Sunday, January 16, 2011

Susannah York (1939-2011)

Cliches exist for a reason, they make long wordy sentences redundant and unnecessary because they speak a universal language. Bearing that in mind I think it would be safe to say that Susannah York, who died last night from cancer at the age of 72, was, on screen at least, the archetypal 'English Rose'. Along with Jenny Agutter, Diana Rigg and Hayley Mills she was an actress whose Film Monthly looks were often seen to be regarded as more important to critics than a broad acting career.

She will always be remembered for one film and probably one scene above all others, The Killing of Sister George where she had a generation of teenage boys squirming uncomfortably in their seats as she kissed Coral Browne in one of cinemas defining moments. York herself hated the scene and the publicity that surrounded it, although you have to suspect that she knew her career benefited from it, she once said that she got through that particular scene by sucking on grape pips.

She appeared in three of the Superman franchise as Lara, the mother of the eponymous hero, and her other major film parts were in (among others), A Man For All Seasons, Battle of Britain, Tom Jones and Jane Eyre. She famously turned down a request to attend the 1969 Oscar ceremony, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, because she felt it was rude to be nominated rather than asked if she would like to be considered for the award.

Away from the big screen she had a very successful theatre career and a brief writing career. She appeared in several television series during the 1980's. She was also a keen supporter and activist for CND and the Labour party. She worked long and hard on the campaign throughout the late eighties and nineties for the release of the Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu who disclosed secrets that revealed that Israel, despite repeated denials, was building atomic bombs. When Mr Vanunu was finally freed in 2004 after 18 years in jail York was among those to welcome him.


Span Ows said...

Agreed, very good first paragraph sums her up (English rose etc)

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