress” and “Cavalcade” by Noel Coward. Diana Wynyard had a flourishing stage career and was in rehersal for a new play with Maggie Smith when she died suddenly in 1964. An article reviewing Diana Wynyard and her role in “Cavalcade” can be found here.
A luminous and intelligent British actress, Diana Wynyard brought genteel grace and an aristocratic dignity to a highly successful stage career. With a carriage and mien well-suited to period drama, she briefly made her mark in several classy roles in Hollywood during the depths of the Depression in the 1930s. Her US film stardom didn’t take, however, but she was sporadically active in British film for 20 years thereafter, leaving behind several outstanding performances that made one wish she had done more in film.