Ashcroft, Peggy (1907–1991)

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Ashcroft, Peggy (1907–1991)

One of the finest English actresses of her day, who won every major award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the film A Passage to India. Born Edith Margaret Emily Ashcroft in the London suburb of Croydon, Surrey, England, on December 22, 1907; died in England on June 14, 1991; daughter of William Worsley Ashcroft and Violetta Maud (Bernheim, who was of German descent) Ashcroft; attended Woodford School, Croydon, and the Central School of Dramatic Art under the tutelage of Elsie Fogerty; married Rupert Charles Hart-Davis (a publisher; divorced); married Theodore Komisarjevsky (Russian director and architect; divorced); married Jeremy Nicholas Hutchinson (a lawyer), in 1940 (divorced); children: (third marriage) son Nicholas (who became a director) and daughter Eliza.

The first thing one noticed … (and one always noticed) about Peggy Ashcroft was her quietness. She seemed stiller than the moon itself.

—Harold Hobson


Ellen Terry Award for her performance as Evelyn Holt in Edward My Son (1947); Sketch Award for Outstanding Achievement for her role as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress (1949); Commander of the British Empire, 1951; King's Gold Medal of Norway for her Oslo performance in the title role in Hedda Gabler; Evening Standard Drama Award and the Plays and Players Award for the role of Miss Madrigal in The Chalk Garden (1956); Dame Commander of the British Empire (1956); Plays and Players Award for her Rosalind in As You Like It (1957); Evening Standard Drama Award for Queen Margaret in The Wars of the Roses (1964); Plays and Players London Theater Critics Award for her performances in A Delicate Balance and Landscape (1969) and again for The Lovers of Viorne and her performance as Queen Katherine in Henry VIII (1971); Society of West End Theater Awards for Lidya in Old World (1976); Evening Standard Drama Award for 50 years in the theater, and Commander of St. Olav of Norway (both 1976); British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for Frau Messner in Caught on a Train and for Jean Wilsher in Cream in my Coffee (both 1980); XXeme Festival Internationale de Télévision de Monte Carlo, and British Press Guild Award for the same role (1981, the latter also for her performance in Cream in my Coffee); British Theater Association Special Award for her career in the theater (1983); Royal Television Society Award, Broadcasting Press Guild Theater Award, and British Academy of Film and Theater Arts Award, all for Barbie in The Jewel in the Crown (1984); Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award, Golden Globe Award, New York Film Critics' Circle Award, Los Angeles Film Critics' Circle Award, and National Board of Review Award, all for Best Supporting Actress in the role of Mrs. Moore in A Passage to India (1984); British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award and Hollywood South Award for the same role (1985); also Honorary Doctorates in Literature from Oxford University (1961), Leicester University (1964), London University (1965), Cambridge University (1972), Warwick University (1974), and from the Open University, Bristol University, and Reading University (all 1986); Special Laurence Olivier Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater, April 1991.

Stage (unless otherwise noted, all stage appearances were in London): Made stage debut at Birmingham Repertory Theater as Margaret in James M. Barrie's Dear Brutus; first appeared on the London stage as Bessie in One Day More (May 1927); Mary Dunn in The Return (May 1927); Eve in When Adam Delved (July 1927); Betty in The Way of the World (November 1927); Anastasia Vulliamy in The Fascinating Foundling, and Mary Bruin in The Land of Heart's Desire (both January 1928); toured as Hester in The Silver Cord, which starred the celebrated Lilian Braithwaite (spring 1928); Edith Strange in Earthbound and Kristina in Easter (both 1928); Eulalia in A Hundred Years Old, Lucy Deren in Requital, Sally Humphries in Bees and Honey (both 1929); as Desdemona

in Othello with Paul Robeson in the title role, and as Judy Battle in The Breadwinner (both 1930); as Angela in Charles the 3rd, Anne in A Knight Passed By, Fanny in Sea Fever, Marcella in Take Two from One (all 1931); Stella in Le Cocu Magnifique, Salome Westway in The Secret Woman and, at the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells theaters played Cleopatra in Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, Imogene in Shakespeare's Cymbeline, and Rosalind in As You Like It (all Sept.–Oct., 1932); in the title role in Fraulein Elsa (1932); in addition, appeared at the Oxford University Dramatic Society as Pervaneh in Hassan (February1931) and again as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (February 1932); returning to the Old Vic, appeared as Portia in The Merchant of Venice, as Kate Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, as Perdita in The Winter's Tale, in the title role in Drinkwater's Mary Stuart, as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal, and as Miranda in The Tempest (Dec. 1932–May 1933); as Inken Peters in Before Sunset, 1933; as Vasantesena in The Golden Toy and as Lucia Maubel in The Life I Gave Him (both 1934); Therese Paradis in Mesmer, in Glasgow (1935); as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (1936); as Nina in Chekhov's The Seagull (1936); New York debut (January 8, 1937) as Lise in Maxwell Anderson's High Tor; returning to London, joined John Gielgud in a season of classics at the Queen's Theater playing Portia and Lady Teazle, and the Queen in Richard II, Irina in Chekhov's The Three Sisters, Yelaina Talborg in The White Guard, and Viola in Twelfth Night (1938); as Dinah Silvester in Cousin Muriel and as the replacement for Jessica Tandy as Miranda in The Tempest (both 1940); as Catherine Lisle in The Dark River (1943); toured as Ophelia in Hamlet opposite John Gielgud (1944); appeared as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream and in the title role in The Duchess of Malfi (1944–45); as Evelyn Holt in Edward, My Son (1947), which she recreated in New York (1948); as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress; at the Shakespeare Memorial Theater, Stratford-on-Avon, as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and Cordelia in King Lear (1950); as Viola in Twelfth Night for the reopening of the Old Vic in London (1950); in the title role in Sophocles' Electra (1951); as Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1951); as Hester Collyer in Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea (1952); again at Stratford-on-Avon as Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra (1953); in the title role in Hedda Gabler (1954); as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (1955); as Miss Madrigal in Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden (1956); as Shen Te in Berthold Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan (1956); again at Stratford, as Rosalind in As You Like It, and Imogen in Cymbeline (1957); at the Edinburgh Festival, Scotland, in a solo performance titled Portraits of Women (1958); as Julia Raik in Shadow of Heroes (1959); as Rebecca West in Ibsen's Rosmersholm (1959–60); at Stratford again as Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew and as Paulina in The Winter's Tale (May 1960); recreated the title role in The Duchess of Malfi for the same company (1960) and in the anthology The Hollow Crown (1961); Stratford again as Emilia in Othello (1961); as Madame Ranevska in The Cherry Orchard (1961); appeared in an anthology The Vagueries of Love (1961–62); at Stratford, played Margaret of Anjou in the trilogy The Wars of the Roses (1963), reprised in London (1963–64); as Madame Arkadina in The Seagull (1964), followed by a second stint in The Wars of the Roses at Stratford (1964); as the Mother in Days in the Trees (1966); as Mrs. Alving in Ibsen's Ghosts (1967); in The Hollow Crown (1968); as Agnes in A Delicate Balance and Beth in Landscape (both 1969); at Stratford, as Catherine of Aragon in Henry VIII; as Volumnia in The Plebians Rehearse the Uprising and again as Catherine of Aragon in Henry VIII, the last two in London (1971); as Claire Lannes in The Lovers of Viorne (1971); as the wife in All Over (1972); as Lady Boothroyd in Lloyd George Knew My Father (1973); as Beth again in Landscape and as Flora in A Slight Ache (both 1973); with the National Theater at the Old Vic as Ella Rentheim in John Gabriel Borkman, as Winnie in Happy Days, and as Lilian Baylis in the National Theater's farewell to the Old Vic titled Tribute to the Lady (all 1975–76); as Lidya in The Old World (1976); as Fanny Farrelly in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine (1980), as Jean Wilsher in Cream in my Coffee (1980), in Recital, Four Centuries of Poetry and Musical Reflections from Shakespeare to Neruda and from Bach to Villa (at a number of theaters and at the Greenwich Festival, 1981); as the Countess of Roussillon in All's Well that Ends Well at Stratford but transferred to London (1982); as Lilian Baylis in Save the Wells at the Royal Opera House (1986) and in The Hollow Crown (1986, her last appearance before a live audience).


The Wandering Jew (1933); The Thirty-nine Steps (1939); Rhodes of Africa (1936); Channel Incident (1940); Quiet Wedding (1941); New Lot (1942); The Nun's Story (1958); Secret Ceremony (1968); Three into Two Won't Go (1969); Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971); Der Füssganger (The Pedestrian, 1975); Joseph Andrews (1976); Hullabaloo over George and Bonnie's Pictures (1978); When the Wind Blows (voice over, 1987). Her final appearances were on television except for the climax of her career, her performance as Mrs. Moore in the film A Passage to India (1984).

One of the finest English-speaking actresses of the 20th century, Dame Peggy Ashcroft was born Edith Margaret Emily Ashcroft on December 22, 1907, into a solid middle-class family in the London suburb of Croydon. Her father, a real estate agent, was killed in the First World War. Her mother, the former Violetta Maud Bernheim, who was of mixed Danish and German-Jewish origin and who died in 1925, had been an amateur actress. Though she allowed her daughter to enroll in the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art where Ashcroft studied under the School's founder and director, Elsie Fogerty , Violetta made it clear that she did not want her daughter to pursue a career on the stage.

At Miss Fogerty's, the young Peggy Ashcroft, as she chose to be known, was a fellow student of Laurence Olivier and Athene Seyler , and became a close friend of Diana Wynyard . While still at school, Ashcroft made her debut with the Birmingham Repertory Company in the role of the Dream Child in Dear Brutus by James M. Barrie, with the not-yet-famous Ralph Richardson playing her father. For the next two years she performed at a number of London's smaller, out-of-the-way theaters but shortly made her debut on a West End stage in the role of Sally Humphries in Bees and Honey at the Strand Theater in May 1929.

Unlike many actresses who spend years achieving recognition, Ashcroft was already being described as a presence on the London stage when she suddenly dazzled the critics in the role of Naomi in Jew Süss at the age of 22 (September 1929). At that time, the African-American actor Paul Robeson had been engaged to play Shakespeare's Moor, Othello, the first black actor to do so, with the inducement that he could personally select his Desdemona. Robeson chose Ashcroft, and the richness of her beautiful voice, as well as the warmth that she brought to the part, demonstrated her ability to tackle classical as well as modern roles. The spectacle of a black actor embracing a white actress, hitherto unknown on the London stage, attracted extraordinary attention and resulted in enormous publicity for Ashcroft. Despite the presence of Ralph Richardson as Roderigo and Sybil Thorndike as Emilia, this particular Othello was not a critical success; indeed, John Gielgud called it a great failure. Ashcroft was widely regarded as having given the production whatever value it had, with Gielgud noting that "in the handkerchief scene she acted so lightly and so touchingly that her performance saved the evening." From that time on, Peggy Ashcroft was a star in her native land. The chance to appear on the London stage in a major Shakespearian production proved to be more than a great step forward in her career, however, for Ashcroft later admitted freely that she had been attracted to Robeson and that, though both were married, they had had a brief affair.

Achieving stardom at such an early age led Ashcroft to be typecast; she was engaged to play one ingenue after another for many years, until well into her 30s, and almost always as a troubled young maiden. This tendency was mitigated by opportunities to appear in a variety of Shakespearian roles, and, as early as 1932 and 1933, she was performing regularly at The Old Vic Company, which had staged all of the Bard's plays in repertory in 1914–18 and would do so again in 1953–58. In 1932, she played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet with Edith Evans as the nurse, and with John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier alternating in the roles of Romeo and Mercutio. This was a stunning performance on Ashcroft's part for she attuned her interpretation to whichever actor was playing Romeo on a given evening. Ever after, she was to be remembered as the finest Juliet of her generation. This was the first time that Ashcroft was directed by Gielgud with whom she would form a most rewarding partnership. She was his co-star at his Queen's Theater Season in 1937–38, as Portia in The Merchant of Venice, as Irina in The Three Sisters, as Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal, and as the queen in Richard II. Later, for the Oxford Dramatic Society, she would play Cordelia to his King Lear, Ophelia to his Hamlet, Emilia to his 1961 Othello, and Beatrice to his Benedict. Years later, he would direct her in two of her greatest successes The Heiress and The Chalk Garden. Eventually, Ashcroft became best known for her ability to play rejected, lonely, and oppressed women with unsentimental sympathy and psychological truth.

Fogerty, Elsie (1865–1945)

English drama teacher. Born in 1865; died in 1945.

Elsie Fogerty founded and was principal of the Central School of Speech Training at the Royal Albert Hall. Having established her school in 1898, she received London University recognition for diploma in dramatic art in 1923. She was also honored with a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 1934.

During these years, Ashcroft also became associated with Theodore Komisarjevsky, the distinguished Russian director, stage designer and architect, who in his native land had been a close associate of Constantine Stanislavsky, founder of the Moscow Art Theater and originator of the "Stanislavsky Method" of acting designed to enable actors to meet the requirements of the realistic plays being written since the 1870s. Arriving in England from France in 1919, imbued with Stanislavsky's techniques and innovations, Komisarjevsky's production of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull (1936) revolutionized the presentation of modern drama on the London stage and served to extend the appreciation of Chekhov's work in the English-speaking theater by seeing to it that his plays were performed "in the Russian manner," i.e., as the author had intended. Through her association with the sensitive, moody and oft-times difficult Komisarjevsky, who briefly became her second husband, Ashcroft emerged as one of the great interpreters of Chekhov on the English stage.

By the time she was 40, Ashcroft had played in so many classical roles that it came almost as a surprise to see her triumph in two modern plays, one right after the other. The first was in Robert Morley's Edward, My Son (1947), in which she played a simple housewife in the first act, the wealthy wife of a newspaper tycoon in the second, and a disillusioned, bitter alcoholic woman in the third. The second role was as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress, the stage adaptation of Henry James' novella Washington Square (1949), in which she turned what might have been a routine melodrama into tragedy. The postwar years were troubled ones for the theater in England, but there was never a dearth of fine acting. In fact, the period from 1945 to 1975 was a fruitful era that might almost be called a latter-day "golden age" in the British theater despite the economic problems that existed and the inroads on the theater made by the advent of television.

Ashcroft's performances, along with those of Michael Redgrave and other fine actors, led to the founding of the Shakespeare Memorial Theater at Stratford-Upon-Avon, a national theater that under the direction of Anthony Quayle replaced the Old Vic as the foremost venue for classical drama in Britain, and, while bringing together Ashcroft, Gielgud, Olivier, and Wynyard in a regular series of productions (1949–56), also nurtured the careers of an entire new generation of distinguished actors including Paul Scofield, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, and Albert Finney.

Never much of a traveler, Ashcroft preferred performing on the London stage, enabling her to spend her leisure time at her home in suburban Hampstead. She had made her New York debut as Lise in Maxwell Anderson's High Tor (1937) but only performed there once again as Evelyn Holt in Edward, My Son (1948). Unlike many British actresses, she evinced no great interest in either New York or Hollywood. Nevertheless, in 1954, she took her production of Antony and Cleopatra to the Continent, spending most of the year on tour, playing in The Hague, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, and Paris with Gielgud as her partner. Returning to London in September, she opened in the difficult title role in the pioneering modern drama Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen, enjoying such a triumph that she took the production to Oslo, Norway, where the drama had originated in 1890. There she performed before King Haakon, who was so impressed with her command of this classic Norwegian role that he presented her with the King's Gold Medal. Due at least in part to this triumph, Ashcroft's career was crowned in 1956 when, at age 48, she was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire (CBE) during the annual Birthday Honors presented by the Queen Elizabeth II . By the 1960s, Ashcroft was unquestionably the most celebrated classical actress on the English stage.

As she moved into her 50s, Ashcroft appeared in one classic and modern role after another, continually dazzling audiences and critics with her versatility in such parts as Katherina in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and Paulina in his The Winter's Tale (both 1960); as Emilia in Othello, and as Madame Ranevska in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (1961, which she repeated on television the following year). In 1962, she was prevailed upon to make a second foreign tour at the Paris Theater Festival. That autumn, her career reached yet another peak when the newly erected playhouse in her hometown of Croydon was renamed the Peggy Ashcroft Theater.

In Britain, Ashcroft toured somewhat more frequently and was a regular performer at the Shakespeare Festival at Stratford-Upon-Avon. In July 1963, the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford undertook a new theatrical conception when it took Shakespeare's Henry VI, parts one, two and three, together with his Richard III, all four of which were combined, pruned, and pared into a trilogy entitled The War of the Roses held together by Dame Peggy Ashcroft playing the role of the English queen, Margaret of Anjou , in, respectively, youth, maturity, and old age. This tour de force earned her high praise and was repeated in London and later preserved on videotape when it was performed on television in 1965. According to Gielgud, Ashcroft helped Peter Hall enormously during his years as director at Stratford and gave some of her best performances for his theater.

Apart from acting, Ashcroft also served her profession in various administrative capacities. She was elected to the Council of the English Stage Company in January 1957, where she served on the artistic committee; was a member of the Arts Council 1962–65, and served as president of the Apollo Society in 1964, which she had founded in 1943. In 1968, her career entered a new phase when she was named director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a position she held with distinction for the year. She also sat on the Council of Equity.

Ashcroft's career drew to a close on a triumphal note, when, in 1984, she appeared as Mrs. Moore in the motion picture of E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India. Far from having declined into lesser parts, Dame Peggy endowed this pivotal role with such wisdom and sweetness that her scenes fairly dominated the film. Ashcroft received every acting award granted in 1984 and 1985 for this performance, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, though she was unfortunately too ill to receive it in person. After 1982, Ashcroft ceased to appear on the stage except for two brief appearances in Save the Wells and The Hollow Crown both in London for The Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986, but she did make an occasional television appearance and these were the last roles that she attempted.

Essentially a stage actress, Ashcroft made few films in her career, but since her death these have become monuments to her varied talents. She first acted on radio in Danger (1930) and performed regularly over 100 times thereafter until 1986, exclusively for the BBC. Though she early debuted on British television, appearing in Shakespeare's The Tempest and Twelfth Night, in 1939, she was sparing in her television work, performing for the medium a total of only 19 times thereafter and not again until 1958, when she appeared in the stark drama of World War II "Shadow of Heroes." Her later television appearances included roles in The Cherry Orchard (1962), The Wars of The Roses (1964), Rosmersholm (1965), Days in the Trees and Dear Liar (both 1966), From Chekhov with Love (1968), The Last Journey (1971), as Dowager Queen Mary in Edward and Mrs. Simpson (1978); Caught on a Train and Cream in my Coffee (both 1980), in Ibsen's rarely performed Little Eyolf (1982), The Jewel in the Crown (1984), and, after her triumph in A Passage to India, her last three roles of any kind: with Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson in readings from Shakespeare in the fifth program in the BBC television series Six Centuries of Verse (1984); as Agatha Christie in Murder by the Book (1986); and finally, at 79, as Mrs. Dubber in A Perfect Spy, a television adaptation of the novel by John LeCarré (1987). Ashcroft also made 20 phonograph recordings, most of them on the Argo and Caedmon labels.

As an actress, Peggy Ashcroft was most noted for her extraordinary versatility, her ability to excel in both classical and modern drama, and her willingness to undertake roles that many would have considered unsuitable, if not beyond her range. Shakespeare, Sophocles, Webster, Congreve, Golden, and Sheridan, were, among the classics, all grist for her dramatic mill; Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw, Barrie, Wilde, Maugham, Schnitzler, Pirandello, Berthold Brecht, Maxwell Anderson, Lillian Hellman , Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Enid Bagnold , and Terence Rattigan served her among the moderns. Indeed, her performances in Beckett's Happy Days, Bagnold's The Chalk Garden, and Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea were considered among her very finest, earning her both great critical and personal success. As a result of her continuous experimentation, she grew steadily in stature, moving from triumph to triumph and holding her own against co-stars who included the greatest actors of the day—Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Anthony Quayle, and Michael Redgrave. Beautiful, delicate, and graceful were the adjectives most used to describe her acting in her youth. In later years, eloquent, intense, imaginative, and memorable, were the terms brought into service; and critics and playwrights referred to her integrity, her inner serenity, and her moral gravity. To many, her Juliet was as definitive a performance in the role as one was ever likely to see, while her unique and original interpretations of other famous roles brought new life to them. She played Hedda Gabler for the humor she sensed in the part; she went from youth to maddened old age as Margaret of Anjou in The War of the Roses, and the contrast between the vibrant girl so full of life in the earlier scenes of The Three Sisters and the sorrowful young woman of the last act was considered a heartbreaking masterpiece of interpretation. Although she gave luster to parts written by virtually ever major British playwright, both classical and modern, she had a remarkable affinity for the characters created by Ibsen and Chekhov and must be considered to have been one of the greatest interpreters of continental playwrights on the English-speaking stage. She also proved herself adept at interpreting American roles, and Edward Albee considered her his favorite actress.

In her early years on the stage, she was considered by some to be "too genteel, too cool, too English bourgeois." Although she was adept at bringing out the humor in a role, comedy was not her forte, and she rarely undertook comedy per se, even though she had excelled in the role of Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest. Her performance in the title role in Sophocles' Electra received mixed reviews as did her Rebecca in Ibsen's Rosmersholm (1959), and her interpretation of the title role in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi was considered by some to be inadequate. In both cases, however, even the critics who carped found virtues in what she brought to these roles.

Ashcroft's physical strengths lay in her voice and for many years her youthfulness, although as she neared 60 she rapidly lost all traces of youth, aging into a quintessential elderly English lady. Her moral strengths lay in the simplicity of her acting, the integrity that she brought to her interpretations, and her unwillingness to subordinate either the play or the other members of a cast to her own benefit. A strong, willful person, unafraid to speak her views, Ashcroft was nevertheless enormously popular within her profession, never domineering, always professional, and ever ready to help younger performers and put them at their ease. Gielgud called her "the most perfect partner" and said that her influence on a company was extraordinary. Pretty as a girl but by no means a beautiful woman, Ashcroft nevertheless had a wonderful sweetness of expression and a marvelously expressive face.

In her private life, she enjoyed less success. Married three times, first to the publisher Rupert Charles Hart-Davis, then to the brilliant Russian director and architect Theodore Komisarjevsky and finally, in 1940, to a lawyer, Jeremy Nicholas Hutchinson, all of her marriages ended in divorce. By her last husband, however, she had two children, a son Nicholas, who became a director and a daughter Eliza. Offstage, she was a private, quiet, and unassuming person who devoted herself to rearing her children and gave few interviews. She was an ardent cricket fan but, more important, an active supporter of popular causes, especially those involving human rights. She protested apartheid in South Africa and the suppression of dissident writers in both the USSR and Czechoslovakia. Having become a dedicated socialist ever since reading Shaw's lengthy prefaces to his plays, she took part in political demonstrations, circulated petitions, and did what she could to raise money to support her preferred cause, Amnesty International, and the magazine Index of Censorship.

Dame Peggy Ashcroft never formally retired and in 1985 spoke only of resting after her year filming in India, but she did little thereafter. She suffered a stroke on May 23, 1991, and died three weeks later on June 14. She was 83 and had been an actress for just under 70 years. Though she was on a par with Dame Edith Evans and Dame Flora Robson , a more accomplished actress than Vivien Leigh , and a more versatile one than Judith Anderson , she did not achieve quite the same fame or popular acclaim in the United States. Yet she will be remembered as one of the great actresses of the Englishspeaking theater in the 20th century.


Beauman, Sally. The Royal Shakespeare Theater: A History of Ten Decades. Oxford University Press, 1982.

Elsom, John. The Post-war British Theater. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976.

Findlater, Richard. The Player Queens. NY: Taplinger, 1976.

Tanitch, Robert. Ashcroft. London: Hutchinson, 1987.

suggested reading:

Hayman, Reginald. John Gielgud. NY: Random House, 1971.

Rowell, George. The Old Vic Theater: A History. Cambridge University Press, 1993.

R. H. Hewsen , Professor of History, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey