Susannah York


Actor
Susannah York

About

Also Known As
Susannah Yolande Fletcher
Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
January 09, 1939
Died
January 15, 2011
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

A willowy, sensual figure in British cinema and Hollywood during the 1960s and early 1970s, actress Susannah York brought an ethereal quality to unique women in such acclaimed films as "The Killing of Sister George" (1968), "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969), "The Silent Partner" (1978) and "Superman" (1978). She began her career playing innocents, but the depth of her talent, as ev...

Photos & Videos

A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters
Tom Jones - Movie Poster
The Killing of Sister George - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Michael Wells
Husband
Actor, writer. Married in 1960; divorced in 1976.

Bibliography

"The Loves of Shakespeare's Women"
Susannah York, Nick Hearn Books (2001)
"In Search of Unicorns"
Susannah York

Biography

A willowy, sensual figure in British cinema and Hollywood during the 1960s and early 1970s, actress Susannah York brought an ethereal quality to unique women in such acclaimed films as "The Killing of Sister George" (1968), "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969), "The Silent Partner" (1978) and "Superman" (1978). She began her career playing innocents, but the depth of her talent, as evidenced in "A Man for All Seasons" (1966) and "The Battle of Britain" (1969), allowed her access to deeper, more fulfilling roles. As a result, she earned a BAFTA and Oscar nod for "Horses," and a Cannes Film Festival Award as a woman struggling with mental illness in Robert Altman's "Images" (1972). York could be seen more on television and the stage in the 1990s and 21st century, but the qualities that made her a star - a delicate balance between fragility and tensile strength - remained intact and kept her a movie lover's favorite until her death in 2011.

Born Susannah Yolande Fletcher in Chelsea, London on Jan. 9, 1939, she was the youngest daughter of merchant banker Simon Fletcher and his wife, Joan Bowring. Her relationship with her father largely ended at the age of five, when her parents divorced and she moved to Scotland to live with her mother's second husband, businessman Adam Hamilton. There, she attended Marr College and St. Cuthmans, where she gained her first acting experience in school plays. York fell in love with the craft and considered applying to the Glasgow College of Dramatic Art, but after her mother's separation from Hamilton and relocation to London, York applied to and was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. There, she was awarded most promising actress, but also ran into scandal when at 18, she fell in love with fellow student Michael Wells, who was married. The couple eventually married and had two children, including actor Orlando Wells, before divorcing in 1976.

In 1959, York was discovered by a Hollywood agent in a production of "Hedda Gabler," and her film career began a year later with the comedy "There Was a Crooked Man" (1960). A delicate beauty, her early roles were frequently along the lines of Alec Guinness' innocent military daughter in "Tunes of Glory" (1960). But her performance in "The Loss of Innocence" (1961) as a teenaged girl whose budding sexuality had an unsettling effect on the adults around her changed the perception. Critical acclaim for the 21-year-old actress led to similarly mature and complex roles, like the deeply traumatized Cecily, patient to Sigmund Freud in John Huston's "Freud" (1962), and Sophie Western, the object of randy Albert Finney's true love in Tony Richardson's "Tom Jones" (1963). In 1966, she played Margaret More, beloved daughter of Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield), who delivered the fateful news that he must acquiesce to King Henry VIII's desire to marry Catherine of Aragon or face imprisonment.

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw York's film career reach its apex, with brave, challenging performances in films like Robert Aldrich's "The Killing of Sister George" (1968), Sydney Pollack's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and Robert Altman's "Images" (1972). In the former, she played a slow-witted young woman involved in a abusive, possibly lesbian relationship with Beryl Reid's sadistic television actress, while in the latter, she earned the Best Actress Award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival as a children's author descending into schizophrenia. "Horses" was the biggest critical and artistic project of the period, a bleak drama about the limits of human greed, envisioned as a Jazz Era dance marathon. York received a BAFTA Award, as well as an Oscar nomination for her fragile would-be actress, but famously turned down the latter recognition because the Academy had given the nomination without asking her.

Following these successes, York seemed to retreat into arthouse-oriented fare like 1974's dark, elliptical "The Maids," based on the play by Jean Genet and co-starring Glenda Jackson, or broad genre pictures like "Gold" (1974), an action drama about treasure hunters with Roger Moore. A few of these efforts were standouts, like Jerzy Skolimowski's eerie "The Shout" (1976), with Alan Bates as a mysterious stranger who comes to dominate the lives of composer John Hurt and his wife, played by York. The Canadian thriller "The Silent Partner" (1978) also had its share of supporters for its taut, violent cat-and-mouse game between bank teller Elliott Gould and psychotic burglar Christopher Plummer, with York as the cool object of Gould's affection. The biggest hit of the period, and from a financial standpoint, of York's career, was "Superman" (1978), which cast her in a bit role as the Man of Steel's mother, Lara, opposite Marlon Brando's Jor-El. York would provide cameos in "Superman II" (1980) and "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987), largely because Brando required too large a payment for his brief screen time.

In addition to her acting career, York was a published author, with two children's books to her name, including 1973's In Search of Unicorns, which Altman used as her character's work in "Images." She was also committed to numerous political causes, and a vocal supporter of anti-nuclear causes, as well as Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who was imprisoned for revealing his country's nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986.

York's film career waned in the 1980s after a string of failures like "The Awakening" (1980) and "Falling in Love Again" (1980), which she penned. She also experienced some financial difficulties during the period, which required her to sell an extensive amount of her personal belongings, including artwork and jewelry, to pay her mortgage. Stage and television kept her busy and solvent, including a celebrated 1984 production of "A Christmas Carol" (CBS) with George C. Scott as Scrooge and York as a beatific Mrs. Cratchit. Her children, Orlando and Sasha Wells, joined her in the project as two members of the Cratchit brood. In 1991, she was made an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters, which, as she stated in interviews, was her second greatest pride after her children. The theater proved to be her best showcase in the last decades of her life, with acclaimed performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1990s and in "The Wings of the Dove" (2007), as well as her own one-woman show, "The Loves of Shakespeare's Women." In 2009, she was praised for her work in a trio of Tennessee Williams plays in London. Two years later, York succumbed to advanced marrow cancer on Jan. 15, 2011, just six days after her 72nd birthday.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Calling (2009)
Franklyn (2009)
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008)
Herself
The Gigolos (2007)
Diana & Me (1998)
Romance and Rejection (1997)
Mike'S Mother
Illusions (1992)
Dr Sanders
Fate (1989)
En Handfull tid (1989)
Susan Walker
A Summer Story (1988)
Diamond's Edge (1988)
Mio min Mio (1987)
The Weaver Woman
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Voice Of Superman'S Mother
Barbablu Barbablu (1987)
PrettyKill (1987)
Toni
Melancholia (1986)
Daemon (1986)
Rachel
Loophole (1986)
A Christmas Carol (1984)
Mrs Cratchit
Yellowbeard (1983)
Montgomery Clift (1983)
Herself
Nelly's Version (1983)
Narration
Superman II (1981)
Lara
The Awakening (1980)
Falling in Love Again (1980)
Sue Lewis
The Golden Gate Murders (1979)
Sister Benecia
Long Shot (1978)
The Silent Partner (1978)
Julie Carver
The Shout (1978)
Superman:The Movie (1978)
Sky Riders (1976)
Eliza Fraser (1976)
Eliza Fraser
That Lucky Touch (1975)
Diana Richardson
Conduct Unbecoming (1975)
Mrs Scarlett
The Maids (1974)
Claire
Gold (1974)
images (1972)
Cathryn
X Y & Zee (1972)
Stella
Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971)
Penelope Ryan
Jane Eyre (1971)
Jane Eyre
Brotherly Love (1970)
Hilary Dow
Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
Eleanor
Lock Up Your Daughters (1969)
Hilaret
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
Alice
Battle of Britain (1969)
Section Officer Maggie Harvey
The Killing of Sister George (1968)
Alice "Childie" McNaught
Sebastian (1968)
Becky
Duffy (1968)
Segolene
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Margaret More
Kaleidoscope (1966)
Angel McGinnis
Sands of the Kalahari (1965)
Grace Monckton
The 7th Dawn (1964)
Candace
Tom Jones (1963)
Sophie Western
Freud (1962)
Cecily Koertner
There Was a Crooked Man (1962)
Ellen
Loss of Innocence (1961)
Joss Grey
Tunes of Glory (1960)
Morag Sinclair

Writer (Feature Film)

Falling in Love Again (1980)
Screenwriter

Music (Feature Film)

Diamond's Edge (1988)
Song Performer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008)
Other
Montgomery Clift (1983)
Other

Cast (Special)

The Man From the Pru (1991)
Backstage at Masterpiece Theatre: A 20th Anniversary Special (1991)
Star Quality (1987)
Lorraine Barry

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Saint Patrick, the Irish Legend (2000)
American Roulette (1988)
Herself

Life Events

1960

Made her feature acting debut in "Tunes of Glory"

1961

Played the leading role in "The Greengage Summer"

1963

Played Sophie Western opposite Albert Finney in the Oscar winning film "Tom Jones"

1968

Had featured role as Beryl Reid's lesbian lover in "The Killing of Sister George"

1969

Received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"

1970

Co-starred with George C. Scott in an American television movie of "Jane Eyre"

1972

Won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in "Images"

1978

Played Superman's mother on the doomed planet Krypton in "Superman"; reprised her role for its sequels, "Superman II" (1980) and "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" (1987)

1978

Appeared on the London stage in "The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs"

1979

Had a recurring role in the British television series "Prince Regent" as Maria Fitzherbert

1980

First film as co-writer (also actress), "Falling in Love Again"

1984

Starred as Mrs. Crachit in "A Christmas Carol"; again co-starred with George C. Scott (as Ebenezer Scrooge)

1998

Co-starred as Gertrude in a London stage production of "Hamlet"

2001

Toured the United Kingdom in "Amy's View"

2003

Had a recurring role as hospital manager Helen Grant in the BBC1 series "Holby City"

2004

Reprised her role as Helen Grant in two episodes of Holby City's sister series "Casualty"

2007

Appeared in the UK tour of "The Wings of the Dove"

2010

Final film was "The Calling"

2010

Last stage performance was as Jean in Ronald Harwood's "Quartet" at the Oxford Playhouse

Photo Collections

A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters
A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters
Tom Jones - Movie Poster
Here is a country-of-origin British Quad movie poster for Tom Jones (1963), starring Albert Finney and directed by Tony Richardson.
The Killing of Sister George - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for The Killing of Sister George (1968). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Tunes Of Glory (1960) - Opening, Miss Sinclair With exteriors from the real Stirling Castle on Scotland's River Forth, Susannah York (in her official debut, as "Morag") navigates around her father Col. Sinclair (Alec Guinness) and his celebrating troops in the opening to Ronald Neame's Tunes of Glory, 1960.
Tom Jones (1963) - I Should Teach Him Some New Songs First scene with Sophie (Susannah York), returned from two years in London, for whom Albert Finney (title character) has captured a thrush, only to see it released by his prissy rival Blifil (David Warner) in Tony Richardson's Tom Jones, 1963.
Man For All Seasons, A (1966) - Remember My Office! Newly appointed Chancellor Thomas More (Paul Scofield) suffers impertinence from suitor Roper (Corin Redgrave), daughter Margaret (Susannah York) and knave Rich (John Hurt) in A Man For All Seasons, 1966, from Robert Bolt's play.
Tom Jones (1963) - Opening, Our Hero The wacky opening to Tony Richardson's Tom Jones 1963, in which Squire Allworthy (George Devine) arrives home and subtitles begin the scandalous story.
Man for All Seasons, A (1966) - He Wants Another King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) and his party pretend their visit to Thomas More (Paul Scofield) is a surprise, his daughter (Susannah York) and wife (Wendy Hiller) acquiescing, in Fred Zinnemann's A Man For All Seasons, 1966, from the Robert Bolt play.
Kaleidoscope (1966) - I'm Not Obscene Opening scene has jet-setter Barney (Warren Beatty) meeting footloose Angel (Susannah York), in Kaleidoscope, 1966, directed by Jack Smight from an original screenplay by Robert and Jane-Howard Carrington.
7th Dawn, The (1964) - Last Of The British Maidens Returning from a meeting with insurgents in the Malaysian jungle, American WWII vet and plantation owner Ferris (William Holden) comes upon a care-free English girl (Susannah York) in the surf, in The 7th Dawn, directed by Lewis Gilbert from a novel by Michael Keon.
Loss Of Innocence (1961) - We Are Not Orphans! Arriving at French lodgings, their Mum taken ill, the Greys (Jane Asher, Elizabeth Dear, Richard Williams, led by Susannah York as "Joss") meet the manager, the help, the owner and boyfriend (Claude Noiller, David Saire, Danielle Darrieux, Kenneth More), early in Loss Of Innocence, 1961.
Loss Of Innocence (1961) - The French Sleep Late The Grey children, first morning at their champagne-country hotel, without their stricken mother, Joss (Susannah York) wakened by Willmouse and Hester (Richard Williams, Jane Asher), who then meet Eliot (Kenneth More), English beau of the proprietress, early in Loss Of Innocence, 1961.
Loss Of Innocence (1961) - Blood Makes Good Business The hotel owner (Danielle Darrieux) diverted by tourists, Paul (David Saire) and the temporarily un-parented Grey kids (Jane Asher, Richard Williams, Elizabeth Dear) chattering when Eliot (Kenneth More), her boyfriend, is entranced by eldest sister Joss (Susannah York), coming downstairs for the first time, in Loss Of Innocence, 1961.

Trailer

Family

Simon Fletcher
Father
Born c. 1911; divorced from York's mother c. 1947; she saw him only sporadically during her childhood.
Carolyn Fletcher
Sister
Died in 1985; York had been estranged from her but they reconciled before Carolyn's death.
Orlando Wells
Son
Actor.
Sasha Wells
Daughter

Companions

Michael Wells
Husband
Actor, writer. Married in 1960; divorced in 1976.

Bibliography

"The Loves of Shakespeare's Women"
Susannah York, Nick Hearn Books (2001)
"In Search of Unicorns"
Susannah York