A distinguished stage actress, acclaimed for performances in Samuel Beckett plays, Billie Whitelaw almost became a film star in the 1960s.
With rather harsh features, she excels at playing strongwilled, embittered women who have been through the mill, tigerish or tough/straight-talking as occasion requires.
A child radio actor from age 11, she made her theatre debut in 1950, entering films in 1953. She won a British Academy Award as Best Newcomer for the bookie's wife in Hell Is a City (d. Val Guest, 1960), was a security guard's vengeful widow in Payroll (d. Sidney Hayers, 1961), and the landlady who fatally tries to seduce Hywel Bennett in Twisted Nerve (d. Roy Boulting, 1968), for which she won a British Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress.
Two of her best roles were with Albert Finney: as his estranged wife in Charlie Bubbles (d. Finney, 1968, another BAFTA as Best Supporting Actress) and as the sister-in-law in Gumshoe (d. Stephen Frears, 1971); also memorable as Violet, devoted mum of The Krays (d. Peter Medak, 1990). Since 1980, there have been many TV roles. She was once married to Peter Vaughan.
Autobiography: Who, He? (1996).
Roger Phillip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Cinema