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Susannah York Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (16) | Personal Quotes (10) | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 9 January 1939Chelsea, London, England, UK
Date of Death 15 January 2011Brompton, London, England, UK  (advanced bone marrow cancer)
Birth NameSusannah Yolande Fletcher
Height 5' 6½" (1.69 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The lovely Susannah York, a gamin, blue-eyed, cropped blonde British actress, displayed a certain crossover star quality when she dared upon the Hollywood scene in the early 1960s. A purposefully intriguing, enigmatic and noticeably uninhibited talent, she was born Susannah Yolande Fletcher on January 9, 1939 in Chelsea, London, but raised in a remote village in Scotland. Her parents divorced when she was around 6. Attending Marr College, she trained for acting at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, winning the Ronson Award for most promising student. She then performed classical repertory and pantomime in her early professional career.

Making an impression on television in 1959 opposite Sean Connery in a production of "The Crucible" as Abigail Williams to his John Proctor, the moon-faced beauty progressed immediately to ingénue film roles, making her debut as the daughter of Alec Guinness in the classic war drama Tunes of Glory (1960). She emerged quickly as a worthy co-star with the sensitively handled coming-of age drama Loss of Innocence (1961), the more complex psychodrama Freud (1962), as a patient to Montgomery Clift's famed psychoanalyst, and the bawdy and robust 18th century tale Tom Jones (1963), with Susannah portraying the brazenly seductive Sophie, one of many damsels lusting after the bed-hopping title rogue Albert Finney.

Susannah continued famously both here and in England in both contemporary and period drama opposite the likes of Warren Beatty, William Holden, Paul Scofield and Dirk Bogarde. Susannah was a new breed. Free-spirited and unreserved, she had no trouble at all courting controversy in some of the film roles she went on to play. She gained special notoriety as the child-like Alice in her stark, nude clinches with severe-looking executive Coral Browne in the lesbian drama The Killing of Sister George (1968). A few years later, she and Elizabeth Taylor traveled similar territory with X, Y and Zee (1972).

Acting award ceremonies also began favoring her presence, winning the BAFTA film award as well as Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her delusional Jean Harlow-like dance marathon participant in the grueling Depression-era film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). Her crazy scene in the shower with Oscar-winner Gig Young was particularly gripping and just one of many highlights in the acclaimed film. She also copped a Cannes Film Festival award for her performance in Images (1972) playing another troubled character barely coping with reality. On television, she was Emmy-nominated for her beautifully nuanced Jane Eyre (1970) opposite George C. Scott's Rochester.

Susannah's film career started to lose ground into the 1970s as she continued her pursuit of challengingly offbeat roles as opposed to popular mainstream work. The film adaptations of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971) opposite Rod Steiger and Jean Genet's The Maids (1975) with Glenda Jackson were not well-received. Her performances in such films as Gold (1974), Conduct Unbecoming (1975) which starred another famous York (Michael York), That Lucky Touch (1975), Sky Riders (1976) and The Shout (1978) were overlooked, as were the films themselves. In the one highly popular movie series she appeared in, the box-office smashes Superman (1978) and its sequel Superman II (1980), she had literally nothing to do as Lara, the wife of Marlon Brando's Jor-El and birth mother of the superhero. While the actress continued to pour out a number of quality work assignments in films and television, she failed to recapture the glow of earlier star.

Wisely, Susannah began extending her talents outside the realm of film acting. Marrying writer Michael Wells in 1960, she focused on her personal life, raising their two children for a time. The couple divorced in 1980. In the 1970s, she wrote the children's books "In Search of Unicorns" and "Lark's Castle". She also found time to direct on stage and wrote the screenplay to one of her film vehicles Falling in Love Again (1980). On stage Susannah performed in such one-woman shows as "Independent State", 'Picasso's Women", "The Human Voice" and "The Loves of Shakespeare's Women", while entertaining such wide and varied theatre challenges as "Peter Pan" (title role), "Hamlet" (as Gertrude), "Camino Real", "The Merry Wives of Windsor", "A Streetcar Named Desire", "Private Lives", "Agnes of God" and the title role in "Amy's View".

At age 67, Susannah showed up once again on film with a delightful cameo role in The Gigolos (2006), and seemed ripe for a major comeback, perhaps in a similar vein to the legendary Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren. Sadly, it was not to be. Diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, the actress died in January 15, 2011, six days after her 72nd birthday. Her final films, Franklyn (2008) and The Calling (2009), proved that she still possessed the magnetism of her earlier years.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net

Spouse (1)

Michael Wells (2 May 1959 - 1976) (divorced) (2 children)

Trivia (16)

Was also a writer of children's books. Her publications include "In Search of Unicorns" (1973) and "Lark's Castle" (1975).
Her children, Orlando Wells born 9 June 1973 and Sasha Wells, both co-starred with her in A Christmas Carol (1984), portraying two of the Cratchit offspring to her Mrs. Cratchit.
Spoke French fluently.
Became an Associate Member of Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979.
Was a member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1992.
"The Loves of Shakespeare's Women", conceived and adapted by Ms. York, was inspired by John Gielgud's one-man show "The Ages of Man".
Mother, with Michael Wells, of son Orlando Wells and daughter Sasha Wells.
Her favorite actor was Spencer Tracy.
Had appeared with Christopher Plummer in four films: Battle of Britain (1969), Lock Up Your Daughters! (1969), Conduct Unbecoming (1975) and The Silent Partner (1978).
Had appeared with Nigel Davenport in four films: Sands of the Kalahari (1965), A Man for All Seasons (1966), Sebastian (1968) and A Christmas Carol (1984).
She was awarded Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by French culture minister Jack Lang in 1991.
Attended and graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
She appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: Tom Jones (1963) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).
In 1979, she appeared in a television documentary entitled "Twenty Years On", which re-united five friends who had been students at the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art in the 1950s. One of the five had given up acting after marrying and having children; one had given up acting to become a successful chef and restaurateur; one had given up acting to concentrate on writing and had become a successful playwright (this was the well-known Hugh Whitemore); one had remained in acting without any great success and was still working in provincial repertory theaters; and one had become an international star - this was Susannah York, of course. The program was aired on BBC-2 on a Sunday night (February 4th, 1979).
Stepped into the role of Margaret in "A man for all season" (1966) as a last-minute replacement for Vanessa Redgrave, who opted out of the film in favor of appearing on stage in the tile role in "The prime of Miss Jean Brodie.".

Personal Quotes (10)

[on being Oscar nominated for her role in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)] "I don't think I have much of a chance and I didn't think much of myself in it."
I usually find that actors are rather interested people. It's part of our profession. It all starts with curiosity about other human beings. The best actors have that kind of interest in people and in life.
[speaking in 2005] "I think I've had good luck in the quality and talent of the people I've worked with. Getting on well with other actors has also been important. In my experience, really good actors are often really good eggs, and Marlon Brando and Liz Taylor are no exception."
[speaking in 2005] "I'm an infinitely better actress now than I was 30 years ago because I've had experiences and I've learned. I do look back on some roles and think I was dreadful, but I'm not going to tell you which performances I'm talking about."
[on Tom Jones (1963)] "I'd actually turned it down three times because I really wanted to do some theatre. I had made up my mind to say no once and for all at a lunch I cooked for Tony Richardson, after three or four wooing lunches from him and Vanessa Redgrave. I did all the classic things - salt instead of sugar, burnt the meringues - and, in the midst of all my apologies, I accepted".
[on being labeled a 'film star'] "I hated that appellation, I was an actor. I did not want to have an image, be seen as the blue-eyed, golden-haired ingénue. Being a 'star' seemed to lock you into an image and I was always frightened of that because I knew I would disappoint people. I knew I wouldn't be like that and I didn't want them to get the wrong end of the stick so early on."
"The Superman films were just a lot of fun. One didn't take them very seriously. The draw as far as I was concerned was Marlon Brando, and the people were all very enjoyable to work with. There's not a lot I can say about what went into the performance. I suppose it's good to be seen in a film that is going to be very popular and it's quite flattering to be chosen to play the mother of Superman! The special effects were fabulous and you were very aware of all that going on - tramping over polystyrene and so on".
[on Warren Beatty] Warren is a teddy bear, though I used to become annoyed when the teddy bear hugs turned to bottom pinches.
My career is incredibly important to me and I am so lucky to have such a wonderful life but, no matter how important my work is to me, my family always comes first... I really am still having a truly amazing life. I touch wood all the time.
[on punching John Huston on the set of Freud (1962)] I beat up John Huston and he's a very big guy. He made a hideous joke about Monty and I just saw red and laid into him. Monty was worried about his eyesight and Huston said he'd get him a guide dog for Christmas. I hit Huston with tremendous force and he staggered back against the wall. I'm very, very strong.

Salary (1)

Superman (1978) £20,000

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