The Info List - Virginia McKenna

Virginia Anne McKenna[1] OBE (born 7 June 1931) is a British stage and screen actress, author and wildlife campaigner. She is best known for the films A Town Like Alice (1958), Carve Her Name with Pride
Carve Her Name with Pride
(1958) and Born Free
Born Free
(1966), and for her long collaboration with husband Bill Travers.


1 Early life 2 Career

2.1 Stardom 2.2 Born Free 2.3 Later career

3 Other interests 4 Filmography 5 Non-fiction films 6 Bibliography 7 Discography 8 References 9 External links

Early life[edit] McKenna was born in Marylebone
to a theatrical family and was educated at Heron's Ghyll School, a former independent boarding school near the market town of Horsham
in Sussex. She spent six years in South Africa before returning to the School at the age of fourteen, after which she attended the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London.[2] Career[edit] Aged 19, McKenna spent six months at Dundee Repertory Theatre. She worked on stage in London's West End theatre, making her debut in Penny for a Song. She attracted attention on TV appearing in Winter's Tale with John Gielgud
John Gielgud
and Shout Aloud Salvation.[3][4] McKenna's first film was The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1952),followed by a comedy, Father's Doing Fine
Father's Doing Fine
(1952). She had a small role in the popular war film The Cruel Sea (1953) and a better part in the low budget comedy The Oracle (1953). She received excellent reviews for her stage performance in The River Line.[4] From 1954 to 1955 she was a member of the Old Vic
Old Vic
theatre company, appearing in Henry IV and Richard II[5], and was married for a few months in 1954 to bisexual actor Denholm Elliott, whom she met on the set of The Cruel Sea. Their marriage ended, owing to his affairs with men.[6] (Her second husband was actor Bill Travers, with whom she had four children and to whom she was married until his death in 1994.) McKenna returned to films with Simba (1955), a drama about the Mau Mau, playing Dirk Bogarde's love interest. Rank signed her to a long term contract[7] and director Brian Desmond Hurst
Brian Desmond Hurst
said "She has a terrific future, properly handled. She has all the qualities of a young Bergman and a young Katharine Hepburn.[8] McKenna was also in The Ship That Died of Shame
The Ship That Died of Shame
(1955). Stardom[edit] McKenna was given the plum lead role in the war time drama A Town Like Alice (1956), opposite Peter Finch. The movie was a big hit at the box office and McKenna won the BAFTA Award
for Best Actress for her performance.[9] Exhibitors voted her the fourth most popular British star.[10] Travers and McKenna received an offer to go to Hollywood to appear in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957). Travers played Robert Browning and McKenna had the support part of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sister. The movie flopped at the box office. Travers and McKenna then co-starred in the comedy The Smallest Show on Earth (1957) made back in Britain. McKenna had another hit with Carve Her Name with Pride
Carve Her Name with Pride
(1958), playing Second World War
Second World War
SOE agent Violette Szabo. She was nominated for another BAFTA Award
and was voted the fifth most popular British star of 1958 (and the ninth most popular regardless of nationality). She and Travers were reunited in Passionate Summer (1959) then she had a support part in MGM's The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959). McKenna and Travers were in Two Living, One Dead
Two Living, One Dead
(1961), shot in Sweden. She was in an adaptation of A Passage to India
A Passage to India
for the BBC in 1965. Born Free[edit] McKenna is best remembered for her 1966 role as Joy Adamson
Joy Adamson
in the true-life film Born Free
Born Free
for which she received a nomination for a Golden Globe. It was not only a huge success at the box office but a life changing experience for her and Bill Travers
Bill Travers
who co-starred with her, portraying conservationist George Adamson. The experience led them to become active supporters for wild animal rights as well as the protection of their natural habitat. McKenna and Travers starred in another animal themed story, Ring of Bright Water (1969), but it failed to match Born Free's success. McKenna appeared in An Elephant Called Slowly, a travelogue of what it was like years ago in Kenya. The film features her close friend conservationist George Adamson and also elephants Eleanor (brought up by conservationist Daphne Sheldrick) and young Pole Pole. The subsequent premature death of Pole Pole in London Zoo
London Zoo
was to lead to McKenna and her husband launching the Zoo Check Campaign in 1984[11] and to their establishing the " Born Free
Born Free
Foundation" in 1991. In 1984 McKenna was involved with a protest against the poor conditions at Southampton Zoo which was closed a year later.[12] Later career[edit] McKenna occasionally acted in films, notably Waterloo (1970), Swallows and Amazons (1974), The Gathering Storm (1974), and Beauty and the Beast (1976). On the stage, in 1979 she won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a British musical for her performance opposite Yul Brynner
Yul Brynner
in The King and I. Over the years she appeared in more films but was also very active with television roles and on stage where she continues to make occasional appearances. McKenna has also been responsible for helping create and furnish the Gavin Maxwell
Gavin Maxwell
Museum[13] on Eilean Bàn, the last island home of Maxwell, an author and naturalist, most famous for his book Ring of Bright Water. McKenna and husband Bill Travers
Bill Travers
starred in the 1969 film adaptation of the book. Other interests[edit] In 2004, McKenna was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services to wildlife and to the arts. Her autobiography, The Life in My Years, was published by Oberon Books in March 2009. In 1975 she released an album of twelve songs called Two Faces of Love, which included two of her own compositions and a sung version of the poem "The Life That I Have" from the film Carve Her Name with Pride. The record was released on the Gold Star label with two line drawings of McKenna by her sister-in-law Linden Travers, but these were replaced by a photograph when the album was reissued on the Rim label in 1979. Her audiobook work includes The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett,[14] and narration of The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright. Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes

1952 Father's Doing Fine Catherine

The Second Mrs. Tanqueray Ellean Tanqueray

1953 The Cruel Sea Julie Hallam

The Oracle Shelagh

1955 Simba Mary Crawford

The Ship That Died of Shame Helen Randall

1956 A Town Like Alice Jean Paget BAFTA Award
for Best British Actress

1957 The Barretts of Wimpole Street Henrietta Barrett

The Smallest Show on Earth Jean Spenser

1958 Carve Her Name with Pride Violette Szabo Nominated – BAFTA Award
for Best British Actress

Passionate Summer Judy Waring aka Storm Over Jamaica

1959 The Wreck of the Mary Deare Janet Taggart

1961 Two Living, One Dead Helen Berger

1965 A Passage to India Adela Quested (TV)

1966 Born Free Joy Adamson Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama

1969 Ring of Bright Water Mary MacKenzie

An Elephant Called Slowly Ginny

1970 Waterloo Duchess of Richmond

1974 Swallows and Amazons Mother

The Gathering Storm Clemmie Churchill (TV)

1975 Beauty and the Beast Lucy (TV)

1977 Holocaust 2000 Eva Caine

The Disappearance Catherine

1979 Julius Caesar Portia (BBC Television Shakespeare)

1982 Blood Link Woman in Ballroom

1992 The Camomile Lawn Older Polly (TV miniseries)

1994 Staggered Flora

1996 September Violet (TV)

1998 Sliding Doors James's Mother

2005 A Murder is Announced Belle Goedler

2010 Love/Loss Mary

2012 Leona Calderon Elderly British Lady [15]

2016 Golden Years Martha Goode

Ethel & Ernest[16] Lady of the House (voice)

Non-fiction films[edit]

The Lions are Free is the real life continuation of Born Free. This film tells about what happened to the lions that were in the film Born Free. Bill Travers, who had starred with McKenna, wrote, produced and directed the film, along with James Hill, the director of Born Free. Travers and Hill went to a remote area in Kenya
to visit with the noted conservationist George Adamson. The film has scenes of George and Bill interacting with lions who are living free. Christian: The Lion at World's End is a documentary (with a re-enaction sequence at the beginning) about the now-famous lion's journey from a London store to George Adamson's reserve in Kenya. Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
and her husband, Bill Travers, had a chance meeting with Christian and his owners Ace Bourke and John Rendall. Through McKenna and Travers' connection with George Adamson, the lion was successfully brought to Africa and taught how to fend for himself.


On Playing With Lions, (with Bill Travers) Collins, (1966) ISBN 0-00-241607-7[17] Some of My Friends Have Tails, Collins (1971) ISBN 0-00-262752-3 Into the Blue, Aquarian Press, (1992) ISBN 1-85538-254-7 Journey to Freedom, (with help from Will Travers; illustrated by Nick Mountain) Templar (1997) ISBN 1-898784-73-6.


Two Faces of Love LP, Gold Star 15-030, 1975. Reissued as Rim RIM 5001, 1979. The Love That I Have (Violette)/Homage to Renoir 45 rpm single, Sovereign SOV 125, 1974. The Love That I Have/Send in the Clowns 45 rpm single, RIM 002, 1979.


^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 14 March 2011.  ^ V&A, Theatre and Performance Special
Collections, Elsie Fogerty Archive, THM/324 ^ "ON STAGE AND SCREEN". The Advertiser. 95, (29,489). South Australia. 18 April 1953. p. 7. Retrieved 25 September 2017.  ^ a b "VIRGINIA McKENNA CAUSES SENSATION". Daily Mercury. 86, (275). Queensland, Australia. 17 November 1952. p. 14. Retrieved 25 September 2017.  ^ "ENGLISH OTERS GOBBLE AT THEIR FIRST T.V. POLL". The Argus. Victoria, Australia. 7 May 1955. p. 13. Retrieved 25 September 2017.  ^ Thornton, Michael. "Virginia McKenna, her fiery marriage and the husband who cheated on her with a Moroccan gigolo". Ghana Nation. Retrieved 23 April 2013.  ^ "Filin Fan Fare". The Australian Women's Weekly. 23, (4). Australia, Australia. 22 June 1955. p. 31. Retrieved 25 September 2017.  ^ "Jack Buchanan may begin a new career". The Mail. 44, (2,208). South Australia. 2 October 1954. p. 68. Retrieved 25 September 2017.  ^ "BRITISH FILMS MADE MOST MONEY: BOX-OFFICE SURVEY" The Manchester Guardian 28 December 1956: 3 ^ The Most Popular Film Star In Britain. The Times (London, England), Friday, 7 December 1956; pg. 3 ^ Gilchrist, Roderick. "Virginia McKenna: freedom's deadly price". The Telegraph, 13 January 2011. Retrieved 9/5/12 at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/8257102/Virginia-McKenna-freedoms-deadly-price.html ^ Gale, Jez. "The beasts that brought Southampton to life". Southern Daily Echo. Retrieved 14 July 2015.  ^ Eilean Bàn Trust and Bright Water Visitor Centre ^ silksoundbooks: "The Secret Garden" (2007) ^ Leona Calderon ^ https://ethelandernestmovie.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/voice-cast-announced/ ^ Books by or about George and Joy Adamson

External links[edit]

Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
on IMDb Born Free
Born Free
Foundation Photos from Virginia Mckenna and the Lions from the film Born Free. Eilean Bàn home to the Gavin Maxwell
Gavin Maxwell
museum, author of Ring of Bright Water 2004 Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
Brief profile

v t e

for Best Actress in a Leading Role


Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh
British, Simone Signoret
Simone Signoret
Foreign (1952) Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn
British, Leslie Caron
Leslie Caron
Foreign (1953) Yvonne Mitchell
Yvonne Mitchell
British, Cornell Borchers
Cornell Borchers
Foreign (1954) Katie Johnson British, Betsy Blair
Betsy Blair
Foreign (1955) Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
British, Anna Magnani
Anna Magnani
Foreign (1956) Heather Sears
Heather Sears
British, Simone Signoret
Simone Signoret
Foreign (1957) Irene Worth
Irene Worth
British, Simone Signoret
Simone Signoret
Foreign (1958) Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn
British, Shirley MacLaine
Shirley MacLaine
Foreign (1959) Rachel Roberts British, Shirley MacLaine
Shirley MacLaine
Foreign (1960) Dora Bryan
Dora Bryan
British, Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren
Foreign (1961) Leslie Caron
Leslie Caron
British, Anne Bancroft
Anne Bancroft
Foreign (1962) Rachel Roberts British, Patricia Neal
Patricia Neal
Foreign (1963) Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn
British, Anne Bancroft
Anne Bancroft
Foreign (1964) Julie Christie
Julie Christie
British, Patricia Neal
Patricia Neal
Foreign (1965) Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor
British, Jeanne Moreau
Jeanne Moreau
Foreign (1966) Edith Evans
Edith Evans
British, Anouk Aimée
Anouk Aimée
Foreign (1967)


Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn
(1968) Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
(1969) Katharine Ross
Katharine Ross
(1970) Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson
(1971) Liza Minnelli
Liza Minnelli
(1972) Stéphane Audran (1973) Joanne Woodward
Joanne Woodward
(1974) Ellen Burstyn
Ellen Burstyn
(1975) Louise Fletcher
Louise Fletcher
(1976) Diane Keaton
Diane Keaton
(1977) Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda
(1978) Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda
(1979) Judy Davis
Judy Davis
(1980) Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep
(1981) Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn
(1982) Julie Walters
Julie Walters
(1983) Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
(1984) Peggy Ashcroft
Peggy Ashcroft
(1985) Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
(1986) Anne Bancroft
Anne Bancroft
(1987) Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
(1988) Pauline Collins
Pauline Collins
(1989) Jessica Tandy
Jessica Tandy
(1990) Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster
(1991) Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson
(1992) Holly Hunter
Holly Hunter
(1993) Susan Sarandon
Susan Sarandon
(1994) Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson
(1995) Brenda Blethyn
Brenda Blethyn
(1996) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(1997) Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett
(1998) Annette Bening
Annette Bening
(1999) Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts
(2000) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(2001) Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman
(2002) Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson
(2003) Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton
(2004) Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon
(2005) Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
(2006) Marion Cotillard
Marion Cotillard
(2007) Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet
(2008) Carey Mulligan
Carey Mulligan
(2009) Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman
(2010) Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep
(2011) Emmanuelle Riva
Emmanuelle Riva
(2012) Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett
(2013) Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore
(2014) Brie Larson
Brie Larson
(2015) Emma Stone
Emma Stone
(2016) Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand

v t e

BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress

Googie Withers
Googie Withers
(1955) Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
(1956) Rosalie Crutchley
Rosalie Crutchley
(1957) Gwen Watford
Gwen Watford
(1959) Catherine Lacey (1960) Billie Whitelaw
Billie Whitelaw
(1961) Ruth Dunning (1962) Brenda Bruce
Brenda Bruce
(1963) Vivien Merchant (1964) Katharine Blake (1965) Gwen Watford
Gwen Watford
(1966) Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
(1967) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(1968) Wendy Craig (1969) Margaret Tyzack
Margaret Tyzack
(1970) Annette Crosbie (1971) Patricia Hayes
Patricia Hayes
(1972) Billie Whitelaw
Billie Whitelaw
(1973) Celia Johnson
Celia Johnson
(1974) Lee Remick
Lee Remick
(1975) Annette Crosbie (1976) Siân Phillips
Siân Phillips
(1977) Penelope Keith (1978) Francesca Annis
Francesca Annis
(1979) Cheryl Campbell (1980) Peggy Ashcroft
Peggy Ashcroft
(1981) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(1982) Beryl Reid
Beryl Reid
(1983) Coral Browne (1984) Peggy Ashcroft
Peggy Ashcroft
(1985) Claire Bloom
Claire Bloom
(1986) Anna Massey
Anna Massey
(1987) Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson
(1988) Thora Hird
Thora Hird
(1989) Diana Rigg
Diana Rigg
(1990) Geraldine McEwan (1991) Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
(1992) Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
(1993) Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren
(1994) Juliet Aubrey (1995) Jennifer Ehle
Jennifer Ehle
(1996) Gina McKee (1997) Daniela Nardini (1998) Thora Hird
Thora Hird
(1999) Thora Hird
Thora Hird
(2000) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(2001) Julie Walters
Julie Walters
(2002) Julie Walters
Julie Walters
(2003) Julie Walters
Julie Walters
(2004) Anamaria Marinca (2005) Anna Maxwell Martin (2006) Victoria Wood
Victoria Wood
(2007) Eileen Atkins (2008) Anna Maxwell Martin (2009) Julie Walters
Julie Walters
(2010) Vicky McClure
Vicky McClure
(2011) Emily Watson
Emily Watson
(2012) Sheridan Smith
Sheridan Smith
(2013) Olivia Colman
Olivia Colman
(2014) Georgina Campbell (2015) Suranne Jones (2016) Sarah Lancashire
Sarah Lancashire

v t e

Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical

Virginia McKenna
Virginia McKenna
(1979) Gemma Craven (1980) Carlin Glynn (1981) Julia McKenzie
Julia McKenzie
(1982) Barbara Dickson (1983) Natalia Makarova
Natalia Makarova
(1984) Patti LuPone
Patti LuPone
(1985) Lesley Mackie (1986) Nichola McAuliffe (1987) Patricia Routledge (1988) Lea Salonga
Lea Salonga
(1989/1990) Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton
(1991) Wilhelmenia Fernandez (1992) Joanna Riding (1993) Julia McKenzie
Julia McKenzie
(1994) Ruthie Henshall (1995) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(1996) Maria Friedman (1997) Ute Lemper
Ute Lemper
(1998) Sophie Thompson
Sophie Thompson
(1999) Barbara Dickson (2000) Samantha Spiro (2001) Martine McCutcheon (2002) Joanna Riding (2003) Maria Friedman (2004) Laura Michelle Kelly
Laura Michelle Kelly
(2005) Jane Krakowski
Jane Krakowski
(2006) Jenna Russell
Jenna Russell
(2007) Leanne Jones (2008) Elena Roger
Elena Roger
(2009) Samantha Spiro (2010) Sheridan Smith
Sheridan Smith
(2011) Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Sophia Kiely, and Eleanor Worthington Cox (2012) Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton
(2013) Zrinka Cvitešić
Zrinka Cvitešić
(2014) Katie Brayben (2015) Imelda Staunton
Imelda Staunton
(2016) Amber Riley
Amber Riley

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 111832402 LCCN: n81074385 ISNI: 0000 0001 1480 1333 GND: 139856730 SUDOC: 15870391X BNF: cb142054309 (data) MusicBrainz: 32017e9d-57d6-414a-a8aa-b6503e5d4988 SN