Wendy Hiller


Actor
Wendy Hiller

About

Also Known As
Dame Wendy Hiller
Birth Place
Cheshire, England, GB
Born
August 15, 1912
Died
May 14, 2003
Cause of Death
Undisclosed Causes

Biography

Academy Award-winning Dame Wendy Hiller began her career with the Manchester Repertory Theatre at the age of 18 and, after leaving to tour the provinces for awhile, returned there to act in "Love on the Dole," adapted from the Walter Greenwood novel by her future husband Ronald Gow. A seven-month tour of Lancashire and Yorkshire preceded its successful 1935 London run, which brought her ...

Family & Companions

Ronald Gow
Husband
Playwright. Married from 1937 until his death on April 26, 1993 in London at age 95; author of the play "Love on the Dole" (adapted from Walter Greenwood's novel), which brought Hiller fame and the attention of George Bernard Shaw.

Notes

"George Bernard Shaw wasn't like an old man. He was very upright: very elegant, beautifully groomed, very fresh-looking. He had sparkling blue eyes with a very wicked look in them. He flirted with me disgracefully. I fell deeply in love with him. Looking back, if only I'd been a little less diffident . . . He really did hold out the hand of friendship. He insisted I play Eliza. I didn't know.""At that age, you take things so much for granted. It was just as though every girl had an offer from GBS. Thinking back, I don't know how I had the courage. That's one of the unkindest things nature does; it takes away your courage." --Wendy Hiller quoted in the London Times, June 29, 1992

She once sent Shaw some socks and gloves while she was on stage in the United States. He acknowledged the gift with a postcard, writing: "The postman knocks/with gloves and socks/from Wendy Hiller/what a thriller."

Biography

Academy Award-winning Dame Wendy Hiller began her career with the Manchester Repertory Theatre at the age of 18 and, after leaving to tour the provinces for awhile, returned there to act in "Love on the Dole," adapted from the Walter Greenwood novel by her future husband Ronald Gow. A seven-month tour of Lancashire and Yorkshire preceded its successful 1935 London run, which brought her to the attention of playwright George Bernard Shaw who, noting something special in the actress, became her mentor and friend. Following her 1936 Broadway debut in "Love on the Dole" and with only six rehearsals for each show, Hiller portrayed both "Saint Joan" and Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" at that year's Malvern Theatre Festival honoring Shaw's 80th birthday. Though a proposed movie version with her as "Saint Joan" never materialized, she did play (at Shaw's insistence) both Eliza in "Pygmalion" (1938) and the title role of "Major Barbara" (1941), delivering two unforgettable film performances forever linked to her name.

Possessing a beautiful speaking voice and a uniquely crisp brand of charm, Hiller showed an early preference for appearing plainly, forsaking make-up and fancy costumes to specialize in characters withered by frustration and emotional deprivation. She played "The Heiress" on Broadway in 1947, the dowdy role that would win Olivia de Havilland an Oscar two years later. Her own Oscar-winning supporting turn as a dejected, lonely woman in "Separate Tables" (1958) and an Oscar-nominated part as Sir Thomas More's alienated wife in "A Man For All Seasons" (1966) were also in this vein, as was her Gunhild Borkman in Ibsen's "John Gabriel Borkman" on the London boards in 1975. Unlike her fellow 'dames' of the English stage, Hiller has essayed relatively few Shakespearean roles: the 1955-56 season with London's Old Vic Company under the direction of Tyrone Guthrie, a tour of UK factory centers as Viola in "Twelfth Night" (1943), Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" (1946) and the Duchess of York in a TV presentation of "Richard II" (PBS, 1979).

At a glance there is very little to connect the young Hiller of "Love on the Dole" and the Shaw plays with the grande dame familiar to spectators of later years. She made an early transition to age and dignity, playing Queen Mary in Royce Ryton's "Crown Matrimonial" on the London stage in 1972, and has appeared frequently on the small screen, portraying such characters as Janet Mackenzie in "Witness for the Prosecution" (CBS, 1982), Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Earnest" (PBS, 1985) and Princess Victoria in "Lord Mountbatten: The Last Victory" (PBS, 1986). She was back on the London stage in 1988 in the title role of "Driving Miss Daisy" and several years later returned to Shaw, this time as Dame Laurentia McLachlan, his long-time friend and spiritual advisor, in "The Best of Friends" (PBS, 1992), co-starring John Gielgud (as Sir Sydney Cockerell) and Patrick McGoohan (as Shaw). For the young actress who had gone onstage at Malvern as Saint Joan after only six days' rehearsal in a vacant swimming bath under the author's watchful eye, the world had come full circle. The following year, she acted in "The Countess Alice" and "Ending Up," both airing on PBS.

Life Events

1930

First appeared on stage at age 18, playing the Maid in Manchester Repertory Theatre production of "The Ware Case"

1935

London stage debut as Sally Hardcastle in "Love on the Dole"

1936

Broadway debut, "Love on the Dole"

1936

Portrayed "Saint Joan" and Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" at the Malvern Theatre Festival, honoring George Bernard Shaw's 80th birthday

1937

Film acting debut in "Lancashire Lad"

1938

Reprised Eliza Doolittle opposite Leslie Howard for film version of "Pygmalion", earning a Best Actress Oscar nomination

1941

Played title role in film adaptation of Shaw's "Major Barbara"

1944

Portrayed Sister Joanna in "The Cradle Song"

1945

Starred in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger's charming film, "I Know Where I'm Going"

1946

Acted the parts of Portia in "The Merchant of Venice", Pegeen Mike in "Playboy of the Western World" and the title role of "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre

1947

Starred on Broadway in "The Heiress", adapted from a Henry James novel

1950

Reprised "The Heiress" in London

1951

Starred opposite Dames Edith Evans and Sybil Thorndike in N C Hunter's "Waters of the Moon"

1957

Acted role of Josie Hogan in Broadway premiere of Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten"

1958

Portrayed Isabel Cherry in "Flowering Cherry" on London stage, repeating the role for Broadway the following year

1958

Won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her delicate portrayal of a dejected, lonely woman in "Separate Tables"

1960

Played Trevor Howard's wife and Dean Stockwell's mother in "Sons and Lovers", adapted from the D H Lawrence novel

1963

Portrayed Anna Berniers, one of Dean Martin's overprotective sisters (along with Geraldine Page) in "Toys in the Attic", film adaptation of Lillian Helman's play

1966

Earned Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Alice More in "A Man for All Seasons"; last film for eight years

1970

Acted the part of Mrs Micawber in "David Copperfield", an NBC movie adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel

1972

Made an early transition to age and dignity, playing Queen Mary in London production of Royce Ryton's "Crown Matrimonial"

1974

Returned to features as part of the star-studded cast of Sidney Lumet's "Murder on the Orient Express"

1975

Portrayed Gunhild Borkman in "John Gabriel Borkman" at London's Old Vic

1975

Created a dame by Queen Elizabeth II

1976

Played Luther Adler's wife in Stuart Rosenberg's "Voyage of the Damned"

1979

Portrayed the Duchess of York in "Richard II" for PBS' "The Shakespeare Plays"

1980

Acted in David Lynch's "The Elephant Man"

1982

Played Janet Mackenzie in CBS "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation of Agatha Christie's "Witness for the Prosecution"

1985

Portrayed Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" for "Great Performances" (PBS)

1986

Played Princess Victoria in six-part "Masterpiece Theatre" (PBS) series, "Lord Mountbatten: The Last Victory"

1987

Last feature to date, "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne"

1987

Appeared in "Anne of Avonlea: The Continuing Story of Anne of Green Gables" (Disney Channel)

1988

Starred in the London stage production of "Driving Miss Daisy"

1990

Portrayed Lady Ursula Berowne in "A Taste of Death", a six-part presentation of "Mystery!" (PBS)

1992

Co-starred with John Gielgud and Patrick McGoohan in "The Best of Friends"; a "Masterpiece Theatre" (PBS) presentation depicting the true story of the long-lasting friendship among Dame Laurentia MacLachlan, Sir Sydney Cockerell (Gielgud) and Shaw (McGoohan)

1993

Played "The Countess Alice" for "Masterpiece Theatre" and also acted in "Ending Up" (PBS), a comedy about a group of elderly men and women who live together in a country house

Photo Collections

A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters
A Man for All Seasons - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

I Know Where I'm Going (1945) - Miss Webster's Journey Joan (Wendy Hiller) catches a train from Manchester en route to the Outer Hebrides where she plans to marry a tycoon, and director Michael Powell indulges her fantasies in I Know Where I'm Going, 1945.
I Know Where I'm Going (1945) - Do You Think You Could Dance the Scottish? Torquil (Roger Livesy) and Joan (Wendy Hiller) are but observers at a country dance, the Glasgow Orpheus Choir playing the local singers, in Michael Powell's I Know Where I'm Going, 1945.
I Know Where I'm Going (1945) - Opening, She Already Knew Clever opening from “The Archers” (the writing-producing-directing partners Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger), the narration not credited, from I Know Where I’m Going, 1945, starring Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey and Pamela Brown.
I Know Where I'm Going (1945) - The Fish Do Not Know Him Torquil (Roger Livesey) and Joan (Wendy Hiller) catch a bus where they find the locals talking about the extravagant ways of her fiance` in Michael Powell's I Know Where I'm Going, 1945.
I Know Where I'm Going (1945) - I Am McNeil Of Killoran Torquil (Roger Livesey) is forced to reveal himself as her landlord-to-be, when Joan (Wendy Hiller) approaches a castle in the Scottish Western Isles, in Michael Powell's I Know Where I'm Going, 1943.
Separate Tables (1958) - Mayfair From Head To Foot Early evening at the Hotel Beauregard, guests (Felix Aylmer, May Hallatt, Cathleen Nesbitt, Gladys Cooper) are not expecting Rita Hayworth, as Ann Shankland, greeted by proprietor Pat (Wendy Hiller), and seeking a guest we’ve not yet met, in Separate Tables, 1958.
Separate Tables (1958) - Propulsive Powers Of Irish Whiskey Sybil, her mother and Lady Matheson (Debora Herr, Gladys Cooper, Cathleen Nesbitt) react to the first appearance of Burt Lancaster as rogue-ish John Malcolm, whom we quickly learn has important relations with the hotel owner Pat (Wendy Hiller), in Separate Tables, 1958.
I Know Where I'm Going (1945) - Is That Gaelic You're Talking? Joan (Wendy Hiller) meets Torquil (Roger Livesey), consults her schedule and gets a quick immersion in the culture of the Scottish Hebrides in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's I Know Where I'm Going, 1945.
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.
Separate Tables (1958) - Most Praiseworthy Effort At their hotel on the southern coast of England, David Niven as Major Pollock, flaws in his persona beginning to show, with Rod Taylor as student Charles, Wendy Hiller as hotelier Pat, Felix Aylmer as Fowler, in Separate Tables, 1958, from Terence Rattigan's play and screenplay, directed by Delbert Mann.
Something Of Value (1957) - They Are Brothers Exposition in opening scenes, introducing Kenyan settler McKenzie (Walter Fitzgerald), his daughter (Wendy Hiller) and her husband (Robert Beatty), then principals Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier, in Richard Brooks' film from the Robert Ruark novel, Something Of Value, 1957.
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.

Trailer

Family

Frank Watkin Hiller
Father
Marie Elizabeth Hiller
Mother

Companions

Ronald Gow
Husband
Playwright. Married from 1937 until his death on April 26, 1993 in London at age 95; author of the play "Love on the Dole" (adapted from Walter Greenwood's novel), which brought Hiller fame and the attention of George Bernard Shaw.

Bibliography

Notes

"George Bernard Shaw wasn't like an old man. He was very upright: very elegant, beautifully groomed, very fresh-looking. He had sparkling blue eyes with a very wicked look in them. He flirted with me disgracefully. I fell deeply in love with him. Looking back, if only I'd been a little less diffident . . . He really did hold out the hand of friendship. He insisted I play Eliza. I didn't know.""At that age, you take things so much for granted. It was just as though every girl had an offer from GBS. Thinking back, I don't know how I had the courage. That's one of the unkindest things nature does; it takes away your courage." --Wendy Hiller quoted in the London Times, June 29, 1992

She once sent Shaw some socks and gloves while she was on stage in the United States. He acknowledged the gift with a postcard, writing: "The postman knocks/with gloves and socks/from Wendy Hiller/what a thriller."