Diana Wynyard


Actor

About

Also Known As
Dorothy Isobel Cox
Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
January 16, 1906
Died
May 13, 1964
Cause of Death
Kidney Ailment

Biography

A luminous and intelligent British actress, Diana Wynyard brought genteel grace and an aristocratic dignity to a highly successful stage career. With a carriage and mien well-suited to period drama, she briefly made her mark in several classy roles in Hollywood during the depths of the Depression in the 1930s. Her US film stardom didn't take, however, but she was sporadically active in B...

Family & Companions

Tibor Csato
Husband
Doctor. Divorced.
Carol Reed
Husband
Director. Married 1943-47; divorced; was Wynyard's second husband.

Biography

A luminous and intelligent British actress, Diana Wynyard brought genteel grace and an aristocratic dignity to a highly successful stage career. With a carriage and mien well-suited to period drama, she briefly made her mark in several classy roles in Hollywood during the depths of the Depression in the 1930s. Her US film stardom didn't take, however, but she was sporadically active in British film for 20 years thereafter, leaving behind several outstanding performances that made one wish she had done more in film.

Wynyard made her London stage debut in a small role in "The Grand Duchess" in 1925, and from 1927 to 1930 was a member of William Armstrong's Liverpool-based repertory company. She performed in plays including "The Old Bachelor" and "Sorry You've Been Troubled" before she made her New York debut opposite Basil Rathbone in "The Devil Passes" in 1932. Wynyard scored a hit, and she was promptly signed by MGM to make her film debut supporting John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore in the only film the three famed siblings appeared in together, "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932). The result was surprisingly dull, but Wynyard, with her attractive but approachable looks, well-bred bearing and impassioned acting style, made a good impression. She followed up with her first outright lead and her best-known film, the handsomely detailed "Cavalcade" (1933). Based on Noel Coward's stage pageant following an upper-class British family from the turn of the century, this somewhat staid film rested firmly on Wynyard's gallant shoulders. She copped an Oscar nomination for her fine work, and the film itself, a critical and popular success for its portrait of indomitability during times of crisis, took Best Picture.

Wynyard's success in Hollywood should have been insured, but after five more films she returned to the London stage; her only other Hollywood credit was her last film, the overly tame interracial romance drama, "Island in the Sun" (1957). RKO reteamed Wynyard with "Cavalcade" co-star Clive Brook for "Let's Try Again" and "Where Sinners Meet" (both 1934) but, done in by dull scripts and direction, both bombed at the box office. Wynyard had better luck with her other starring vehicles, but their success was more in terms of quality than in popularity. More's the pity, for "Men Must Fight" (1933) was an interesting anti-war tract, and Wynyard shone in two gems: "Reunion in Vienna" (1933), a sparkling, sophisticated talkfest reteaming her with John Barrymore; and James Whale's superb drama of divorce and frustrated love, "One More River" (1934). Back to the stage it was, though, and over the years Wynyard acted in the London stage productions of such US hits as "No Time for Comedy" and "Watch on the Rhine" and classical productions ranging from "The Seagull" to "Hamlet."

After five years away from the camera, Wynyard enjoyed another spurt of film work beginning with "On the Night of the Fire" (1939). Her role as a working-class barber's wife seemed odd casting, but the film still stands as a striking early example of British film noir. The same goes for her best-known British film, "Gaslight" (1940), long unseen because of the (in some ways lesser) Hollywood remake of 1944, with Wynyard excellent as a Victorian-era wife being driven insane by her psychotic husband (Anton Walbrook). Another fine film was "Kipps" (1941), well directed by future husband (1943-47) Carol Reed, and she also appeared in another patriotic pageant, "The Prime Minister" (1941). Wynyard made a handful of other films, most of them handsome period adaptations ("An Ideal Husband" 1947, "Tom Brown's Schooldays" 1951) but worked primarily onstage until her death from kidney problems in 1964.

Life Events

1925

London stage debut in a small role in "The Grand Duchess"

1927

Was a member of William Armstrong's Company in Liverpool

1932

Made New York stage debut in "The Devil Passes"

1932

Signed by Hollywood; made film debut in "Rasputin and the Empress"

1933

First leading role in features, "Cavalcade"; received Oscar nomination as Best Actress

1934

Last US film for over 20 years, "One More River"

1935

Returned to stage career in England

1939

First film in five years, "On the Night of the Fire"

1941

Last films for six years, "Kipps" and "The Prime Minister"

1955

Last British film, "The Feminine Touch"

1957

Last film, "Island in the Sun", a one-shot return to a US production, shot in the Caribbean

1964

Stricken with kidney ailment while in a theater rehearsing for a production of "The Master Builder"

Videos

Movie Clip

Ideal Husband, An (1947) -- (Movie Clip) It Starts In The Right Manner Party at the Grosvenor Square home of Lady (Diana Wynyard) and Sir Robert (Hugh Williams) Chiltern, gossip Lady Markby (Constance Collier) and unexpected Mrs. Cheveley (Paulette Goddard) arriving, in An Ideal Husband, 1947, from Oscar Wilde's play.
Ideal Husband, An (1947) -- (Movie Clip) Center Of The Universe Following the titles, original Oscar Wilde prose from the published edition of his play, producer-director Alexander Korda and brother Vincent's design on display, with the actor's credits, from An Ideal Husband, 1947.
Gaslight (1940) -- (Movie Clip) A Delicate Woman Ex-cop turned stable owner Rough (Frank Pettingell) with a house agent (Aubrey Dexter), scrounging up info about Bella (Diana Wynyard), whose husband resembles a criminal he pursued, and whom he shortly contrives to meet, in the original Gaslight, 1940.
Prime Minister, The (1942) -- (Movie Clip) Foppish Young Novelist Most of the prologue and the opening scene with John Gielgud, as advertised, in a most uncharacteristic prissy tone, as the young-ish Benjamin Disraeli, meeting the unsuspecting widow Wyndham Lewis (Diana Wynyard), in director Thorold Dickinson's The Prime Minister, 1942.
Prime Minister, The (1942) -- (Movie Clip) You Will Hear Me! Observed by his smitten sponsor, the widow Wyndham Lewis (Diana Wynyard), the snobby yet radical Disraeli (John Gielgud) rises for his first speech in Parliament, 1837, rival Gladstone (Stephen Murray) smirking, early in director Thorold Dickinson's The Prime Minister, 1942.
Prime Minister, The (1942) -- (Movie Clip) This Silly Dance The widow Mrs. Wyndham Lewis (Diana Wynyard), received by host Count D'Orsay (Anthony Ireland), hopes to end her brief estrangement from her pet politician Disraeli (John Gielgud), who is surrendered by the understanding Lady Blessington (Vera Bogetti), in The Prime Minister, 1942.
Gaslight (1940) -- (Movie Clip) You Imagine Things Just getting to know suave Paul (Anton Walbrook) and skittish Bella (Diana Wynyard), just moved into the London house where her aunt was murdered, with their frisky maid Nancy (Cathleen Cordell) from the original Gaslight, 1940.
One More River -- (Movie Clip) Light Or Dark? Clare (Diana Wynyard), having left her abusive husband in Ceylon, with sister Dinny (Jane Wyatt), arriving at a London restaurant where they meet friend and candidate David (Reginald Denny), plus various others, early in James Whale's One More River, 1934.
One More River -- (Movie Clip) Rough Handling Lady Clare (Diana Wynyard) settling in London with uncle Sir Lawrence (Henry Stephenson) when without warning Sir Gerald (Colin Clive), the abusive husband she abandoned in Ceylon, arrives with promises, in One More River, 1934, from the John Galsworthy novel.
Men Must Fight (1933) -- (Movie Clip) Four Leaf Clover First World War somewhere in France, flier Jeff (Robert Young) and his new lover nurse Laura (Diana Wynyard), some sense of foreboding, opening MGM's near-future anti-war drama Men Must Fight, 1933.
Men Must Fight (1933) -- (Movie Clip) We'll Stop Making Men! Diana Wynyard as Laura, wife of the Secretary of State, with a radical anti-war speech to women, taking place in near-future 1940, with fancy tech to match, in MGM's Men Must Fight, 1940.
Men Must Fight (1933) -- (Movie Clip) Our Son Will Never Take Part New York, end of the first World War, Laura (Diana Wynyard) with husband Ned (Lewis Stone), big diplomat and adoptive father of her son, who grows up to be Phillips Holmes, in near-future 1940, with Peggy (Ruth Selwyn) on a steamer, in Men Must Fight, 1933.

Trailer

Companions

Tibor Csato
Husband
Doctor. Divorced.
Carol Reed
Husband
Director. Married 1943-47; divorced; was Wynyard's second husband.

Bibliography