Churchill, Sarah (1914–1982)

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Churchill, Sarah (1914–1982)

English actress, author, painter and daughter of Clementine and Winston Churchill. Born Sarah Millicent Hermione Churchill on October 7, 1914, at Admiralty House in London, England; died on September 24, 1982, in London, England; daughter of Sir Winston S. Churchill (prime minister of England) and Lady Clementine Hozier Churchill; attended Notting Hill High School, London, as a day student, North Foreland Lodge boarding School, Broadstairs, and De Vos School of Dance; married Vic Oliver, in 1936 (divorced 1945); married Anthony Beauchamp, in 1949 (divorced 1955); married Baron Henry Audley, in 1963; no children.

Publications:

The Empty Spaces (Leslie Frewin, 1966); The Prince With Many Castles, and Other Stories (Leslie Frewin, 1967); A Thread in the Tapestry (Andrè Deutsch, 1967); The Unwanted Statue, and Other Poems (Leslie Frewin, 1969); Keep on Dancing (Weidenfeld, 1981).

Sarah Churchill was born on October 7, 1914, at Admiralty House in London to Winston and Clementine Churchill . At the time of her birth, her father was first lord of the admiralty, and his political career would always have an influence on her life. She was educated at Notting Hill School, London, and North Foreland Lodge Boarding School in Broadstairs, and studied ballet for two years with the De Vos School of Dance. A beautiful young woman who had inherited her father's pale complexion and red hair, she made her acting debut at age 21, with her parents' consent, as a member of the chorus line in C.B. Cochran's musical Follow the Sun at the Adelphi Theater in London on February 4, 1936. During the play's run, Sarah fell in love with the show's star, Vic Oliver, a popular and charming Austrian-born comedian. The Churchills tried to dissuade their daughter from marrying Oliver who had been married twice before and was 17 years her senior. But a headstrong Sarah ran away to New York and married him on December 25, 1936.

In December 1939, she made her first dramatic performance at the Mercury Theater playing Lucrezia in Mandragola. In addition to other stage appearances, Sarah was in the feature film Who's Your Lady Friend? (1937), Spring Meeting (1941), and He Found His Star (1941). During the first two years of World War II, Sarah had several dramatic roles on the London stage. In 1941, she separated from Oliver and served for a brief period in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She was commissioned and worked in the highly secret photographic intelligence sector at Medmenham, Buckinghamshire, until 1945. During the war, she was twice excused from her duties to accompany her father, now prime minister, to the 1943 Teheran Conference and the 1945 Yalta Conference where Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin held wartime summit discussions.

After the war, Sarah resumed her theatrical career with stage performances in Gaslight (1946), Barretts of Wimpole Street (1948), and House of Sand (1949). Now divorced from Oliver, she made her debut in the United States as Tracy Lord in Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story (1949). Her first New York appearance came in the Broadway production of Gramercy Ghost in 1951. She continued her film career with several successful screen appearances in When in Rome (1947), All Over Town (1949), and Serious Charge (1959). Her best-known screen role was opposite Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding in 1951. It was seven years before Sarah returned to the London stage in the title role of Peter Pan in 1958. She later played the role of Eliza in Pygmalion (1961) and in several other plays over the next nine years, appearing on stage for the last time in 1971.

Sarah had married Anthony Beauchamp, a photographer, in 1949, but their rocky marriage ended in separation in 1955. In August 1957, Beauchamp committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Though they had been separated for two years, his death greatly affected Sarah. She entered a period of alcohol abuse and dreadful publicity that would probably have been ignored had her name not been Churchill. She finally found peace with Baron Henry Audley. They married in 1963 but her happiness was quickly shattered when he died of a massive heart attack later that year in Spain.

Like her father, Sarah took up painting later in life and became a respected amateur artist. While never reaching the success of Sir Winston, her works were displayed alongside his in an exhibition in London. She published three books of poetry, the short memoir A Thread in the Tapestry, principally about her father (1967), and a longer autobiography, Keep on Dancing (1981). After a long illness, Sarah Churchill died at her London home on September 24, 1982. Funeral services were held on September 30 at St. Michael's in London.

suggested reading:

Churchill, Sarah. Keep on Dancing. London: Weidenfield, 1981.

Phillip E. Koerper , Professor of History, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama

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Churchill, Sarah (1914–1982)

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