Greenwood, Joan (1921–1987)

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Greenwood, Joan (1921–1987)

British actress. Born in London, England, on March 4, 1921; died in London in February 1987; daughter of Sydney Barnshaw (an artist) and Ida (Waller) Greenwood; attended St. Catherine's, Bramley, Surrey; attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; married André Morell (an actor), on May 16, 1960 (died 1978); children: one son.


made London debut as Louisa in The Robust Invalid (Apollo, 1938); appeared as Timpson in Little Ladyship (Strand, 1939), Little Mary in The Women (Strand, 1940), Pamela Brent in Dr. Brent's Household (Richmond, 1940), Wendy in Peter Pan (Adelphi, 1941), Henriette in Damaged Goods (Whitehall, 1943); succeeded Deborah Kerr as Ellie Dunn in Heartbreak House (Cambridge, 1943); appeared as Ophelia in Hamlet (on tour, 1944), Lady Teazle in School for Scandal, Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, and Nora in A Doll's House (Oxford Playhouse, Feb.–Nov., 1945), Bertha in Frenzy (St. Martin's, 1948), Sabina Pennant in Young Wives' Tale (Savoy, 1949); portrayed the title role in Peter Pan (Scala, 1951); appeared as Noel Thorne in The Uninvited Guest (St. James, 1953); made New York debut as Lucasta Angel in The Confidential Clerk (Morosco, 1954); was a Visitor in The Moon and the Chimney (Lyceum, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1955), Gillian Holroyd in Bell, Book, and Candle (Phoenix, 1954), Mrs. Mallett in Cord of Identity (Royal Court, 1957); portrayed the title role in Lysistrata (Royal Court, 1957), Hattie in The Grass is Greener (St. Martin's, 1958), the title role in Hedda Gabler (Oxford Playhouse, 1960), Hedda in The Irregular Verb To Love (Criterion, 1961); played in The Broken Heart and Ilyena in Uncle Vanya (Chichester Festival Theater, 1962); had the title role in Hedda Gabler (St. Martin's, 1964); appeared as Olga Sergeyevna Ilyinska in Oblomov (New Lyric, 1964); repeated that role in revised Son of Oblomov (Comedy, 1964); appeared as Valentina Ponti in Those That Play the Clowns (New York, ANTA, 1966), Julia Sterroll in a revival of Fallen Angels (Vaudeville, 1967); had the title role in a revival of Candida (Richmond Theater, 1968); appeared as Mrs. Rogers in The Au Pair Man (Duchess, 1969), Lady Kitty in a revival of The Circle (New Bromley, 1970), and Miss Madrigal in The Chalk Garden (Yvonne Arnaud, 1970).

Selected films:

John Smith Wakes Up (1940); The Gentle Sex (1942); Latin Quarter (Frenzy, 1945); A Girl in a Million (1946); The Man Within (The Smugglers, 1947); The October Man (1947); The White Unicorn (Bad Sister, 1947); Saraband for Dead Lovers (Saraband, 1948); The Bad Lord Byron (1948); Whisky Galore (Tight Little Island, 1949); Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949); Flesh and Blood (1950); The Man in the White Suit (1951); Le Passe-Muraille (Mr. Peek-A-Boo, Fr., 1951); Young Wives' Tale (1951); The Importance of Being Earnest (1952); Monsieur Ripois (Knave of Hearts or Lovers Happy Lovers, Fr./UK, 1954); Father Brown (The Detective, 1954); Moonfleet (US, 1955); Stage Struck (US, 1958); Mysterious Island (US/UK, 1961); The Amorous Prawn (The Playgirl and the War Minister, 1962); Tom Jones (1963); The Moon-Spinners (US/UK, 1964); Girl Stroke Boy (1971); The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978); The Water Babies (1979); Wagner (1983); Little Dorritt (1987).

Elfin in stature and distinguished by a voice that columnist William Hawkins said sounded like "Lynn Fontanne imitating Carol Channing," British actress Joan Greenwood was born in London, England, on March 4, 1921, and enjoyed a career that embraced stage, screen, and television. The daughter of Ida Greenwood and artist Sydney Barnshaw Greenwood, she studied ballet at the age of eight and entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the age of 14. She made her first London stage appearance as Louisa in The Robust Invalid in 1938 and, close on the heels of that performance, made her film debut in John Smith Wakes Up (1940). After a two-year stage tour as Wendy in Peter Pan (1941), Greenwood gave up juvenile roles, graduating to more adult portrayals.

Greenwood was well established on the British stage and screen before her New York stage debut as the ingenue in T.S. Eliot's play The Confidential Clerk, in 1954. Audiences found her bewitching as did the critics. Columnist George Freedley of the New York Morning Telegraph called her "an out-of-this world comedienne," and John Beaufort of the Christian Science Monitor wrote: "Her presence is electric and her movements are marvelously graceful." Unfortunately, Greenwood made very few return trips to Broadway, and the most that American audiences saw of her was in films, notably Kind Hearts and Coronets (1950) and The Man in the White Suit (1951), both with Alec Guinness.

Greenwood married actor André Morell in 1960 and had a son. She once confided to being something of a rebel. Once during the filming of Saraband, she gave into a childish fantasy and ran off for a week to perform as an acrobat with a circus troupe. The actress made her final stage appearance in The Chalk Garden in 1970. She died in 1987.


Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography 1954. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1954.

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