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Greenwood, Joan

GREENWOOD, Joan



Nationality: British. Born: Chelsea, London, 4 March 1921. Education: Attended St. Catherine's School, Bramley, Surrey; Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. Family: Married André Morell, 1960 (died 1978), one son. Career: 1938—stage debut in Le Malade imaginaire in London; 1940—film debut in John Smith Wakes Up; 1944—played Ophelia in Hamlet; later stage work includes roles in The Confidential Clerk in New York, 1957, Hedda Gabler, 1960 and 1964, The Chalk Garden, 1971, and The Understanding, 1982; 1983—in TV series Girls on Top. Died: In London, 28 February 1987.


Films as Actress:

1940

John Smith Wakes Up (Weiss—short) (as herself)

1941

My Wife's Family (Mycroft) (as Irma Bagshott); He Found a Star (Carstairs) (as Babe Cavour)

1943

The Gentle Sex (Howard) (as Betty)

1945

They Knew Mr. Knight (Walker) (as Ruth Blake); Latin Quarter (Sewell) (as Christine Minetti)

1946

A Girl in a Million (Searle) (as Gay)

1947

The Man Within (The Smugglers) (Knowles) (as Elizabeth); The October Man (Baker) (as Jennie Carden); The White Unicorn (Bad Sister) (Knowles) (as Lottie Smith)

1948

Saraband for Dead Lovers (Saraband) (Dearden) (as Sophie/Dorothea)

1949

The Bad Lord Byron (Macdonald) (as Lady Caroline Lamb); Whisky Galore! (Tight Little Island) (Mackendrick) (as Peggy Maccroon); Kind Hearts and Coronets (Hamer) (as Sibella)

1950

Garou-Garou, le passe-muraille (Le Passe-Muraille; Mr. Peek-a-boo) (Boyer)

1951

Flesh and Blood (Kimmins) (as Wilhelmina Cameron); Young Wives' Tale (Cass) (as Sabina Pennant); The Man in the White Suit (Mackendrick) (as Daphne Birnley); The Importance of Being Earnest (Asquith) (as Gwendolen Fairfax)

1954

Knave of Hearts (Monsieur Ripois; Lovers, Happy Lovers; Lover Boy) (Clément) (as Norah); Father Brown (The Detective) (Hamer) (as Lady Warren)

1955

Moonfleet (Lang)

1958

Stage Struck (Lumet)

1959

Horse on Holiday (English-language version of Danish film Hest pá sommerferie) (Henning-Jensen) (as voice)

1962

Mysterious Island (Endfield) (as Lady Mary Fairchild); The Amorous Prawn (Playgirl and the War Minister; The Amorous Mr. Prawn) (Kimmins) (as Lady Fitzadam)

1963

Tom Jones (Richardson) (as Lady Bellaston)

1964

The Moon-Spinners (Neilson) (as Frances Ferris)

1971

Girl Stroke Boy (Kellett)

1977

"London, 1912" ep. of The Uncanny (Héroux); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Morrissey)

1978

The Water Babies (Jeffries)

1983

Country (Eyre)

1984

Ellis Island (London—for TV)

1985

Wagner (Palmer)

1987

Little Dorrit: Part I, Nobody's Fault and Little Dorrit: Part II, Little Dorrit's Story (Edzard) (as Mrs. Clennam)

1988

Melba (Fisher)

Publications


On GREENWOOD: articles—

"People of Talent: Joan Greenwood," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1956.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 4 March 1987.

Obituary, in Films and Filming (London), April 1987.

Obituary, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), May 1987.

Brock, Patrick, "Joan Greenwood," in Classic Images (Muscatine), January 1993.


* * *

And how, Dennis Price inquires of Joan Greenwood on her return from abroad, did she enjoy her honeymoon? "Not at all." "Not at all?" "Not—at all." By means of the briefest possible pause, Greenwood invests the line with an infinite wealth of sexual innuendo.

Being at once sexy and witty was Greenwood's forte. Petite and graceful, she moved with a delicate feline sensuality; her breathily husky voice, accentuating unexpected vowels, hovered always on the verge of self-parody. She countered questionable situations with an exquisitely inquiring stare, poised somewhere between amusement and mock outrage. When she was given the chance—which happened nowhere near often enough—she brought to her roles a quality of playful eroticism all too rare in British cinema.

Kind Hearts and Coronets (in which the above dialogue occurs) provided one of her finest opportunities. As the hero's mistress, Sibella, her stylish playing was perfectly attuned to the ironic elegance of Hamer's wit. She was well used by Mackendrick, too, in Whisky Galore! and The Man in the White Suit—displaying in the latter a delectable subtlety of inflexion when attempting, half-reluctantly and half-willingly, to seduce Alec Guinness. Near-mandatory casting for Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest, she almost rivaled Edith Evans for Wildean hauteur, and was equally well chosen as Lady Caroline Lamb in The Bad Lord Byron; unfortunately, the film was abysmal.

Hollywood seemed even less capable than Britain of knowing what to do with an actress of Greenwood's style and individuality. Perhaps the French might have given her the films she deserved. In Monsieur Ripois her performance as one of Gérard Philipe's victims revealed unexpected depths of pathos, though her only other French film, Le Passe-Muraille, proved disappointing. After the mid-1950s, perhaps discouraged, she devoted herself largely to the stage, and to married life, only occasionally turning up in small cameo roles to suggest what we had been missing.

—Philip Kemp

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