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Archive for November, 2019


Moira Lister

Moira Lister

Moira Lister obituary in “The Guardian” in 2016.

Moira Lister, who has died aged 84, was an elegant, intelligent and funny actor who enchanted connoisseurs of postwar comedy on stage, screen and television. Although she worked at first for London actor-managers such as John Gielgud, John Clements and Robert Atkins at Stratford-upon-Avon and in the West End, it was as a dry, sophisticated comedienne that Lister will be best remembered.

Whether in Alan Melville’s television programmes in the 1960s such as The Whitehall Worrier and The Very Merry Widow, or in Ealing films or in a succession of West End and touring comedies, the slim, blue-eyed blonde from South Africa with the upper-class voice and razor-sharp sense of comedy dispensed a wry and impish humour. Compared once to the American Lucille Ball because of her gift for blending glamour and ebullient fun, Lister lit up the dullest screen with her portraits of society women, not-so-subtle gold-diggers, flighty wives or enterprising widows.

Herself a society woman – with a 40-year marriage to a French cavalry officer and champagne producer, Vicomte d’Orthez – Lister revelled in her possessions, including a villa on the Riviera, a house in Belgravia and a social life to match her theatrical reputation. With her stage discipline and exquisite manners on stage and off, she was not only a favourite in the profession but also backstage, where her charm pleased the most demanding directors and technicians.

When Alan Melville, more of a writer than an actor, took over from Ian Carmichael as Lister’s husband in Alec Coppel’s The Gazebo in 1960, Melville sensed for once her irritability at rehearsal. He felt bound to speak. “You’re not suggesting that I’m upstaging you, are you?” – “Yes, dear, and for someone who’s never been on the stage before you’re far too bloody good at it. Now let’s go across to the Savoy and have a great zonking drink.”

Lister was always serious about her art. Hence her performance, in 1996, in a revival of Michael Redgrave’s version of Henry James’s The Aspern Papers. As an aged Venetian spinster guarding some secret documents which a strange publisher wants to obtain, Lister wore black from head to toe and, though in her seventies, was still arrestingly lovely. From a wheelchair this Venetian Miss Havisham nursed her literary secret with compelling power; and if she lacked the guns of the creator of the role 40 years earlier, Beatrix Lehmann, her presence almost matched that actor’s shiversome power.

Signs of such talent first erupted in the 1940s and 1950s. She was born in Cape Town and was in the London theatre by the time she was a teenager. Her first film appearances, in 1944, led to such movies as The Cruel Sea (1953) and The Deep Blue Sea (1955). For Robert Atkins at Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1945, Lister showed promise as Juliet, Desdemona, Olivia, Anne Bullen, Kate Hardcastle and Charmian in Antony and Cleopatra; and then in the West End for Clements as Palymra in Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode and Isabel Neville in The Kingmaker. She was also a regular in Hancock’s Half Hour in 1954-55.

Ten years later she joined Gielgud’s company to tour the continent and the English regions before a West End season in 1956 at the Palace as Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing and Regan to Gielgud’s King Lear. By then, Lister’s talent as a comedienne had spread far and wide, even to the cinema. As a straw-hatted schoolgirl she played opposite Noël Coward in Present Laughter in 1947; on Broadway, in 1949, as Madeleine in Sacha Guitry’s Don’t Listen, Ladies; and her floozy in Rattigan’s French Without Tears charmed everyone.

She triumphed as Sleeping Beauty in 1951 in The Love of Four Colonels – Peter Ustinov’s satire on international matters – in wooing each soldier. “Not only has she beauty and intelligence but her voice has tone instead of the breathy twitterings of so many of our younger actresses,” was a typical critical response.

Whether in Shaw, Wilde, William Douglas-Home, Ustinov or Henry Cecil’s courtroom dramas, Lister was rarely unemployed. One of her great stage hits was as Mrs Markham in Ray Cooney and John Chapman’s Move Over Mrs Markham (1971). She also guested on scores of television programmes. Melville’s The Very Merry Widow brought Lister into the living room. Taken from his 1953 play, Dear Charles, it ran from 1967 to 1969 with Lister as the debt-ridden but resourceful widow whose husband had drowned after borrowing a yacht and its owner’s wife.

In her memoirs A Very Merry Widow, Lister recalled a chilling dinner date after the war. It was with “an old but handsome” acquaintance from South Africa. “He said that his wife had been killed in a car smash and I remember thinking ‘you’re so attractive and amusing I wouldn’t mind marrying you myself’. We had a wonderful evening. Then he took me home, kissed me on both cheeks and said goodbye.” It was Neville Heath, who had just murdered two women in 10 days.

She was performing until three years ago, touring with her one-woman show about Coward, and played a grandmother in the film Flood, released in August.

Her husband died in 1989 and she is survived by her two daughters.

· Moira Lister, actor, born August 6 1923; died October 27 2007


Adrian Lukas

Adrian Lukis. Wikipedia.

Adrian Leonard Fellowes Lukis (born 28 March 1957, Birmingham) is an English actor who has appeared regularly in British television drama since the late 1980s. He trained in acting at Drama Studio London. His most recent notable appearances have been as Sergeant Douglas ‘Doug’ Wright in the police drama series The Bill, and as Marc Thompson in the BBC legal drama Judge John Deed. He was educated at Mount House School (now known as Mount Kelly), in TavistockDevon.

He was a regular, playing Mark Judd in the 2nd series of Chandler & Co during 1995 and playing Dr David Shearer in Peak Practicebetween 1997 and 1999. He also played Mr. George Wickham in the BBC’s 1995 adaption of Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice, and he had appeared in the ITV one-off drama Back Home and in the BBC rural drama series Down to Earth.

He had previously appeared in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (as Bennett in The Creeping Man), MaigretMiss MarpleCampionThe Strauss Dynasty and Prime Suspect. Adrian Lukis played Simon Avery in Silent Witness Series 15 Episode 2, Death Has No Dominion. For radio, he appeared as George Vavasour in BBC Radio 4’s 2004 adaptation of Anthony Trollope‘s The Pallisers.

From 2013, up to present day, Lukis plays the recurring role of Colonel Blair Toast in the Channel 4 series Toast of London. In 2015, Lukis appeared as Francis Davison in the BBC TV series Death in Paradise episode 4.3, and appeared as Laurence Olivier in the European premiere of the Austin Pendleton play Orson’s Shadow, at the Southwark Playhouse in London. In 2016, he appeared as Home Secretary Alex Wallis in “Hated in the Nation“, an episode of the anthology series Black Mirror.

In September 2019 he reprised his role as George Wickham in the world premiere of Being Mr Wickham, a new play by Catherine Curzon. The performance took place at the Old Georgian Theatre Royal in Bath as part of the Jane Austen Festival.

Lukis is descended from the Channel Islands archaeologist Frederick Lukis.[1]


Ciaran Madden

Ciaran Madden. Wikipedia entry

Ciaran Anne Magdalene Madden  (born 27 December 1942) is a retired English stage, film, and television actress, who was professionally active from the late 1960s through the late 1990s.

She is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), and is an Associate Member of the academy.

Madden is best known internationally for her multiple leading Agatha ChristieShakespeare, and Tom Stoppard roles filmed for television, and for her performance as Marianne Dashwood in the 1971 BBC miniseries adaption of Jane Austen‘s Sense and Sensibility. She appeared in more than 30 television series, teleplays, made-for-television movies, and television miniseries, including a starring performance in the miniseries A Married Man (1984) opposite Anthony Hopkins. She also had major roles in five feature films, including Gawain and the Green Knight (1973), the cult horror film The Beast Must Die (1974), Spy Story (1976) and Swing Kids (1993).

She had originally trained at the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford prior to enrolling at RADA.  In the late 1990s she gave up acting and returned to painting, focusing on portraits, and received a diploma from the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London. In 2001 she moved to Dorset with her second husband, Christian Tyler, whom she had married in 1987.  Her previous husband, whom she had married in 1972, was John Patrick Scrivenor; they had a son born in late 1972.


Jean Hagen

Jean Hagen. TCM Overview

Here is the biography of Jean Hagen by Lorraine LoBianco for TCM:

To movie audiences, Jean Hagen will forever be Lina Lamont, the shrill-voiced silent movie star who Debbie Reynolds has to dub in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). It was a tour de force performance that earned Hagen an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and cemented her position in, as Lina would say, “the cinema firmamint.” 
Jean Shirley Verhagen was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 3, 1923 to Christian Verhagen, a Dutch immigrant and his American wife Marie. Hagen’s family was a large one and according to her sister, LaVerne, “Our childhood was wonderful, nothing but happiness. Our parents were very family-oriented people, very close. And I can’t remember when Jean wasn’t interested in acting. We used to put on plays in our basement in Chicago. We wrote them and acted in them and charged five cents.” The family moved to Elkhart when Jean was 12 and she continued to act. Drama was her major when she attended Northwestern University. While there she supplemented her income by appearing in local radio programs like The Brewster Boy and also worked the freshman dorm’s switchboard. 

It was at Northwestern that she appeared in Cry Havoc with future star, Patricia Neal, who became her life-long best friend. Another friend, Helen Thomson said, “Jean played the cigarette-smoking, wisecracking, smarty-pants girl. Then she did Sabina in Skin of Our Teeth and she was terrific; she was extremely talented. She was at her best when she was being funny or tough. Jean was the one who brought us back down to earth if we got a bit flighty.” Hagen also appeared in satirical revues along with Paul Lynde. 

In 1945, Hagen went to New York where she and Patricia Neal roomed together. Neal remembered that “people used to tell us we looked like sisters.” Grand Central Station, Hollywood Story and Light of the World were radio shows that Hagen appeared on in December 1945. By 1946 she was a cigarette girl in a nightclub, then an usher at the Booth Theater. During the run of the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play Swan Song at the theater, Hagen was overheard by the authors criticizing the show. Hecht and MacArthur introduced themselves and in the ensuing discussion, asked her to try out for a small role as a replacement for a sick cast member. Ironically, she got appendicitis almost immediately, but after recovering, was able to take the part. That was quickly followed by Lillian Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest only two months later, with Patricia Neal in the cast. 

Hagen married Tom Seidel, an actor (later an agent), in 1947 while she was appearing in the play Dear Ruth in Connecticut summer stock. She then understudied Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday and was able to play the role for a month during Holliday’s vacation. While appearing in The Traitor she was spotted by Sam Zimbalist and Anthony Mann who were in New York doing pre-production for the MGM film Side Street (1950). They gave her a test the next morning and quickly signed to an MGM contract. The day after signing her contract, she was on the set, where she played an alcoholic nightclub singer. Though the film was shot in 1949, it was held up for release until the next year. The delay did not hurt Hagen, who within a few months was reunited with Judy Holliday in Adam’s Rib (1949) in which she played the home-wrecking Beryl Caighn. The film, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, was a hit and helped Hagen enormously. John Huston cast Hagen in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) because, he said, “she has a wistful, down-to-earth quality rare on the screen. A born actress.” Hagen was watching screen tests with Huston for Louis Calhern’s mistress and Marilyn Monroe came on the screen. Huston turned to Hagen and asked “Her?” Hagen replied, “Yep.” Unfortunately for Hagen, Monroe got all the attention. “There were only two girl roles, and I obviously wasn’t Marilyn Monroe.” 

Later in 1950, Hagen gave birth to her daughter, Christina Patricia (after Patricia Neal), and continued to act in unimportant films such as A Life of Her Own (1950), in which Jean’s real-life husband Tom Seidel played her husband in the film. And then came Singin’ in the Rain. Many actresses tested for the role of Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain, including Nina Foch and Barbara Lawrence, but it was Hagen’s role. In 1975, author Ray Hagen interviewed Hagen and asked how she managed to get the part since it was so different from anything else MGM had allowed her to do up to that point. “L.B. Mayer’s wife, of all people, had the idea from seeing me in No Questions Asked (1951) one of my lesser efforts. How she ever got the idea of me for Lina from that I’ll never know. I discovered later that they’d tested loads of actresses before they decided on me. But I was pleased that during the filming they were working so hard on the dance numbers, and with Debbie, that they left me pretty much on my own.” Lina’s voice has been described as “screechy”, “banshee-like”, and “nails on a chalkboard” and totally unsuited for talking pictures. Lamont’s voice is dubbed in the talking segments by Debbie Reynolds’ character. In real-life it was a different story. Director Stanley Donen said, “We used Jean Hagen dubbing Debbie dubbing Jean. Jean’s voice is quite remarkable and it was supposed to be cultured speech – and Debbie had that terrible western noise.” Lina Lamont’s singing was actually done by Betty Royce (dubbing Reynolds dubbing Hagen). Co-star Donald O’Connor remembered her as “a consummate actress. She was the sweetest gal in the world but she was on the quiet side, not like Lina Lamont at all with that high-pitched voice. No, she was a straight, legit actress. They didn’t get a ditzy blonde to play the part; they got a great actress to play the ditzy blonde. That’s why that part is so dynamic and so wonderful.” 

Ironically, Hagen preferred dramatic roles over comedy or hard-boiled because she grew weary of the typecasting. Her final films for MGM were the Lana Turner musical Latin Lovers (1953) (“Every time Mr. Mayer would get mad at me, he’d punish me by putting me in a Lana Turner movie.”) and a Red Skelton film, Half a Hero (1953). When her contract with MGM was over, she went right into television as Danny Thomas’ wife on the ABC series Make Room for Daddy . 
Hagen would be nominated for an Emmy for the show and it made her more famous than her MGM films but it was not a role she enjoyed. According to Ray Hagen, Thomas “objected to her preference for sloppy clothes and jeans on rehearsal days, at one point admonishing her to ‘for God’s sake, put on high heels, put on a little lipstick,’ when network exec Robert Kinter was about to visit the set. Kinter had insisted on Jean for the role and ‘considered her the pivotal character in the series,’ which rankled Thomas. He found Jean aloof, though granting that she worked as hard as anyone else. He was a bit daunted by her Broadway and Hollywood résumé, and Jean did indeed feel straitjacketed in her sitcom wife-and-mom role.” After three years, she quit the show, tired of playing a mother on television when she preferred to be one in real life, having had her second child, Aric in 1952. In his autobiography, producer Sheldon Leonard wrote about Hagen “We just couldn’t replace her. The viewers regarded the Danny Williams family very possessively. After all, they had been visiting that family regularly for the past three seasons. It wasn’t acceptable simply to recast the part of the wife and mother of the Williams family and proceed as if nothing had happened. We would recast eventually, but first there had to be a transition period.” 

According to Aric Seidel, “her family was her passion. If she was upset about not getting work, I never knew it.” However, Hagen’s daughter Christine admitted that after having worked all her life Hagen had nothing to do. “That’s when she started drinking. She didn’t drink in front of us, ever. She was a closet drinker. I didn’t even know about it until I found a bottle of Scotch in a drawer in my bedroom, and I confronted her about it.” 

Hagen made occasional television appearances and played Fred MacMurray’s wife in Disney’s The Shaggy Dog (1959) and Ray Milland’s in Panic in Year Zero! (1962), but she was never able to equal the success of her early years. Actress Mary Mitchel told author Tom Weaver that during filming of Panic in Year Zero!, Hagen spoke of being “depressed over a recent loss. She told me the only reason that she took this film was that she was sooo lost without this person – she said she would do anything to get her mind off of it. She had been sort of semi-retired for a long time and then [co-starred in Panic], I think partly as a favor to Ray Milland and partly just because…well, you know how when you’re so distraught, you think, ‘Maybe if I work, it’ll make me feel better?’ Evidently this person who had died was her true love and she was just totally lost. She was also very professional, but obviously not in a happy mood, particularly.” It’s unclear who Hagen was mourning, but very likely it was the end of her marriage. Seidel, in his attempt to stop his wife from drinking, divorced her and gained custody of the children. It didn’t work. Hagen’s alcoholism reached a point where she ended up in a coma at UCLA Medical Center in 1968 with the doctors only giving her a few weeks to live. Her daughter Christine said that when she emerged from the coma, Hagen never drank again. But another health problem replaced it; throat cancer. Patricia Neal wrote in her autobiography that Hagen went to Germany “for laetrile, a supposed cure unavailable in the United States. But she was bubbly and bright and so much the way I remembered her from the old days.” 
Hagen ended up living at the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Woodland Hills, California off and on for the next few years, alternating with brief respites from the cancer, when she was able to work on shows like The Streets of San Francisco and Starsky and Hutch. Following a throat operation and very ill, Hagen made her last appearance as a landlady in a TV movie Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn (1977). Jean Hagen died at the Motion Picture Country Hospital on August 29, 1977 at the age of 54. Her friends and her family remember her as funny, warm and loving. Audiences remember her as an actress of great talent whose career was all too brief. As Farley Granger wrote in his autobiography, “Hollywood didn’t really know how to take advantage of this unique comedienne’s talent.” 
by Lorraine LoBianco


Stella McClusker

Stella McClusker interview in “Belfast Telegraph”.

A few minutes into my interview with one of Northern Ireland’s most accomplished leading actresses Stella McCusker I quickly learn there are two words which were banned from the conversation – age and retirement. “I don’t give out my age,” she told me matter-of-factly, “and we definitely don’t speak about retirement. It’s a standing joke in my family but they are the two words we simply don’t mention.

“I believe Dame Judi Dench has the same rules, so I am in good company,” she adds.

She decides to refer to herself as a ‘senior citizen’ and with the ground rules firmly established, there is plenty more to talk about with such a stellar actor.

In this digital age, though, keeping your age – or anything else for that matter – to yourself is all but impossible. A quick search online reveals that the beloved actress is 74 years old.

But when it comes to discussing the life and work of this lady – it would be churlish to make this interview about her vintage.

Born in the Republic of Ireland and having grown up in Lurgan, Stella has appeared in plays, television and films all over the world and performed Shakespeare, Yeats, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney to name but a few.

Perhaps best know for the 2009 film Five Minutes of Heaven and Nineties movie You, Me and Marley which revolved around a gang of Protestant and Catholic youths in which she played Mrs Hagan, Stella has also appeared in the TV series Lovejoy and more recently on Game of Thrones.

She also played Sarah Conlon, wife of Guiseppe Conlon in Dear Sarah – a powerful portrayal in a drama documentary depicting the relationship between one of the Guildford Four Gerry Conlon’s parents. Dear4 Sarah was based on the letters Guiseppe wrote from prison to his wife after he was convicted, along with six members of the Maguire family of running an IRA bomb factor in North London. While Guiseppe died in custody in 1980, Gerry was released when his conviction (along with that of the other three jailed for the 1974 Guildford pub bombings) was quashed on appeal in 1991.

She first sampled performing, though, when she joining her school in Lurgan’s operatic society, following by a stint at Mary O’Malley’s little theatre in Derryvolgie Avenue in Belfast. Since then she has, and still is, enjoying a successful acting career and tonight will join forces with friend, colleague and fellow actor Ian McElhinney and his son Matthew in performing works by Seamus Heaney at the HomePlace in Bellaghy.

An event which is of huge importance to the actress who grew up in Co Armagh.

She says: “This is such a privilege for me to be asked to do this. I am a huge fan of Seamus Heaney and am looking forward to this event.

“We will be reciting and performing the poems to a backdrop of local scenes in the cosy backdrop of the Homeplace. It has been great to reacquaint myself with his fabulous work.

“We are hoping to encourage audiences to come along and enjoy and engage in the evening. We want to invite and excite them about these works.

“I am performing The Wife’s Tale which is one of my favourite Heaney poems all about the beauty of harvest time.”

And despite this veteran performers acting heritage, she is actually a tad anxious, adding: “I will be nervous, of course, and I hope we do Heaney justice and make him proud.

“I am in good company and I have nothing but respect for Ian and Matthew; and Mick Gordon who is producing the piece.”

Stella admits that she was fortunate enough to meet and work with the man himself when they worked on some radio plays together for the BBC many years ago.

“Seamus Heaney was a true gentleman and such a talent. One of the things I remember most about him was that he was impeccably dressed and wearing a fabulous tweed suit. An amazing and exceptionally talented man to come from these shores.”

Stella has worked with some of the great and the good of talent from Northern Ireland, including Liam Neeson who she starred alongside in the Lyric at the beginning of her acting career.

“He was an absolute gentleman as well,” she recalls. “We have become good friends over the years and I know his family well. They are a lovely, warm and very private family. He sent me a bouquet of flowers to wish me luck when I performed in Philadelphia Here I Come at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, which was such a beautiful, kind act.”

Perhaps one of Stella’s best known roles lately has been the one she knows the least about.

She played a servant to lead Sansa Stark in two episodes of Game of Thrones.

And while Thrones, which is made here, has become the biggest TV show in the world regularly watched by 8.9m viewers worldwide, Stella admits she wasn’t overly familiar with the HBO series.

“I’ve actually never watched an episode of it,” she reveals with a laugh. “I do know that it is huge worldwide and there is a tremendous buzz about it and I am delighted to have been part of it, even in a small way – but I don’t know much about it.”

At present she is juggling her time between two productions – a Spanish produced film called the Muse which is being filmed in Belgium, Barcelona and Ireland and a film being made in Amsterdam and Munich called Arthur and Claire.”

And when she is not jetting off for work, her base is now in Belfast with her partner of 26 years, artist James Cahill.

“We met through a mutual friend and James said he wanted to create a portrait of me and the rest as they say is history. We have been together ever since. He has done many portraits over the years but I tell him now I am too old for all that, so he never got to paint me.

“He is my biggest fan and strongest critic,” she says. “He will always tell me the truth. Like most actors I’ve done the great, the good and the not so good but thankfully for the main part most of the work I have been in has been well received.

“James goes to everything and gives me his honest opinion which I really value.”

When asked if she has any plans to become Mrs Cahill after nearly three decades she laughs.

“We have honestly never discussed marriage. I was married before and I never felt the need to do it again. We are perfectly happy the way we are.”

So with affairs of the heart discussed I turn my attention to her family and ask what her parents thought of her opting for a career in acting?

“I come from a family of five and my parents, who are sadly no longer with us, were exceptionally proud of all of us. There are two sisters and three brothers in the family. Sadly one of my brothers passed away in tragic circumstances.”

That’s all she has to say on that matter and we quickly move on.

“The rest aren’t really that aware of what I am doing at different times they are just happy that the work is still coming in and if I am happy they are happy for me. They will come and see me in the odd thing though.”

Stella says she sort of “crept” into acting and it wasn’t a career she ever had designs on.

“I do remember as a young girl growing up in Lurgan walking to the town one night and seeing a girl coming from a concert she had been taking part in. She had an orange face, permed hair and white heels and tights and I was mesmerised and thought ‘I want to be like that’.

“I tried various jobs and then I flirted a bit with acting and I loved it from the word go. There is nothing like the thrill of live theatre – you live on your nerves and anything can happen.

“I love films too but I wish I knew as many tricks of the trade in the filming world as I have learnt from stage acting over the years – but I am learning all the time from the younger ones who have it down to a fine art and make it look so easy.”

Stella says acting has been a great career choice for her, but she has found over the years there are not as many top roles for women in theatre, particularly as she has gotten older.

“I think writers need to write more for women as there is a lot of fantastic talent out there and there needs to be more roles open particularly for more mature women.

“I was blessed recently when I got to play a role on the Holy, Holy Bus alongside three other fantastic actresses.

“There are not many plays written for four women of different ages, and I loved doing this. The women (Roisin Gallagher, Claire Conor and Caroline Curran) have not only become colleagues but also friends along the way. They are a wonderful group of women and I loved working with them on the production. We stay in touch all the time.”

The irreverent comedy about four women who take off on a pilgrimage around Ireland’s most sacred sites was a huge hit with audiences across the province.

Stella, who never had children of her own, admits she has never been short of “motherly love”, with lots of nieces and nephews to keep her occupied.

“They are scattered all over the world now. One is working in Qatar and one is a model in New York. They have always kept me busy and grounded and I have loved spoiling them and spending time with them.”

Family definitely takes a priority for Stella, who says she loves nothing better than when all the siblings get together.

“We are a close bunch and keep an eye out for each other.”

So apart from spending time with her beloved family, what else does Stella do when she is not working?

While she’s a fan of opera — her favourite is Madame Butterfly — and adores soprano Maria Callas, work is rarely far from Stella’s mind.

“I worry about not working,” she jokes, “and then the work comes in and I start to panic.

“Lots of people say to me, ‘My little son or daughter has a real talent and wants to go into acting.. what would you recommend?’

“I say well as long as they can learn to take rejection, go long periods without work and survive on very little money and live on their nerves, this is a career for them. Otherwise forget it.

“Some people are very lucky and get their big break right away and stardom beckons, but for most people it is a job of real highs and lows, ups and downs.”

She stresses that she has been extremely fortunate in that it has been mainly highs but she has had her bad moments.

So does she have any regrets?

“No not really. I did always have a slight niggle when I was younger that perhaps I should have gone away and lived and worked in London — maybe there would have been more opportunities there. Who knows?

“But that has passed now and I am happy with my lot. As long as the offers keep coming in I will be happy.”

She cites working on A Streetcar Named Desire and Brian Friel’s marvellous Philadelphia Here I Come as career highlights, alongside working with home-grown talent such as Liam Neeson and Adrian Dunbar.

“One of my personal highlights was meeting the Queen. She was over visiting the province and she came to meet some actors up in the Lyric Theatre and I was fortunate to be there.

“She was an amazing woman and a true delight to meet,” says the award-winning actress. “That was definitely one of the highlights of my life.

“We actually have something in common,” she adds, “Colin Davidson, who recently did a portrait of the Queen, also did a portrait of me, which is up in the Lyric Theatre. So mine was done before hers!”

So with plenty of ongoing work in sight it looks like the R word is a long way of for this remarkable actress, who has nothing short of an enviable CV and impressive showreel over the years.

“Onwards and upwards is my motto and carry on regardless,” she concludes


Mavis Villiers

Mavis Villiers. Wikipedia.

Mavis Villiers (born Mavis Clare Cooney; 18 January 1911, Sydney – March 1976, Paddington, London), was an Australian-born British actress of stage, film and television. Her parents were John and Clara (née Villiers) Cooney. Her brother, Cecil Cooney, was a camera operator and cinematographer. Her stage name, Villiers, was taken from her maternal grandfather.

Mavis emigrated to the United States with her family in 1921, aged 11. The family settled in Hollywood, where her father became a technician at a film company. Both Mavis and her brother Cecil began their careers in the silent era; her first accredited film role was as ‘the Girl’ in a 1927 short comedy,The Bum’s Rush, featuring expat Australian star Snub Pollard. Following her parents’ divorce, Mavis and her mother Clara migrated to London in 1933. Her brother Cecil followed at some stage; her father remained in California where he died at Ventura in 1960.

Her stage roles included that of Mrs Van Mier in the 1962 London production of Noël Coward‘s Sail Away at the Savoy Theatre. She was also in the cast of the 1957 West End production of Damn Yankees at the London Coliseum; this production featured Australian actor Bill Kerr as Mr. Applegate. Her sole appearance on the American Broadway stage, was in the role of Aunt Lizzy Sweeney, in the first Broadway production of Brian Friel‘s Philadelphia Here I Come! at the Helen Hayes Theatre in 1966; she also played the same role in the 1975 film version of that play, her last role before her death.

She had appeared in films from 1927-75. Some of her more prominent film roles were in:The Bum’s Rush (1927), Saloon Bar (1940), South American George (1941)One Exciting Night(1944), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Victim (1961), and Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1975).

Her television appearances between 1938 and 1972, include roles in various productions, series and episodes. They include the BBC’s Sunday Night TheatreDouglas Fairbanks, Jr., PresentsThe ViseThe Twilight ZoneThe Saint (TV series)From a Bird’s Eye View and Night Gallery.

Mavis met her future husband, Captain Donald E. Miller, at the American Eagle Club in Charing Cross Road, London, in 1941. She was working at American Eagle Club at the time. Miller was a Pilot Officer in the American Eagle Squadrons attached to the Royal Air Force. He was subsequently shot down over Germany and taken prisoner for two years until released on VE day in 1945. The couple were married in London on 16 June 1945 and planned to settle in the United States after Mavis had completed a contractual obligation to appear in a French film, Le Battalion du ciel (1946) (1946).

Before they could be reunited, Donald, now working for Pan-American Airways in San Francisco, died from injuries sustained in a car accident on 4 April 1946, nine months after their marriage. The union was childless; she did not remarry.

Mavis Villiers died from pneumonia at her Paddington flat in 1976, aged 65.


Eli Wallach

Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach.
Eli Wallach.

Tessie O’Shea

Tessie O’Shea.

Exuberant, ebullient, effervescent – even elephantine: as Tessie O’Shea herself declared in her signature song, “I’m Two-Ton Tessie From Tennessee”

She wasn’t from Nashville, Tennessee, as the lyric claimed; nor was she from Lancashire, as her accent implied; nor from Ireland, as her surname suggested. She was a Welsh girl born in Cardiff in 1914, four months before the beginning of the First World War. Before that war was over the tiny Tessie had made her stage dbut at the seaside and won a stick of rock. It was the first step in a career that made her the star of two continents, covering variety theatres, radio, records, television, West End revue, Broadway drama and Hollywood movies.

Tessie was 11 when she first came to London to sing and dance in a charity performance put on by her mentor, Billy Barnes. Seen by talent spotters for the Oswald Stoll organisation, she was booked for a solo appearance at the Hippodrome, Bristol, in March 1926, aged 12. Within three months she was a turn at the Chiswick Empire and a legendary music-hall career was under way.