Googie Withers


Actor

About

Also Known As
Georgette Lizette Withers
Born
March 12, 1917

Biography

A notable British film and stage actress in England where she grew up and Australia which would become her adopted home, Googie Withers became best known for a series of melodramas at Ealing Studios in the 1940s and proved herself a versatile character player in her later years. She was born to a British career officer and a Dutch mother in a part of India that later became Pakistan. Wit...

Family & Companions

John McCallum
Husband
Actor, producer, director.

Bibliography

"Life With Googie"
John McCallum, Heinemann (1979)

Notes

Was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1980.

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2001.

Biography

A notable British film and stage actress in England where she grew up and Australia which would become her adopted home, Googie Withers became best known for a series of melodramas at Ealing Studios in the 1940s and proved herself a versatile character player in her later years. She was born to a British career officer and a Dutch mother in a part of India that later became Pakistan. Withers was convent-educated in England, and studied acting and dancing before her stage debut in 1929. While she kept busy in theater during the 1930s, she also broke into films in 1934 with "The Girl in the Crowd." In the mid-30s, she cut back on her stage work to concentrate on her film career, but was confined mostly to second leads in both fairly big films and near "quota quickies" made to fulfill Britain's self-imposed Quota Law. She supported Dolores Del Rio and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in "Accused" (1936), acted for Michael Powell in the likable low-budgeter "The Love Test" (1935) and played one of Margaret Lockwood's giggly girlfriends in Alfred Hitchcock's superb "The Lady Vanishes" (1938).

Withers finally had better luck in the days of WWII. She starred onstage in "They Came to a City" (1943) which she reprised on film the following year, and attracted attention via films including Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's striking "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" (1942). Withers would become one of the ideal Ealing Studios heroines, capable of being offbeat, classy and glamorous yet also possessing intriguing rough edges which could work in both comedy and working-class drama. She played the ever-battling lover Amanda in a 1945 stage revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives," and a number of film roles called for similar bouts of bitchiness, assertiveness or duplicity. Withers was part of the superb quartet anchoring the sparkling comedy of manners "On Approval" (1943), was fine as a wife whose husband is possessed by a haunted mirror in one of the best stories in the classic horror anthology "Dead of Night" (1945), and plotted to poison a husband in the truly odd and noirish costume drama "Pink String and Sealing Wax" (1945). Her forte for proletarian heroines came to the fore in "The Loves of Joanna Godden" (1947), as a woman farmer, and she was at her best in Robert Hamer's key postwar noir "It Always Rains on Sunday" (1947), which beautifully teamed her with future husband John McCallum.

Withers and McCallum would work together in several more films, and she also did the popular if silly "Miranda" (1948), but the film was handed to mermaid Glynis Johns. The hospital drama "White Corridors" (1952) was popular as well, but Withers was rather underutilized in "Night and the City" (1950), a visually striking noir which gave most of the footage to visiting US stars. Withers' starring career gradually petered out in the mid-1950s, but she continued with stage work. She and McCallum relocated to Australia at the end of the decade. Several dozen stage appearances in Australia, England and even the US kept her busy from the 60s on, as did TV work. She returned to features to play the leading role in "Nickel Queen" (1971), directed by her husband, and still later began to appear regularly on PBS and BBC dramas and miniseries, including "Melba" (1989) and "Ending Up" (1993), in the latter as part of a sterling ensemble of gracefully aging British star veterans. She gave an award-winning performance in "Time After Time" (1985), made for TV but also given theatrical release, and the 90s saw increased feature work from Australia as well. "Country Life" (1994) was a handsome Chekhov adaptation, and Withers teamed well with Noah Taylor (as the teenaged David Helfgott) for the character-driven drama "Shine" (1996).

Life Events

1929

Stage acting debut, "The Windmill Man"

1934

Film debut, "The Girl in the Crowd"

1938

Featured as one of Margaret Lockwood's friends in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes"

1943

Returned to the stage to star in "They Came to a City"

1945

Played Amanda in a British revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives"

1947

Starred in one of her most memorable films, "It Always Rains on Sunday"

1950

Known for her role as the devious Helen Nosseross in "Night and the City"

1956

Last film for over 15 years, "Port of Escape"

1960

First Australian stage work included "Winter Journey" and "The Constant Wife"

1961

New York stage debut, "The Complaisant Lover"

1971

Returned to features to play the leading role in "Nickel Queen"; directed by husband, John McCallum

1985

Again returned to features for the TV-film, "Time After Time"; also received a theatrical distribution

1986

Starred in the BBC adaptation of "Hotel du Lac"

1989

First miniseries work, the PBS biopic, "Melba"

1990

Appeared in ITV's adaptation of "Ending Up"

1994

Returned to features again to act in "Country Life"

1996

Last screen performance, played a mentor to the teenaged piano prodigy David Helfgott in "Shine"

2002

Co-starred with her husband (playing brother and sister) in the London revival of "Lady Windermere's Fan"

Videos

Movie Clip

Night And The City (1950) - They're Hand-Dipped Hustler Harry (Richard Widmark) cruising London to the Silver Fox, where we meet his snarky employers Helen (Googie Withers), who's briefing new girls, and Phil (Francis L. Sullivan), early in Jules Dassin's celebrated Night And The City, 1950.
Haunted Honeymoon (1940) - We're Not Quite Joyous Enough At choir practice in the town where the leads (Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings) will soon arrive, organist Aggie (Joan Kemp-Welch) rages as her fiancé Frank (Robert Newton) kanoodles with Polly (Googie Withers), as the reverend (Aubrey Mallalieu) conducts Puffett (Frank Pettingell) et al, in the Lord Peter Wimsey yarn Haunted Honeymoon, 1940.
Dead Of Night (1945) - So It Isn't A Dream This Time? Basil Dearden directs this opening bit, as architect Craig (Mervyn Johns), greeted by Foley (Roland Culver) meets Mary Merrall, Googie Withers, Frederick Valk, Antony Baird and Sally Ann Howes, mystery already, in the Ealing Studios light-horror anthology Dead Of Night, 1945.
Night And The City (1950) - I Do Have A Need Gene Tierney (as "Mary") lip-synching a tune by Noel Gay, as twisted club owners Phil and Helen (Francis L. Sullivan, Googie Withers) chat, when her hustler boyfriend Harry (Richard Widmark) arrives elated at his latest scheme, in Jules Dassin's Night And The City, 1950.
Lady Vanishes, The (1938) - Third Rate Country Their train stuck in fictional Alpine Vandreka, English Caldicott and Charters (Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford) griping, the innkeeper (Emile Boreo) managing single gals Googie Withers, Sally Stewart and Margaret Lockwood, as bride-to-be Iris, opening Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, 1938.
On Approval (1944) - Have You No Odd Corner? Richard (Roland Culver) begins his on-trial weekend with rich widow Maria (Beatrice Lillie), who together find that his friend the impoverished Duke George (writer-director Clive Brook) and her American friend Helen (Googie Withers) have intervened, in On Approval, 1944.
Dead of Night (1945) - The Haunted Mirror Joan (Googie Withers) learns from Rutherford (Esme Percy) of the history of the mirror that terrifies her husband in "The Haunted Mirror" from the anthology Dead of Night, 1945.
Miranda (1948) - Did You Catch Any Big Ones? Chauffeur Charles (David Tomlinson) and wife Clare (Googie Withers) worry about doctor Paul (Griffith Jones) bringing home a mysterious patient (Glynis Johns, title character) from the south coast, whom he hasn’t quite explained is a young mermaid eager to see London, in Miranda, 1948.
Miranda (1948) - Have An Oyster Difficulties for doctor Paul (Griffith Jones), who hasn’t told his wife (Googie Withers) or staff (Yvonne Owen, David Tomlinson) that his live-in invalid patient (Glynis Johns, title character) is a mermaid, so he takes the nurse (Margaret Rutherford) into his confidence, in Miranda, 1948.
On Approval (1944) - Ever Tried Brandy? Having traded insults together at the ball, widow Maria (Beatrice Lillie) with hostess Helen (Googie Withers) and smitten Richard (Roland Culver) with cynical Duke George (writer and director Clive Brook) exchange views, in On Approval, from the Frederick Lonsdale play.
Crown V. Stevens (1936) - Any Man You Wanted Some noteworthy choices by director Michael Powell, as unhappy wife Doris (Beatrix Thomson), whom we know has committed a maybe-justified murder, receives old chorus-line pal Ella (Googie Withers), Davina Craig and Frederick Piper her maid and husband, in the low-budget Crown V. Stevens, 1936.

Trailer

Family

Edgar Clements Withers
Father
Army captain. British.
Lizette Catarina Wilhemina Withers
Mother
Joanna McCallum
Daughter
Actor. Born on June 27, 1950.
Nicholas James McCallum
Son
Born c. 1956.
Amanda McCallum
Daughter
Born on July 23, 1960.

Companions

John McCallum
Husband
Actor, producer, director.

Bibliography

"Life With Googie"
John McCallum, Heinemann (1979)

Notes

Was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1980.

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2001.