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Tushingham, Rita (1942-)


Main image of Tushingham, Rita (1942-)

A greengrocer's daughter, in convent school plays, followed by a professional debut at Liverpool Playhouse in 1960, Rita Tushingham became the first significant female face of the British New Wave.

Not conventionally pretty, with dark cropped hair, large soulful eyes and "ugly duckling" looks, she was perfect for gauche, fey young women and offbeat roles, and especially for Tony Richardson's A Taste of Honey (1961). Her untutored, truthful debut performance (which won a British Academy Award as Best Newcomer) as Jo impressed audiences and critics alike, with its craving for affection, zany sense of humour and Lancashire fortitude.

As the young wife in the "married-but-gay" biker drama The Leather Boys (d. Sidney J.Furie, 1963), she won the New York Film Critics Award; the Irish-set romance, Girl with Green Eyes (d. Desmond Davis, 1963) used her shy, awkward persona to great effect; and in Doctor Zhivago (UK/US, d. David Lean, 1965) she appeared briefly as a confused, fragile orphan. She was another naive young women up from the provinces in the self-consciously modish comedy The Knack... (d. Richard Lester, 1965), and she was a young hippy who journeys to India to meet The Guru (US/India, d. James Ivory, 1969), a sceptical look at 60s counter-culture.

She made a new career in films in North America, Europe and Israel, including Judgement in Stone (Canada/US, 1986), directed by her former husband Ousama Rawi. She reappeared in British films again after An Awfully Big Adventure (d. Mike Newell, 1995).

Roger Phillip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Thumbnail image of Doctor Zhivago (1965)Doctor Zhivago (1965)

David Lean's epic version of Boris Pasternak's novel

Thumbnail image of Knack ...and How to Get It, The (1965)Knack ...and How to Get It, The (1965)

Archetypal Swinging London film which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes

Thumbnail image of Taste of Honey, A (1961)Taste of Honey, A (1961)

New Wave classic about a pregnant teenager facing an uncertain future

Thumbnail image of Under the Skin (1997)Under the Skin (1997)

Intense psychological drama about two bereaved sisters

Thumbnail image of Bread (1986-91)Bread (1986-91)

Hugely popular sitcom about a wily Liverpool family on the breadline

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