Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Calvert, Phyllis (1915-2002)


Main image of Calvert, Phyllis (1915-2002)

Ten years and ten films into her screen career, the first 'official' Gainsborough melodrama, The Man in Grey (d. Leslie Arliss, 1943) made Phyllis Calvert (1915-2002) a bona fide star and one of the studio's biggest attractions.

The following year she headlined three more Gainsborough films - Fanny by Gaslight (d. Anthony Asquith), Madonna of the Seven Moons (d. Arthur Crabtree) and Two Thousand Women (d. Frank Launder) and would subsequently appear in They Were Sisters (d. Arthur Crabtree, 1945), The Magic Bow (d. Bernard Knowles, 1946), The Root of All Evil (d. Brock Williams, 1947) and Broken Journey (d. Ken Annakin, 1948).

Most of the time she drew what looked like the short straw, playing the "good girl" in films that revelled in the exploits of her wicked opposite number, and it says much for her talent and charisma that she was able to hold attention in what must have seemed thankless parts - she herself acknowledged that "I do think it is much more difficult to establish a really charming, nice person than a wicked one - and make it real".

Patricia Roc played a similar role in The Wicked Lady (d. Leslie Arliss, 1945) and undoubtedly suffered from the comparison with Margaret Lockwood, but Calvert held her own in The Man in Grey and Fanny by Gaslight and went on to give an impressively nuanced performance as the amnesiac heroine of Madonna of the Seven Moons.

Although Calvert was never especially fond of the Gainsborough films, there is little doubt that they were the high point of her cinema career. A 1947 attempt to break into Hollywood failed, and her subsequent British films (with the notable exception of Mandy (d. Alexander Mackendrick, 1952)), generally made little impression. Her post-1950s career was mostly spent in theatre and television.

Michael Brooke

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Fanny By Gaslight (1944)Fanny By Gaslight (1944)

Costume melodrama about a Cabinet minister's illegitimate daughter

Thumbnail image of Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944)Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944)

Florentine melodrama about a jewel thief and his amnesiac mistress

Thumbnail image of Magic Bow, The (1946)Magic Bow, The (1946)

Stewart Granger (and Yehudi Menuhin) as the violinist Paganini

Thumbnail image of Man in Grey, The (1943)Man in Grey, The (1943)

Melodrama about two girls whose fortunes run on very different paths

Thumbnail image of Mandy (1952)Mandy (1952)

Powerful portrait of a family struggling to cope with a deaf child

Thumbnail image of Men of Two Worlds (1946)Men of Two Worlds (1946)

An African music student returns home to save his tribe

Thumbnail image of They Were Sisters (1945)They Were Sisters (1945)

James Mason drives his wife to drink as her horrified sisters look on

Thumbnail image of Two Thousand Women (1944)Two Thousand Women (1944)

Drama set in a women's internment camp during World War II

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Gainsborough MelodramaGainsborough Melodrama

1940s costume dramas for a newly independent female audience

Related people and organisations