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Hampshire, Susan (1937-)


Main image of Hampshire, Susan (1937-)

Spotted on a train by someone casting the role of Jean Simmons as a child in The Woman in the Hall (d. Jack Lee, 1947), Susan Hampshire was tested and cast. Smitten with the acting bug, she finished her education and went into the theatre, making her debut in Expresso Bongo (1958), repeating her role as a twittering deb in the 1959 film version (d. Val Guest).

She had the female leads in the Cliff Richard musical, Wonderful Life (d. Sidney J.Furie, 1964), and Karel Reisz's updating of Night Must Fall (1964), and was taken up by the Disney Organisation for The Three Lives of Thomasina (d. Don Chaffey, 1963), which cast her as a witch, and The Fighting Prince of Donegal (d. Michael O'Herlihy, 1966). Though exceptionally pretty and charming, she was, in her own 1994 words, 'not easily accepted because of her middle-class background' at a time when a rougher, more northern persona would have served her better.

Though she found her film career 'disappointing', there is no doubt that she triumphed on TV, from The Andromeda Breakthrough (BBC, 1962) on, and is now identified with a string of classic serials. She won Emmy awards for the determined Fleur Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga (BBC, 1967), which set a kind of benchmark for the genre, for ambitious Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair (BBC, 1967), and for manipulative Sarah in The First Churchills (BBC, 1969), perhaps surpassing them all as Glencora, growing from heedless youth to tender age in The Pallisers (BBC, 1974). Certainly, these gave her chances beyond any in film, and the beauty and charm were revealed intact, along with touches of mature wit, in the Scottish-set miniseries, Monarch of the Glen (BBC, 1999- ).

She wrote a memoir, Susan's Story (1981), chronicling her struggles with dyslexia and received an OBE in 1995 for her work in this cause. Her first husband was director Pierre Granier-Deferre (their son is assistant director Christopher Granier-Deferre, b.1970, whose films include The Golden Bowl, UK/France/US, d. James Ivory, 2000), and her second Sir Eddie Kulukundis, who contributed to National Film Archive restorations.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Thumbnail image of Expresso Bongo (1959)Expresso Bongo (1959)

Cliff Richard comedy about the discovery of a new musical star

Thumbnail image of Barchester Chronicles, The (1982)Barchester Chronicles, The (1982)

Beautifully-observed adaptation of Trollope's church intrigue

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