Thursday, November 10, 2016

Margaret Lockwood (1916-1990)

Birth name: Margaret Mary Day Lockwood
Birthdate: September 15th, 1916
Location: Karachi, British India

Died: July 15th, 1990
Location: London, UK
Cause of death: Cirrhosis of the liver

Best known for: British film starlet who found fame in the 1930s and 40s in films such as Lorna Doone (1934), Doctor Syn (1937), Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Wicked Lady (1945) and Jassy (1947). She was nominated for a Best British Actress BAFTA for her role in 1955's Cast a Dark Shadow, but lost out to Katie Johnson for The Ladykillers.

Margaret's success in films both in the UK and the US is undeniable, shifting her screen image from lead starlet to darker, villainous roles in the post-war years. However, as she approached her 40th birthday, her popularity began to wane, so instead she turned to the stage and television screen to sustain her career.

Her first work for TV was actually playing the title role in H G Wells' Ann Veronica for the BBC's Sunday Night Theatre in June 1952, followed by Lady Cicely Wayneflete in an adaptation of Captain Brassbound's Conversion for the BBC in March 1953. Other small-screen roles were to follow - in 1955 she played Clarissa Hailsham-Brown in an hour-long excerpt of the play Spider's Web, recorded by the BBC at the Savoy Theatre in London, after which she regularly appeared on TV in productions such as Murder Mistaken (1956), Call It a Day (1956) and the major 10-part BBC series The Royalty, about events at an exclusive London hotel, in which she played Mollie Miller (1957-58).

Margaret in series 3 of
Justice (1974), aged 57
Her first major TV highlight was playing Mollie Manning in 24 episodes of the BBC's The Flying Swan, which was inspired by The Royalty and involved events in a hotel once again - this time co-starring Margaret's daughter Julia, aged 23. The Flying Swan debuted in March 1965, when Margaret was 48, and ran for 24 episodes until September 1965.

After this, Margaret's screen appearances became few and far between. In 1970, aged 56, she played Louise Harrington in a BBC adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise, and in June 1974 was a participant in the TV detective panel game Whodunnit?.

Her final TV work was her second greatest small-screen hit. In July 1969 she appeared in an ITV play called Justice is a Woman, playing barrister Julia Stanford, and this in turn inspired Yorkshire TV's series Justice, which ran for three series and 39 episodes between October 1971 and August 1974. In this, Margaret played Northern barrister Harriet Peterson.

In her final film role as the
Stepmother in The Slipper and
the Rose (1976)
When Justice ended, there were just two more projects left for Margaret before she retired from acting for good. Her final hoorah to the silver screen was playing the wicked Stepmother in Bryan Forbes's musical adaptation of The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella, released in April 1976, when Margaret was 59. There was a star-studded cast, including Richard Chamberlain, Annette Crosbie, Gemma Craven, Edith Evans, Michael Hordern, Kenneth More and Rosalind Ayres - this film would also be the final film roles for More and Evans. The film was a great success, garnering an Oscar nomination for the Sherman Brothers' songs, and in March 1976 the film was chosen for that year's Royal Command Performance, after which the attendant Queen Mother told the Shermans: "The waltz you wrote for the ballroom scene is the most beautiful song I've ever heard."

Margaret's very last acting credit was playing Queen Alexandra in Royce Ryton's play Motherdear at the Ambassador's Theatre in London in 1980. It ran for just six weeks.

Margaret appeared on friend Tony
Britton's This is Your Life in
January 1977, aged 60
That might have been the last the world saw of Margaret's acting prowess, but she continued to appear as herself on TV into the 1980s, including the quiz show Celebrity Squares (1975), Saturday Night at the Mill (1980) and the nostalgia-based panel show Looks Familiar (1974, 1975 and her final screen appearance of all, on July 20th, 1982, when she was 64). She also appeared on three editions of This is Your Life to pay tribute to celebrity friends - Phyllis Calvert in 1972, Tony Britton in 1977 and Stewart Granger in 1980.

One of her very final public appearances was in 1980 to accept the honour of a CBE from the Queen, which she had been awarded in the New Year's Honours List. She attended Buckingham Palace with her three grandchildren. After this, she became something of a recluse, living in a stylish cul-de-sac in Kingston Upon Thames and rejecting all invitations and offers of work - for instance, she declined an invitation to attend the premiere of Michael Winner's remake of The Wicked Lady in 1983, as she had appeared in the original.

One of her very last screen appearances
on Saturday Night at the Mill in
April 1980, aged 63
In an interview with a newspaper in 1990 (not long before her mother's death), Julia said: "My mother is a bit like Greta Garbo in a way. Although she still gets offers, she doesn't act any more. She won't even go out or give interviews. I wish she had remarried because I would like her to have a companion in her old age. Although she's a recluse we all see her as much as possible. Mum loves movies, but gets so upset when she sees a star she has admired for years and notices they've had ten face-lifts!"

For much of her later life, Margaret suffered from labyrinthitis (vestibular neuritis), a form of inner ear infection which affected her balance. A lifelong chain smoker, she passed away at the age of 73 of cirrhosis of the liver at Cromwell Hospital in Kensington, and her body was cremated at Putney Vale.

Here's footage from 1946, when Margaret was 30 years old, of her (rather emotionally) receiving her Daily Mail Film Award for Best Actress ("Tonight is the proudest moment of my film career")...

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