Linden Travers was a very attractive actress in British movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. She was the older sister of actor Bill Travers. She is particularly remembered for Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes” in 1938 and then ten years later in “No Orchids for Miss Blandish” opposite George Raft. She died in Cornwall in 2001. She was the mother of actress Susan Travers.
Ronald Bergan’s “Guardian” obituary:
Among the many questions film-goers ask themselves while watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1939), the penultimate film of the director’s British period, is what on earth the exquisite brunette Mrs Todhunter sees in the pompous and pusillanimous Mr Todhunter (portrayed by portly Cecil Parker).
So passionate and sympathetic is the lovely Linden Travers, who has died aged 88, that we can only be pleased for her when Todhunter is shot by the Nazis as he tries to make a run for it. Travers’ performance in the Hitchcock picture, the best and most famous of her films, makes one wonder why she was not, at least, the equal of Margaret Lockwood, another “wicked lady” of British cinema. Perhaps she was a victim of the timidity of the British film industry in the 1930s and 40s.
The Lady Vanishes was Travers’ 10th feature, but her own favourite was No Orchids For Miss Blandish (1948), in which she played the title role, repeating her stage performance of six years earlier in London. The British film, directed by St John L Clowes, based on the James Hadley Chase shocker, was considered such strong stuff – “the most sickening exhibition of brutality, perversion, sex and sadism ever to be shown on a cinema screen,” screamed the Monthly Film Bulletin – that it was banned in England for many years. Despite most of the British cast struggling to convince as New York gangsters using unspeakable dialogue, Travers, as the sensual kidnapped heiress who falls for her psychotic captor, emerged with some credit.
She was born Florence Lindon Travers in Durham, and showed her talents at an early age. While still a pupil at the Convent de la Sagesse, she was engaged to teach younger classmates elocution, drama, painting and sketching. Her first professional stage appearances were in repertory at the Playhouse, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1933.
The following year, she played the ingénue lead in Ivor Novello’s Murder In Mayfair, at the Globe in London. There, she met her future first husband, Guy Leon, whose sister was in the cast. (Their daughter, Jennifer Susan, was born in 1939.) Travers was soon alternating between stage and screen, and between femme fatale roles and light comedies.
Carol Reed cast her in small, but sexy, parts in Bank Holiday (1938) and The Stars Look Down (1939), both starring Margaret Lockwood. Then, “I seem to have jumped out of being mistresses to playing with the comics,” she recalled later. She was an effective foil to Tommy Trinder in Almost A Honeymoon (1938), was withering towards Arthur Askey in The Ghost Train (1941) and was George Formby’s inamorata in South American George (1941).
In the latter, she is a press agent who talks posh, like all Formby’s leading ladies, though she drops into Lancashire dialect once or twice, much to George’s delight.
Travers again played second fiddle to Margaret Lockwood in Jassy (1947), and was Augusta Leigh, one of the many female witnesses in The Bad Lord Byron (1949) accusing poet Dennis Price of caddishness. Her last feature was Christopher Columbus (1949), in which she is chased around the Spanish court by King Ferdinand.
After her second marriage to James Holman in 1948, and the birth of their daughter, Sally Linden, the following year, Travers limited herself to occasional television appearances, allowing her much younger brother, Bill Travers, to continue the family acting tradition. She had, however, always continued painting and, with her sisters, Alice and Pearl, opened the Travers Art Gallery in Kensington in 1969.
In 1974, after her husband died of a heart attack, Travers spent some years travelling, before settling down to paint in St Ives, in Cornwall. She also studied psychotherapy, and qualified as a hypnotist. In the 1990s, she appeared at a showing of The Lady Vanishes at the National Film Theatre, and was seen in a BBC tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, instantly recognisable as the shamefully underused star of British pictures.
She is survived by her two daughters, her brother Ken and her sister-in-law, Virginia McKenna.
· Florence Lindon ‘Linden’ Travers, actor, born May 27 1913; died October 23 2001