Nationality: British. Born: Karachi, India (now Pakistan), 15 September 1916. Education: Attended Sydenham High School; studied dance at the Italia Conti school; Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, 1933. Family: Married Rupert Leon, 1937 (divorced 1950), daughter: Margaret Julia. Career: 1931—stage debut in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Holborn Empire; 1935—film debut in Lorna Doone; 1939—brief visit to Hollywood; 1948—TV debut in Pygmalion as Eliza Doolittle, also played role on stage, 1951; later stage work included An Ideal Husband, 1965, and Lady Frederick, 1970; 1952—contract with Herbert Wilcox; 1965—in TV series The Flying Swan with daughter Julia; later work included Justice, 1972–73. Awards: Commander, Order of the British Empire, 1980. Died: In London, 15 July 1990.
Films as Actress:
Lorna Doone (Dean) (as Annie Ridd); The Case of Gabriel Perry (Wild Justice) (de Courville) (as Mildred Perry); Some Day (Powell) (as Emily); Honours Easy (Mycroft) (as Ann); Man of the Moment (Banks) (as Vera); Midshipman Easy (Men of the Sea) (Reed) (as Donna Agnes)
Jury's Evidence (Ince) (as Betty Stanton); The Amateur Gentleman (Freeland) (as Georgina Hunstanton); The Beloved Vagabond (Bernhardt) (as Blanquette); Irish for Luck (Woods) (as Ellen O'Hare)
Street Singer (de Marguenat) (as Jenny Green); Who's Your Lady Friend? (Reed) (as Mimi); Dr. Syn (Neill) (as Imogene); Melody and Romance (Elvey) (as Margaret Williams)
Owd Bob (To the Victor) (Stevenson) (as Jeannie McAdam); Bank Holiday (Three on a Weekend) (Reed) (as Catherine Lawrence); The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock) (as Iris Henderson)
Rulers of the Sea (Lloyd) (as Mary Shaw); Susannah of the Mounties (Seiter) (as Vicky Standing); A Girl Must Live (Reed) (as Leslie James); The Stars Look Down (Reed) (as Jenny Sunley)
Night Train to Munich (Night Train; Gestapo) (Reed) (as Anna Bomasch); The Girl in the News (Reed) (as Anne Graham)
Quiet Wedding (Asquith) (as Janet Royd)
Alibi (Hurst) (as Helene Ardouin)
The Man in Grey (Arliss) (as Hesther Shaw); Dear Octopus (The Randolph Family) (French) (as Penny Randolph)
Give Us the Moon (Guest) (as Nina); Love Story (A Lady Surrenders) (Arliss) (as Lissa Campbell)
A Place of One's Own (Knowles) (as Annette); I'll Be Your Sweetheart (Guest) (as Edie Story); The Wicked Lady (Arliss) (as Barbara Worth/Lady Skelton)
Bedelia (Comfort) (as Bedelia Carrington)
Hungry Hill (Hurst) (as Fanny Ross); Jassy (Box) (as Jassy Woodroffe); The White Unicorn (Bad Sister) (Knowles) (as Lucy)
Look before You Love (Huth) (as Ann Markham)
Cardboard Cavalier (Forde) (as Nell Gwynne); Madness of the Heart (Bennett) (as Lydia Garth)
Highly Dangerous (Baker) (as Frances Gray)
Trent's Last Case (Wilcox) (as Margaret Manderson)
Laughing Anne (Wilcox) (as Anne)
Trouble in the Glen (Wilcox) (as Marissa Mengues)
Cast a Dark Shadow (Gilbert) (as Freda Jeffries)
The Slipper and the Rose (Forbes) (as Stepmother)
By LOCKWOOD: books—
My Life and Films, London, 1948.
Lucky Star: The Autobiography of Margaret Lockwood, London, 1955.
By LOCKWOOD: articles—
Interview, in Film Weekly (London), 2 September 1939.
Interview, in Picturegoer (London), 9 December 1944.
Interview, in TV Times (London), 20 November 1975.
Interview, in Films Illustrated (London), December 1975.
On LOCKWOOD: books—
Aspinall, Sue, and Robert Murphy, editors, Gainsborough Melodrama, London, 1983.
Tims, Hilton, Once a Wicked Lady: A Biography of Margaret Lockwood, London, 1989.
On LOCKWOOD: articles—
Picturegoer (London), 29 July 1939, 22 February 1941, 4 April 1942, 2 September 1944, 3 August 1946, 6 November 1948, 23 March-22 April 1950, and 31 January 1953.
Films and Filming (London), July 1963 and September 1973.
"Margaret Lockwood—the Gainsborough Lady," in National Film Theatre Booklet (London), September/October 1986.
"Margaret Lockwood," in Film Dope (London), February 1987.
Adair, Gilbert, Phyllis Calvert, and Michael Winner, obituaries in the Independent (London), 17 July 1990.
Obituary, in Variety (New York), 18 July 1990.
Vermilye, Jerry, "Margaret Lockwood," in Films in Review (New York), March-April 1991.
Norman, Barry, in Radio Times (London), 14 December 1996.
* * *
Although Margaret Lockwood had made 31 films in the preceding years, The Wicked Lady (1945) is the one film for which she is most remembered. For Margaret Lockwood the role and the title were destined to become synonymous with her. In a career of more than 40 films and numerous television appearances, Margaret Lockwood was "wicked" in only three of them. But it was her ability to play this type of character that remains the key point of identity for her star image in popular memory.
The "quota quickie" era of the 1930s had allowed Lockwood to make a large number of cheap films that familiarized her with studio techniques and enabled her to develop an acting style for camera. In 1935 alone she made six films—more than any other year of her career. This intense apprenticeship in film acting established Margaret Lockwood as a film actress at a time when most of British stars came from a strong theater or music hall tradition. Her biographer sees this point as a significant aspect of her later appeal: "The British cinema hadn't so far discovered and groomed a star it could call its own. Margaret, unmannered and possessing a technique which hadn't been schooled in the theater, was a natural for the camera and the microphone. The first favoured her pretty, well-defined features, the second a pleasant, musical voice free of the curlicues and exaggerations which most young actresses of that time assumed."
By the end of the 1930s, Margaret Lockwood was emerging as a star with a career modeled through a Hollywood-style British studio system. In 1937, Margaret Lockwood was offered a three-year contract with Gainsborough Studios as the company's first move to implement the plan to create Britain's first custom-made film star. The success of films such as The Lady Vanishes and The Stars Look Down established her star status and enabled her to go on to become the most popular and successful British screen actress of the 1940s.
The significance of The Wicked Lady then is not so much in terms of establishing Margaret Lockwood's star image as in changing it. When she had played a cheap, scheming hussy who trapped the hero into marriage in The Stars Look Down the critics acclaimed her performance, but fans all over the country wrote indignant letters to the star and the producer. The prospect of a similar reaction caused a certain amount of anxiety when she was cast as a wicked murderess in her first costume melodrama for Gainsborough, The Man in Grey. However, the result was a huge increase in fan mail for Lockwood. The wickedness of this character proved thrilling in a way that the mere bitchiness of the character in The Stars Look Down was not.
The Stars Look Down had certainly been a departure for Margaret Lockwood. While the performance might have confused her star image of the 1930s, The Man in Grey was the first step in transforming it in the mid-1940s. Most of her films prior to this had contributed to the establishment of an unremarkable star image—the genteel, demure and very English middle-class woman. But with this established track record it was all the more shocking to see the display of ruthless independence, sexual desire and wickedness that the The Man in Grey unleashed. The advent of The Wicked Lady in 1945 offered the prospect of taking the image to its limits with a part designed to be the most ruthless, amoral character any British film had ever dared to present. From being the "nice girl," she suddenly became exciting, daring, glamorous and independent—a transformation that was greeted with astounding adulation by her audiences.
If the potency of the wicked lady image lay in the shock of seeing a dramatic change in Margaret Lockwood's star image, it also touched a chord in the "new woman" emerging from the disciplines of a long war. As Hilton Tims notes, this wicked lady was "a woman of independence, flouting hidebound convention, flaunting her superiority over men and contempt for them with courage, singlemindedness and feminine wiles."
Such characteristics were enormously appealing and exciting for those British women who had tasted independence during the war years and were striving against attempts to return them to submissive domesticity. Appearing as she did in the popular women's genre of melodrama, Margaret Lockwood provided her female audience with a fantasy role model for the immediate postwar years. The intensity of this portrayal and the strength of the chord that was struck ensured that Margaret Lockwood would carry this image into the history of British cinema.