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Browne, Coral (1913-1991)


Main image of Browne, Coral (1913-1991)

After three years' stage experience in Australia, Coral Browne (born in Melbourne on 23 July 1913) came to Britain at 21 and quickly established herself on the West End stage, usually in sophisticated roles. Though she made nearly 30 films, she never became a film star.

As a young actress on screen (in, say, Black Limelight, d. Paul L Stein, 1938, or Let George [Formby] Do It, d. Marcel Varnel, 1940), she looked as if she might eat the leading man alive, coming over too strongly for the screen's intimacy.

She made a mark in bitchy roles, such as Michael Wilding's spiteful girlfriend (she could have eaten him too) in The Courtneys of Curzon Street (d. Herbert Wilcox, 1947); scored some major character successes in UK and US films such as Auntie Mame (d. Morton DaCosta, 1958, as a gin-sodden actress), as the sluttish Belle in Dr Crippen (d. Robert Lynn, 1962), the dominant Mercy Croft in The Killing of Sister George (d. Robert Aldrich, 1968), and the lascivious Lady Claire in The Ruling Class (d. Peter Medak, 1971).

In 1983, in TV's An Englishman Abroad (BBC, d. John Schlesinger), she daringly played herself of 25 years earlier when, touring in Russia with the Royal Shakespeare Company, she had a chance meeting with defector Guy Burgess. Two years later, she gave a performance of coruscating brilliance and poignancy as Alice Hargreaves, the 'original' Alice in Wonderland, in Dreamchild (d. Gavin Millar, 1985). A notably witty woman (her bons mots were legend), her second marriage was to actor Vincent Price, having been 'murdered' by him in Theatre of Blood (d. Douglas Hickox, 1973) - and that, too, seemed a witty thing to do.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of Let George Do It! (1940)Let George Do It! (1940)

George Formby comedy that doubles as anti-Nazi propaganda

Thumbnail image of Piccadilly Incident (1946)Piccadilly Incident (1946)

Stirring Anna Neagle melodrama about a couple separated by WWII

Thumbnail image of Englishman Abroad, An (1983)Englishman Abroad, An (1983)

A real-life Moscow encounter between an actress and a spy

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