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Also Known As: Jane Elizabeth Ailwen Phillips, Sin Phillips Died:
Born: May 14, 1934 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: United Kingdom Profession: actor, newsreader, TV announcer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This slender, willowy actress with hooded eyes and chiseled cheekbones has demonstrated her versatility in roles ranging from the bon vivant of Herbert Ross' musical remake of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969) to the bloodthirsty Livia in "I, Claudius" (BBC, 1976) to impersonating screen legend Marlene Dietrich on stage in the 1990s. Sian Phillips began her career as a child performer on the radio in her native Wales. She also did a stint as an announcer and newsreader in her early 20s before concentrating on an acting career. Almost from the outset of her stage work, she was landing major roles, whether it be playing Shaw's "Saint Joan" in repertory or debuting in the West End as "Hedda Gabler". Since the late 50s, Phillips has amassed an impressive resume, generally earning strong reviews for her performances.In 1959, Phillips wed the tempestuous Irish actor Peter O'Toole and over the course of their 20-year union, the pair frequently collaborated. They starred as illicit lovers in the BBC production "Siwan" (1960) and acted alongside one another in four films, most notably "Becket" (1964), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and "Under Milk Wood" (1971). While her feature career lay dormant throughout the 70s, the...

This slender, willowy actress with hooded eyes and chiseled cheekbones has demonstrated her versatility in roles ranging from the bon vivant of Herbert Ross' musical remake of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969) to the bloodthirsty Livia in "I, Claudius" (BBC, 1976) to impersonating screen legend Marlene Dietrich on stage in the 1990s. Sian Phillips began her career as a child performer on the radio in her native Wales. She also did a stint as an announcer and newsreader in her early 20s before concentrating on an acting career. Almost from the outset of her stage work, she was landing major roles, whether it be playing Shaw's "Saint Joan" in repertory or debuting in the West End as "Hedda Gabler". Since the late 50s, Phillips has amassed an impressive resume, generally earning strong reviews for her performances.

In 1959, Phillips wed the tempestuous Irish actor Peter O'Toole and over the course of their 20-year union, the pair frequently collaborated. They starred as illicit lovers in the BBC production "Siwan" (1960) and acted alongside one another in four films, most notably "Becket" (1964), "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and "Under Milk Wood" (1971). While her feature career lay dormant throughout the 70s, the small screen offered this marvelous character player several excellent roles. Phillips excelled as the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in the acclaimed BBC drama "Shoulder to Shoulder" (1974) and won BAFTA Awards for her turns as the matriarch of a Welsh mining family in the series adaptation of "How Green Was My Valley" (BBC, 1975) and as a power-hungry Roman Empress in "I, Claudius". As the 80s dawned, Phillips teamed with Alec Guinness for adaptations of John le Carre's spy novels "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (PBS, 1980) and "Smiley's People" (syndicated, 1982). Simultaneously, she revived her feature career offering nice turns often in material that was subpar (i.e., "Clash of the Titans" 1981). Occasionally, juicier roles, like Madame de Volanges in Milos Forman's "Valmont" (1989) or Mrs. Archer in Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence" (1993) reminded all of what this actress was capable.

In 1980, Phillips undertook her first stage musical role, that of Vera, in a London revival of "Pal Joey" and a new chapter in her career was born. In addition to appearing in classic roles like "Major Barbara" and "Ghosts", she alternated parts in musicals like "Gigi" and "A Little Night Music". Both aspects of her career dovetailed in "Marlene", her superb impersonation of the Teutonic movie legend. The first half of the show was a behind-the-scenes look at preparations for one of the legendary concerts Dietrich gave late in her life, while the second act was a recreation of said concert. When the show opened in 1997 in London, it was a resounding success. A 1999 Broadway staging met a less receptive response, but Phillips justly received a Tony Award nomination for her performance.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Gigolos, The (2007)
2.
 Alice Through the Looking Glass (2000) Red Queen
3.
 House of America (1996) Mam
4.
 The Age Of Innocence (1993) Mrs Archer
5.
 Dark River (1990) Mrs Blessington
6.
 Valmont (1989) Madame Devolanges
7.
 Doctor and the Devils, The (1985) Annabella Rock
8.
 Ewoks: The Battle For Endor (1985) Charal
9.
 Dune (1984) Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
10.
 Clash of the Titans (1981) Cassiopeia
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Born and raised in Wales
:
Began career as a radio actress with BBC-Radio, Wales in the mid-1940s
:
Made TV debut in the 1950s on BBC-Television, Wales
1953:
Worked as a newsreader and announcer for the BBC
:
Toured Wales in Welsh-language productions for the Wales Arts Council
1958:
Played title role of "Saint Joan" in Covington
1959:
Made London stage debut as "Hedda Gabler"
1960:
Starred opposite Peter O'Toole in "Siwan", a BBC production about the arranged marriage between the title character, the daughter of King John and a Welsh prince
1962:
Film debut in small role in "The Longest Day"
1964:
Appeared as Hannah Jelkes in the London production of Tennessee Williams' "The Night of the Iguana"
1964:
Had co-starring role in "Becket", starring then-husband Peter O'Toole; first of four films together
1967:
Played another Williams' heroine, Alma, in "Eccentricities of a Nightingale"
1969:
Received widespread attention for her theatrical performance in the musical remake of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", starring O'Toole and directed by Herbert Ross
1971:
Final film with O'Toole, "Under Milk Wood"; last film for nine years
1973:
Portrayed Virgina Woolf in the stage production, "A Nightingale in Bloomsbury Square"
1974:
Starred as suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in the BBC series "Shoulder to Shoulder" (aired in the USA on PBS in 1975)
:
Portrayed Beth Morgan in the BBC TV adaptation of "How Green Was My Valley"
1976:
Offered a delectable turn as the evil Livia in the BBC production of "I, Claudius"
1978:
Starred in the British TV series "Warrior Queen" (Thames Television)
1979:
First played Ann Smiley opposite Alec Guiness in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (aired on PBS in the USA in 1980)
1980:
Returned to film acting in Herbert Ross' feature biopic "Nijinsky"
1980:
Made stage singing debut starring as Vera in the London revival of the musical "Pal Joey"
1981:
Cast as Clementine Churchill opposite Robert Hardy in "Winston Churchill--The Wilderness Years"
1982:
Reprised Ann Smiley in the syndicated "Smiley's People"
1984:
Played Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in "Dune"
1985:
Appeared in the London production of the stage adaptation of the musical "Gigi"
1987:
Portrayed the Duchess of Windsor in the NBC miniseries "The Two Mrs Grenvilles"
1989:
Essayed the mother or Fairuza Balk's Cecile in "Valmont", Milos Forman's adaptation of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"
1993:
Played Daniel Day-Lewis' mother in "The Age of Innocence"
1993:
Appeared as the title character's grandmother in "Heidi" (The Disney Channel)
1993:
Initial collaborations with playwright Pam Gems (as translator/adaptor) and director Sean Mathias, "Ghosts"
1994:
First portrayed screen legend Marlene Dietrich for two nights in the musical play "Marlene"; written by Gems and directed by Mathias
1995:
Returned to Broadway as star of the award-winning revival of "An Inspector Calls"
1996:
Portrayed Madame Armfeldt in a stage revival of "A Little Night Music", starring Judi Dench and staged by Mathias
:
Revived "Marlene" for a tour and eventual run in London's West End
1997:
Delivered a mememorable performance as Queen Eleanor in the A&E miniseries "Ivanhoe"
1998:
Played the Red Queen in the Channel Four adaptation of "Alice Through the Looking Glass", starring Kate Beckinsale
1999:
Starred in the short-lived Broadway production of "Marlene"; received a Tony Award nomination
1999:
Had supporting role in the BBC-1 series "Aristocrats"
2002:
Starred in L.A. stage production "My Old Lady"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art: London , England -
University of Wales: - 1955

Notes

Phillips was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's birthday honors in June 2000.

"I have always lived in houses full of things but I don't collect possessions any more. After my marriage to O'Toole broke up, I started off without a teaspoon. I am a working woman. I didn't see why anyone should subsidise [sic] me." --Sian Phillips quoted in Saga magazine, August 1997.

"For me, marriage should come with a government health warning. I get boils and eczema. I never feel well, and then I feel absolutely marvellous as soon as I am on my own again." --Sian Phillips to The Daily Telegraph, June 22, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Peter O'Toole. Actor. Second husband; married c. 1959; divorced in 1979.
husband:
Robin Sachs. Actor. Third husband; married in December 1979; divorced in 1992.

Family close complete family listing

father:
David Phillips. Policeman.
mother:
Sally Phillips. Former teacher. Worked as a housekeeper for daughter during daughter's marriage to Peter O'Toole.
daughter:
Kate O'Toole. Actor. Born in 1960; father, Peter O'Toole.
daughter:
Patricia O'Toole. Drama teacher. Born in 1963; father, Peter O'Toole.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Private Faces: The Autobiography of Sian Phillips" Hodder & Stoughton
"Public Places: The Autobiography of Sian Phillips" Hodder & Stoughton

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