Susan Hampshire

Michael Petrovitch & Susan Hampshire
Michael Petrovitch & Susan Hampshire

Susan Hampshire. TCM Overview.

Susan Hampshire has had a long and steady career in British films and television.   She was born in London in 1937.   She appeared as a child actress in the film “The Woman in the Hall”.   As a young adult she had small parts in “Expresso Bongo” and “Upstairs and Downstairs”.   In 1961 she went to Hollywood to guest star in the popular TV series “Adventure in Paradise”.   It did not lead to further offers in the U.S. and she returned to resume her career in Britain.   She was Cliff Richard’s leading lady in “Wonderful Life”.   She has had tremendous successful run in TV series in the UK.   “The Forsyth saga”, “The First Churchills”, “The Pallisers”, “Yhe Grand”, “Monarch of the Glen” and “The Royal” have all starred Susan Hampshire and they span from 1967 to 2009.   This is a very impressive feat.   Her films include “The Fighting Prince of Donegal” and “Violent Enemy”.   Susan Hampshire recalls her “This Is Your Life” here.

TCM Overview:

Best known to American audiences for her portrayal of sturdy upper crust Brits on public TV imports, Susan Hampshire was a celebrated British actress of stage, screen and TV, mostly in her native land. American audiences came to know her through such serials as “The Forsyte Saga” (PBS, 1969-70), in which she was Fleur, the stalwart member of a merchant family, “The First Churchills” (PBS, 1971), in which she was Sarah, the focused member of the Duke of Marlborough’s clan, and as Becky Sharpe in the TV rendition of “Vanity Fair” (PBS, 1972).

She won Emmy Awards for all three portrayals, and is also remembered as Agnes Wickfield in the “David Copperfield” adaptation shown on NBC in 1970. Additionally, Hampshire was the outspoken Glencora in “The Pallisers” (PBS, 1977), a series about a Victorian family with political leanings.

Hampshire’s work in feature films is less well-known to American audiences. After an appearance as a child in the British-made “The Woman in the Hall” (1947), she appeared in ingenue roles beginning with “Upstairs and Downstairs” (1959). She was the mother in “The Three Lives of Thomasina,” a 1963 Disney film about a girl in a Scottish village who heals animals through love. Her career transformed when she starred in Pierre Granier-Deferre’s “Paris in the Month of August/Paris au mois d’Aout” (1966), in which she appeared in a nude scene. Hampshire later married Granier-Deferre (they divorced in 1974). Her portrayal of African-based naturalist Joy Adamson in “Living Free” (1972), the sequel to “Born Free” in which Elsa the lion has died, received some notice in the States. Some of her other appearances in film, including her work in several French films are almost unknown to US audiences.

Hampshire’s work on stage in England began in the late 50s, and has included Shakespearean interpretations, from Rosalind in “As You Like It” to Katherina in “The Taming of the Shrew” (both at the Shaw Theatre). She played Peter Pan in a 1974 production of the classic musical as well. For most of the 80s, her performing career was virtually inactive. Hampshire devoted herself primarily to writing gardening and children’s’ books, including the “Lucy Jane” series. She authored “Susan’s Story” (1982), which recounted her struggle with dyslexia, and “The Maternal Instinct” (1985), about coping with her daughter’s fatal illness. Hampshire returned to the theatre in a 1990 production of “A Little Night Music” and was on stage at the Savoy Theatre in London in “Relative Values” (1993).

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