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Claire Bloom

Claire Bloom

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Also Known As: Patricia Claire Blume Died:
Born: February 15, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: London, England, GB Profession: actor, author

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Described as exquisitely beautiful and radiant, Claire Bloom was already a star of the British stage when Charlie Chaplin introduced her delicate features to the world in "Limelight" (1952). Her sensitive performance as the ballet student Chaplin saves from a suicide attempt earned her the British Film Academy Award as Most Promising Newcomer, and the elegant, classically trained actress has remained in demand ever since, splitting her time between theater, film and TV. She distinguished herself onstage opposite some of the finest Shakespearean actors of the day, playing Ophelia to two Hamlets (Paul Scofield and first love Richard Burton) and Cordelia to John Gielgud, as well as Lady Anne to Laurence Olivier's "Richard III" in the 1955 film. She also made a smooth transition from ingenue to strong leading lady with portrayals of Nora ("A Doll's House"), "Hedda Gabler", Mary Queen of Scots ("Vivat! Vivat! Regina") and Blanche DuBois ("A Streetcar Named Desire") during the 1970s. Bloom credits Tony Richardson, who guided her opposite Burton in the film version of "Look Back in Anger", with giving her "the courage to experiment", and she reunited with the director many years later for the 1988 CBS...

Described as exquisitely beautiful and radiant, Claire Bloom was already a star of the British stage when Charlie Chaplin introduced her delicate features to the world in "Limelight" (1952). Her sensitive performance as the ballet student Chaplin saves from a suicide attempt earned her the British Film Academy Award as Most Promising Newcomer, and the elegant, classically trained actress has remained in demand ever since, splitting her time between theater, film and TV. She distinguished herself onstage opposite some of the finest Shakespearean actors of the day, playing Ophelia to two Hamlets (Paul Scofield and first love Richard Burton) and Cordelia to John Gielgud, as well as Lady Anne to Laurence Olivier's "Richard III" in the 1955 film. She also made a smooth transition from ingenue to strong leading lady with portrayals of Nora ("A Doll's House"), "Hedda Gabler", Mary Queen of Scots ("Vivat! Vivat! Regina") and Blanche DuBois ("A Streetcar Named Desire") during the 1970s.

Bloom credits Tony Richardson, who guided her opposite Burton in the film version of "Look Back in Anger", with giving her "the courage to experiment", and she reunited with the director many years later for the 1988 CBS miniseries "Beryl Markham" A Shadow in the Sun". She also acted with Burton in "Alexander the Great" (1956) and "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" (1965), saying in PEOPLE (October 28, 1996) that their relationship was "brilliant, unspoiled and pure" while admitting that "he went from a naive young boy from Wales to a rather practiced seducer." (Their romance finally ended when she caught him in the arms of Susan Strasberg.) Bloom has married only one actor, Rod Steiger (her co-star in Broadway's "Rashomon" 1959), with whom she starred in "Three Into Two Won't Go" and "The Illustrated Man" (both 1968). She also portrayed a young woman of decidedly unnatural instincts in Robert Wise's "The Haunting" (1963) and a sympathetic caseworker opposite Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson in "Charly" (1968), among her other films of the 60s.

Bloom made her American TV debut as Roxanne to Jose Ferrer's "Cyrano de Bergerac" for "Producer's Showcase" (NBC, 1955) and returned to that network in the title female roles of "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1956) and "Romeo and Juliet" (1957). Her small screen turns over the next 22 years were rare (e.g., Queen Anne in "Soldier in Love" 1967), but beginning with 1979 appearances in "Henry VIII" (PBS, as Queen Katherine) and "Backstairs at the White House" (NBC, as Edith Galt Wilson), she became a frequent TV presence. Particularly memorable in an Emmy-nominated turn as Lady Marchmain opposite Olivier in the acclaimed British miniseries "Brideshead Revisited" (PBS, 1982), she worked throughout the decade in quality projects like John Schlesinger's remake of "Separate Tables" (HBO, 1983), the "American Playhouse" (PBS) adaptation of third husband Philip Roth's "The Ghost Writer" (1984), the BBC's "Shadowlands" (1985, for which she won a BAFTA Award) and the highly-acclaimed ABC miniseries "Queenie" (1987), not to mention a return to the classics as Oedipus' wife-mother Jocasta in "Oedipus the King" ("The Theban Plays", PBS 1988).

After her fine supporting work in "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid" (1987), Bloom upped her profile considerably as the loyal wife of Martin Landau in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1989) and later appeared in the chorus of Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite" (1995). Her best exposure of the 90s, however, came not as an actress but as the writer of a 1996 tell-all memoir, "Leaving a Doll's House", which focused primarily on the disintegration of her marriage to novelist Philip Roth. Though she had sunk her teeth into the prototypical feminist role of Nora in Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" on several occasions during the 70s, the actress had been unable to overcome her own passivity within a male-dominated relationship, and the book registered her shock at being left by a man she both feared and loved after nearly 20 years together. Bloom made a rare TV appearance as the villainous Orlena Grimaldi on the CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns" in 1995 and appeared in features (i.e., "Daylight" 1996) and TV-movies ("What the Deaf Man Heard", CBS 1997), but her most powerful work at the end of the 20th Century came onstage as the vengeful matriarch Clytemnestra in David Leveaux's 1998 production of Sophocles' "Electra", which returned her to Broadway for the first time in 22 years and garnered her a Tony nomination.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
4.
 Republic of Love, The (2003) Onion
5.
 Imagining Argentina (2003) Mrs. Sternberg
6.
7.
 Wrestling With Alligators (1998) Lulu Fraker
8.
 What the Deaf Man Heard (1997) Mrs Tynan
9.
10.
 Daylight (1996) Eleanor Trilling
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1940:
Brought to the USA as a war evacuee during the London blitz and lived in Florida
1943:
Returned to England
1946:
Stage acting debut at age 15 with the Oxford Repertory Company
1947:
London stage debut, "The White Devil"
1948:
Feature film acting debut in "The Blind Goddess"
1948:
Portrayed Ophelia opposite Paul Scofield's "Hamlet" at Stratford-on-Avon
1950:
Performed in Peter Brook's staging of Jean Anouihl's "Ring Around the Moon" (also starring Scofield), which brought her to the attention of Charlie Chaplin
1952:
Acted opposite Chaplin in "Limelight"
1952:
Was member of the Old Vic Company; appeared in numerous Shakespearean roles including Juliet, Ophelia in "Hamlet" (opposite Richard Burton) and Cordelia in "King Lear"
1955:
Played Lady Anne to Laurence Olivier's "Richard III"
1956:
First film with Burton, "Alexander the Great"
1956:
Broadway debut, "Romeo and Juliet"; appeared with Old Vic Company
1956:
American TV debut, Roxanne opposite Jose Ferrer's "Cyrano de Bergerac" for "Producers Showcase" (NBC)
1959:
Acted opposite Burton in Tony Richardson's film version of "Look Back in Anger"
1959:
Co-starred with soon-to-be husband Rod Steiger in Broadway's "Rashomon"
1963:
Exhibited lesbian tendencies and an extraordinary sense of ESP in Robert Wise's "The Haunting"
1965:
Reteamed with Burton for Martin Ritt's "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"
1968:
Portrayed sympathetic caseworker who becomes attatched to "Charly" (Cliff Robertson); role earned Robertson the Best Actor Oscar
1969:
Starred opposite husband Rod Steiger in two films, "Three Into Two Won't Go" and "The Illustrated Man"
1972:
Returned to Broadway as Mary, Quenn of Scots in "Vivat! Vivat! Regina!"
1973:
Essayed the role of Nora opposite Anthony Hopkins in stagy film of Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House"; Bloom also played the role several times on stage
1974:
Acted the part of Blanche DuBois in London revival of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire"
1976:
Last Broadway appearance for 22 years, "The Innocents", an adaptation of Henry James' "Turn of the Screw" directed by Harold Pinter; a scathing review by Clive Barnes doomed it to a short run of 10 days
1981:
Played Hera to Olivier's Zeus in "Clash of the Titans"
1982:
Appeared as Lady Marchmain opposite Olivier in the British miniseries "Brideshead Revisited" (shown in the USA on PBS); garnered an Emmy nomination
:
Toured the USA in one-person show, "These Are Women, a Portrait of Shakespeare's Heroines"
1984:
Acted in "American Playhouse" (PBS) adaptation of then-companion Philip Roth's "The Ghostwriter"
1985:
Co-starred in British TV production of "Shadowlands" (shown in USA in 1986 on PBS and again in 1989 on A&E)
1988:
Reteamed with director Tony Richardson for CBS miniseries "Beryl Markham: A Shadow in the Sun"
1989:
First collaboration with Woody Allen, playing Miriam Rosenthal, wife of Judah (Martin Landau) in "Crimes and Misdemeanors"
1995:
Portrayed chorus role in Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite"
1995:
Appeared briefly as Orlena Grimaldi on the CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns"
1996:
Played Mary Tyrone as an angry anything-but-a-victim in American Repertory Theatre presentation of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night"
1996:
Acted the part of upper-class society doyenne Eleanor Trilling in "Daylight", starrring Sylvester Stallone
1997:
Was underutilized as the agreeably disagreeable widow Tynan in CBS' "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation "What the Deaf Man Heard"
1998:
Portrayed a former silent movie star running a New Jersey rooming house in Laurie Weltz's "Wrestling With Alligators"
1998:
Had stage triumph as Clytemnestra in a staging of Sophocles' "Electra", starring Zoe Wanamaker; garnered Tony nomination
2000:
Led the cast of "Conversations After a Burial", produced in London
:
Had lead in the independent film "Book of Eve" (lensed 2001-2002)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Badminton School: -
Fern Hill Manor: -
Guildhall School of Music and Drama: London , England - 1946 - 1948
Central School of Speech and Drama: London , England - 1947 - 1948

Notes

Roth crossed the line when he gave the tearful, histrionic, actress wife of his novel "Deception" the name Claire. Threatened with a lawsuit, he changed the character's name but still called the husband Philip.

About her decision to write her brutally candid memoir of her marriage to Philip Roth: "I had a devestatingly dreadful end to what had been in many ways a wonderful marriage and thought it might help me to write about it and help other women. Philip always said, 'Be private in your life and shameless in your work.'" --Claire Bloom quoted in People, October 28, 1996.

Early during their relationship, Roth insisted that Bloom's daughter Anna Steiger move out of her London home: "It wasn't about hatred for my daughter, though animosity may have been the catalyst--it was about control. Philip made character assessments the way surgeons make incisions. He knew I would make any compromise to support our relationship. If I was willing to jettison my daughter in this manner, what could I ever deny him? I know I was diminishing my own character with each successive act of capitulation. These confrontations left me debilitated and unsure, and were to shape many of my future decisions." --Excerpt from "Leaving a Doll's House" in Vanity Fair November 1996.

On feeling herself an outsider: "It's a particular type of temperment. I've spent my life pursuing excellence as an artist, which is what I always wanted to do anyhow. I don't enjoy the life of an actress, but I don't want to go into that. I am interested in the art. I'm a professional woman." --Bloom to David Finkle in InTheater, December 18, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Richard Burton. Actor. Acted with him and fell in love c. 1953, losing her virginity to him.
companion:
Laurence Olivier. Actor. Played Lady Anne to his Richard III in the 1955 film.
companion:
Yul Brynner. Actor. Acted with him in two 1958 films, "The Buccaneer" and "The Brothers Karamozov".
husband:
Rod Steiger. Actor. Married on September 19, 1959; divorced in January 1969; was four months pregnant with their daughter Anna when they wed.
husband:
Hillard Elkins. Stage producer, manager. Married on August 14, 1969; divorced in 1972.
husband:
Philip Roth. Novelist. Married on April 19, 1990 after living together since 1976; previously married to Margaret Martinson; separated c. 1994; divorced in 1995; dedicated his novels "The Professor of Desire" and "Operation Shylock" to her; had rather tempestuous marriage which he depicted in his fiction ("Deception") and she recounted in her nonfiction work "Leaving a Doll's House".
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Edward Max Blume. Salesman. Changed family name from Blumenthal; Bloom later learned he was a compulsive gambler; died three days after she had snubbed him (on the arm of his new wife) after a performance of "Romeo and Juliet" at London's Old Vic in the early 1950s.
mother:
Elizabeth Blume. Her family changed name from Griewski.
aunt:
Mary. Actor. One of the two women (along with her mother) who profoundly influenced her.
brother:
John Blume. Film editor. Born c. 1936.
daughter:
Anna-Justine Steiger. Opera singer. Made New York City Opera debut in 1990.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Limelight and After: The Education of an Actress"
"Leaving a Doll's House" Little, Brown

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