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Whitelaw, Billie (1932-)


Main image of Whitelaw, Billie (1932-)

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

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Carve Her Name With Pride (1958)Carve Her Name With Pride (1958)

Moving biopic of WWII resistance heroine Violette Szabo

Thumbnail image of Hell is a City (1960)Hell is a City (1960)

Tough thriller with Stanley Baker on a murder hunt in Manchester

Thumbnail image of Maurice (1987)Maurice (1987)

Merchant-Ivory Forster adaptation, about a gay affair in Cambridge

Thumbnail image of Miracle in Soho (1957)Miracle in Soho (1957)

Slight but poetic story about unexpected love in postwar Soho

Thumbnail image of Sleeping Tiger, The (1954)Sleeping Tiger, The (1954)

Joseph Losey's British debut stars Dirk Bogarde as a young criminal

Thumbnail image of Unsuitable Job for a Woman, An (1981)Unsuitable Job for a Woman, An (1981)

Imaginative, underrated adaptation of the P.D.James detective thriller

Thumbnail image of Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The (2000)Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The (2000)

Uplifting 3rd age jazz musical starring Judi Dench

Thumbnail image of Lena, O My Lena (1960)Lena, O My Lena (1960)

Alun Owen-scripted TV play about a naive young factory worker

Thumbnail image of Private Schulz (1981)Private Schulz (1981)

WWII comedy drama about a reluctant SS soldier with big dreams

Thumbnail image of Shooting the Past (1999)Shooting the Past (1999)

US property developers threaten to destroy a priceless picture archive

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Thumbnail image of Muller, Robert (1925-1998)Muller, Robert (1925-1998)


Thumbnail image of Vaughan, Peter (1923-)Vaughan, Peter (1923-)