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Lockwood, Margaret (1916-1990)


Main image of Lockwood, Margaret (1916-1990)

Of the four lead actors in the first "official" Gainsborough melodrama, The Man in Grey (1943, d. Leslie Arliss), Margaret Lockwood (1916-1990) was the only one who was already a star, having previously played the female lead in the internationally successful The Lady Vanishes (1938, d. Alfred Hitchcock) for the same studio.

That said, it was undoubtedly the 1940s melodramas that established her reputation, starting with her performance as the wicked Hesther in The Man in Grey and reaching a peak with the even more amoral Lady Barbara Skelton in The Wicked Lady (1945, d. Leslie Arliss), thrilling audiences with her shameless pilfering of her best friend's husband before turning to gambling and highway robbery.

This last performance in particular created an indelible impression and catapulted her to the top - in 1945 and 1946 she was unarguably the most popular homegrown female star in British cinema.

Her range was also rather wider than her two best-known roles suggest, as she also played the doomed concert pianist in Love Story (1944, d. Arliss), the nervy, haunted companion in A Place of One's Own (1945, d. Bernard Knowles) and the music-hall star in I'll Be Your Sweetheart (1945, d. Val Guest), though Bedelia (1946, d. Lance Comfort) capitalised on her popular image as a villainess by casting her as a serial-killing bride.

But after the war her career declined surprisingly rapidly. A final Gainsborough melodrama, Jassy (1947, d. Knowles) failed to recapture the old magic, though it did at least give her an opportunity to show off a whole wardrobe of vivid costumes in glorious Technicolor. But her later filmography is resolutely undistinguished, and from the mid-1950s onwards she worked almost exclusively in television. Awarded the CBE in 1981, she died a virtual recluse a decade later.

Michael Brooke

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Thumbnail image of Bank Holiday (1938)Bank Holiday (1938)

Lively comedy-melodrama about an eventful August bank holiday

Thumbnail image of Jassy (1947)Jassy (1947)

Technicolor melodrama about a gypsy girl with second sight

Thumbnail image of Lady Vanishes, The (1938)Lady Vanishes, The (1938)

Glorious comic thriller about a mysteriously disappearing old woman

Thumbnail image of Love Story (1944)Love Story (1944)

A terminally ill pianist falls in love with a man who's going blind

Thumbnail image of Madness of the Heart (1949)Madness of the Heart (1949)

Melodrama with Margaret Lockwood as a blind nun

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 Stars Look Down, The (1939)Stars Look Down, The (1939)

Breakthrough film for Carol Reed, a progressive pit community drama

Thumbnail image of Wicked Lady, The (1945)Wicked Lady, The (1945)

A bored Margaret Lockwood finds fulfilment through highway robbery

Thumbnail image of Human Jungle, The (1963-65)Human Jungle, The (1963-65)

Stylish drama starring Herbert Lom as an unorthodox psychiatrist

Thumbnail image of Justice (1971-74)Justice (1971-74)

Margaret Lockwood stars as a tough barrister

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Thumbnail image of Gainsborough MelodramaGainsborough Melodrama

1940s costume dramas for a newly independent female audience

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