The Info List - Wendy Hiller

Wendy Margaret Hiller, DBE (15 August 1912 – 14 May 2003) was an English film and stage actress, who enjoyed a varied acting career that spanned nearly sixty years. The writer Joel Hirschorn, in his 1984 compilation Rating the Movie Stars, described her as "a no-nonsense actress who literally took command of the screen whenever she appeared on film". Despite many notable film performances, she chose to remain primarily a stage actress. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
for her performance in Separate Tables (1958).[1]


1 Early years 2 Career

2.1 Stage 2.2 Film career 2.3 Television career 2.4 Personal life

3 Filmography

3.1 Film 3.2 Television

4 References 5 External links

Early years[edit] Born in Bramhall, Cheshire, the daughter of Frank Watkin Hiller, a Manchester
cotton manufacturer, and Marie Stone, Hiller began her professional career as an actress in repertory at Manchester
in the early 1930s. She first found success as slum dweller Sally Hardcastle in the stage version of Love on the Dole in 1934. The play was an enormous success and toured the regional stages of Britain. This play saw her West End debut in 1935 at the Garrick Theatre. She married the play's author Ronald Gow, fifteen years her senior, in 1937 (the same year as she made her film debut in Lancashire Luck, scripted by Gow). Career[edit] Stage[edit] The huge popularity of Love on the Dole took the production to New York in 1936, where her performance attracted the attention of George Bernard Shaw. Shaw recognised a spirited radiance in the young actress, which was ideally suited for playing his heroines. Shaw cast her in several of his plays, including Saint Joan, Pygmalion and Major Barbara and his influence on her early career is clearly apparent. She was reputed to be Shaw's favourite actress of the time. Unlike other stage actresses of her generation, she did relatively little Shakespeare, preferring the more modern dramatists such as Henrik Ibsen and new plays adapted from the novels of Henry James
Henry James
and Thomas Hardy among others. In the course of her stage career, Hiller won popular and critical acclaim in both London and New York. She excelled at rather plain but strong willed characters. After touring Britain as Viola in Twelfth Night (1943) she returned to the West End to be directed by John Gielgud as Sister Joanna in The Cradle Song (Apollo, 1944). The string of notable successes continued as Princess Charlotte in The First Gentleman (Savoy, 1945) opposite Robert Morley
Robert Morley
as the Prince Regent, Pegeen in Playboy of the Western World
Playboy of the Western World
(Bristol Old Vic, 1946) and Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
(Bristol Old Vic, 1946, transferring to the Piccadilly Theatre
Piccadilly Theatre
in the West End in 1947), which was adapted for the stage by her husband. In 1947, Hiller originated the role of Catherine Sloper, the painfully shy, vulnerable spinster in The Heiress on Broadway. The play, based on the Henry James
Henry James
novel Washington Square, also featured Basil Rathbone as her emotionally abusive father. The production enjoyed a year-long run at the Biltmore Theatre in New York and would prove to be her greatest triumph on Broadway. On returning to London, Hiller again played the role in the West End production in 1950. Her stage work remained a priority and continued with Ann Veronica (Piccadilly, 1949), which was adapted by Gow from the novel by H. G. Wells[2] with his wife in the leading role. She did a two-year run in N. C. Hunter's Waters of the Moon (Haymarket, 1951–52), alongside Sybil Thorndike
Sybil Thorndike
and Edith Evans. A season at the Old Vic
Old Vic
in 1955–56 produced a notable performance as Portia in Julius Caesar among others. Other stage work at this time included The Night of the Ball (New Theatre, 1955), the new Robert Bolt play Flowering Cherry (Haymarket, 1958, Broadway, 1959), Toys in the Attic (Piccadilly, 1960), The Wings of the Dove
The Wings of the Dove
(Lyric, 1963), A Measure of Cruelty (Birmingham Repertory, 1965), A Present for the Past (Edinburgh, 1966), The Sacred Flame (Duke of York's, 1967) with Gladys Cooper, The Battle of Shrivings (Lyric, 1970) with John Gielgud
John Gielgud
and Lies (Albery, 1975). In 1957, Hiller returned to New York to star as Josie Hogan in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, a performance which gained her a Tony Award
Tony Award
nomination as Best Dramatic Actress. The production also featured Cyril Cusack
Cyril Cusack
and Franchot Tone. Her final appearance on Broadway was as Miss Tina in the 1962 production of Michael Redgrave's adaptation of The Aspern Papers, from the Henry James
Henry James
novella. As she matured, she demonstrated a strong affinity for the plays of Henrik Ibsen, as Irene in When We Dead Awaken
When We Dead Awaken
(Cambridge, 1968), as Mrs. Alving in Ghosts (Edinburgh, 1972), Aase in Peer Gynt
Peer Gynt
(BBC, 1972) and as Gunhild in John Gabriel Borkman
John Gabriel Borkman
(National Theatre Company, Old Vic, 1975), in which she appeared with Ralph Richardson
Ralph Richardson
and Peggy Ashcroft. Later West End successes such as Queen Mary in Crown Matrimonial (Haymarket, 1972) proved she was not limited to playing dejected, emotionally deprived women. She later revisited some earlier plays playing older characters, as in West End revivals of Waters of the Moon (Chichester, 1977, Haymarket, 1978) with Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman
and The Aspern Papers
The Aspern Papers
(Haymarket, 1984) with Vanessa Redgrave. She was scheduled to return to the American stage in a 1982 revival of Anastasia with Natalie Wood, until Wood's death just weeks before rehearsals. Hiller made her final West End performance in the title role in Driving Miss Daisy (Apollo, 1988). Film career[edit]

Scott Sunderland, Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
in Pygmalion (1938)

At Shaw's insistence, she starred as Eliza Doolittle
Eliza Doolittle
in the film Pygmalion (1938) with Leslie Howard as Professor Higgins. This performance earned Hiller her first Oscar nomination, a first for a British actress in a British film, and became one of her best remembered roles. She was also the first actress to utter the word "bloody" in a British film, when Eliza utters the line "Not bloody likely, I'm going in a taxi!".

Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
in Pygmalion (1938)

She followed up this success with another Shaw adaptation, Major Barbara (1941) with Rex Harrison
Rex Harrison
and Robert Morley. Powell and Pressburger signed her for The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
(1943), but her second pregnancy led to Deborah Kerr
Deborah Kerr
being cast instead. Determined to work with Hiller, the film makers later cast her with Roger Livesey
Roger Livesey
again for I Know Where I'm Going!
I Know Where I'm Going!
(1945), another classic of British cinema. Despite her early film success and offers from Hollywood, she returned to the stage full-time after 1945 and only occasionally accepted film roles. With her return to film in the 1950s, she portrayed an abused colonial wife in Carol Reed's Outcast of the Islands
Outcast of the Islands
(1952), but had already transitioned into mature, supporting roles with Sailor of the King (1953) and a memorable victim of the Mau Mau
Mau Mau
uprising in Something of Value
Something of Value
(1957). She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1959 for the film Separate Tables (1958), as a lonely hotel manageress and mistress of Burt Lancaster. She remained uncompromising in her indifference to film stardom, as evidenced by her surprising reaction to her Oscar win: "Never mind the honour, cold hard cash is what it means to me."[3] She received a BAFTA
nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the domineering, possessive mother in Sons and Lovers (1960).[4] She reprised her London stage role in the southern gothic Toys in the Attic (1963), which earned her a Golden Globe
Golden Globe
nomination as the elder spinster sister in a film which also starred Dean Martin
Dean Martin
and Geraldine Page.[5] She received a third Oscar nomination for her performance as the simple, unrefined, but dignified Lady Alice More, opposite Paul Scofield as Thomas More, in A Man for All Seasons (1966). Her role as the grand Russian princess in a huge commercial success, Murder on the Orient Express (1974), won her international acclaim and the Evening Standard British Film Award as Best Actress. Other notable roles included a Jewish refugee fleeing Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
with her dying husband in Voyage of the Damned
Voyage of the Damned
(1976), the formidable London Hospital matron in The Elephant Man (1980) and Maggie Smith’s emotionally cold and demanding aunt in The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
(1987). Television career[edit] Hiller made numerous television appearances, in both Britain and the United States. In the 1950s and 1960s, she performed in episodes of American drama series such as Studio One and Alfred Hitchcock Presents among others. In 1965, she starred in an episode of the acclaimed dramatic series Profiles in Courage (1965), in which she played Anne Hutchinson, a free-thinking woman charged with heresy in Colonial America. In Britain, during the 1960s, she appeared in the drama series Play of the Month, as well as on the children's TV programme Jackanory, reading the stories of Alison Uttley. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, she appeared in many television films including a memorable Duchess of York in the BBC Television Shakespeare production of Richard II (1978), the irascible Edwardian Oxford academic in Miss Morrison's Ghosts (1981) and the BBC dramatisations of Julian Gloag's Only Yesterday (1986) and the Vita Sackville-West novel All Passion Spent (1986), in which she was the quietly defiant Lady Slane. This performance earned her a BAFTA nomination as Best Actress. Her last appearance, before retiring from acting, was the title role in The Countess Alice (1992), a BBC/WGBH-Boston television film with Zoë Wanamaker. Personal life[edit]

Hiller in later years

In the early 1940s, Hiller and husband Ronald Gow moved to Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, where they brought up two children, Ann (1939–2006) and Anthony (b. 1942), and lived together in the house called "Spindles" (now demolished). Ronald Gow died in 1993, but Hiller continued living at their home until her death a decade later. When not performing on stage or screen, she lived a completely private domestic life, insisting on being referred to as Mrs. Gow rather than by her stage name. Regarded as one of Britain's great dramatic talents, she was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the British Empire
(OBE) in 1971 and raised to Dame
Commander (DBE) in 1975. In 1984, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester. In 1996, Hiller was honoured by the London Film Critics Circle with the Dilys Powell
Dilys Powell
Award for excellence in British film. Her style was disciplined and unpretentious, and she disliked personal publicity. The writer Sheridan Morley described Hiller as being remarkable in her "extreme untheatricality until the house lights went down, whereupon she would deliver a performance of breathtaking reality and expertise."[6] Despite a busy professional career, throughout her life she continually took an active interest in aspiring young actors by supporting local amateur drama societies,[7] as well as being the president of the Chiltern Shakespeare Company
Chiltern Shakespeare Company
until her death. Chronic ill health necessitated her eventual retirement from acting in 1992. She spent the last decade of her life in quiet retirement at her home in Beaconsfield, where she died of natural causes at the age of 90.[8] Filmography[edit] Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes

1937 Lancashire Luck Betty Lovejoy

1938 Pygmalion Eliza Doolittle Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress

1941 Major Barbara Major Barbara

1945 I Know Where I'm Going! Joan Webster

1952 Outcast of the Islands Mrs. Almayer

1953 Sailor of the King Lucinda Bentley also known as Single-Handed

1957 Something of Value Elizabeth McKenzie Newton

How to Murder a Rich Uncle Edith Clitterburn

1958 Separate Tables Pat Cooper Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated — Golden Globe
Golden Globe
Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Nominated — Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance

1960 Sons and Lovers Gertrude Morel Nominated — BAFTA
Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role

1963 Toys in the Attic Anna Berniers Nominated — Golden Globe
Golden Globe
Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture

1966 Man for All Seasons, AA Man for All Seasons Alice More Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated — Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance

1974 Murder on the Orient Express Princess Dragomiroff Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress

1976 Voyage of the Damned Rebecca Weiler

1979 Cat and the Canary, TheThe Cat and the Canary Allison Crosby

1980 Elephant Man, TheThe Elephant Man Mothershead

1981 Miss Morrison's Ghosts Miss Elizabeth Morrison

1982 Making Love Winnie Bates

1983 Attracta Attracta

1987 Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, TheThe Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne Aunt D'Arcy

1992 Countess Alice, TheThe Countess Alice Countess Alice von Holzendorf (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes

1969 David Copperfield Mrs. Micawber

1969 The Growing Summer Aunt Dymphna Silver medal at 1969 Venice Film Festival

1972 Clochemerle Justine Putet

1978 Richard II Duchess of York

1979 Edward the Conqueror - Tales of the unexpected, Roald Dahl Louisa

1980 Curse of King Tut's Tomb, TheThe Curse of King Tut's Tomb Princess Vilma

1981 Play for Today Lady Carlion "Country"

1982 Kingfisher, TheThe Kingfisher Evelyn

1982 Witness for the Prosecution Janet Mackenzie

1985 Importance of Being Earnest, TheThe Importance of Being Earnest Lady Bracknell

1985 Death of the Heart, TheThe Death of the Heart Matchett

1986 Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy Princess Victoria as Dame
Wendy Hiller

1986 Only Yesterday May Darley from the novel by Julian Gloag

1986 All Passion Spent Lady Slane Nominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actress

1987 Anne of Avonlea Mrs. Harris as Dame
Wendy Hiller

1988 Taste for Death, AA Taste for Death Lady Ursula Berowne

1989 Ending Up Adela

1991 The Best of Friends Laurentia McLachlan


^ "Awards for Separate Tables". Turner Classic Movies.  ^ " Ronald Gow (1897-1993)", doollee.com Gow is also co-credited with the book for the 1969 musical. ^ "That Honor, That Cash". Time. 20 April 1959. (Subscription required (help)).  ^ " BAFTA
Awards". awards.bafta.org.  ^ "Wendy Hiller". www.goldenglobes.com.  ^ " Dame
Wendy Hiller". The Daily Telegraph. 16 May 2003.  ^ The Young Theatre Archive: The Patrons of The Young Theatre. Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. ^ "Wendy Hiller". Find A Grave. 16 May 2003. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wendy Hiller.

Performances listed in the Theatre Archive University of Bristol 109920 Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
at the Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
on IMDb Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
at the TCM Movie Database Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
at the British Film Institute's Screenonline

v t e

Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress


Gale Sondergaard
Gale Sondergaard
(1936) Alice Brady
Alice Brady
(1937) Fay Bainter
Fay Bainter
(1938) Hattie McDaniel
Hattie McDaniel
(1939) Jane Darwell
Jane Darwell
(1940) Mary Astor
Mary Astor
(1941) Teresa Wright
Teresa Wright
(1942) Katina Paxinou
Katina Paxinou
(1943) Ethel Barrymore
Ethel Barrymore
(1944) Anne Revere
Anne Revere
(1945) Anne Baxter
Anne Baxter
(1946) Celeste Holm
Celeste Holm
(1947) Claire Trevor
Claire Trevor
(1948) Mercedes McCambridge
Mercedes McCambridge
(1949) Josephine Hull (1950)


Kim Hunter
Kim Hunter
(1951) Gloria Grahame
Gloria Grahame
(1952) Donna Reed
Donna Reed
(1953) Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint
(1954) Jo Van Fleet
Jo Van Fleet
(1955) Dorothy Malone
Dorothy Malone
(1956) Miyoshi Umeki
Miyoshi Umeki
(1957) Wendy Hiller
Wendy Hiller
(1958) Shelley Winters
Shelley Winters
(1959) Shirley Jones
Shirley Jones
(1960) Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno
(1961) Patty Duke
Patty Duke
(1962) Margaret Rutherford
Margaret Rutherford
(1963) Lila Kedrova
Lila Kedrova
(1964) Shelley Winters
Shelley Winters
(1965) Sandy Dennis (1966) Estelle Parsons
Estelle Parsons
(1967) Ruth Gordon
Ruth Gordon
(1968) Goldie Hawn
Goldie Hawn
(1969) Helen Hayes
Helen Hayes
(1970) Cloris Leachman
Cloris Leachman
(1971) Eileen Heckart (1972) Tatum O'Neal
Tatum O'Neal
(1973) Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman
(1974) Lee Grant
Lee Grant


Beatrice Straight (1976) Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave
(1977) Maggie Smith
Maggie Smith
(1978) Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep
(1979) Mary Steenburgen
Mary Steenburgen
(1980) Maureen Stapleton
Maureen Stapleton
(1981) Jessica Lange
Jessica Lange
(1982) Linda Hunt
Linda Hunt
(1983) Peggy Ashcroft
Peggy Ashcroft
(1984) Anjelica Huston
Anjelica Huston
(1985) Dianne Wiest
Dianne Wiest
(1986) Olympia Dukakis
Olympia Dukakis
(1987) Geena Davis
Geena Davis
(1988) Brenda Fricker
Brenda Fricker
(1989) Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg
(1990) Mercedes Ruehl
Mercedes Ruehl
(1991) Marisa Tomei
Marisa Tomei
(1992) Anna Paquin
Anna Paquin
(1993) Dianne Wiest
Dianne Wiest
(1994) Mira Sorvino
Mira Sorvino
(1995) Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
(1996) Kim Basinger
Kim Basinger
(1997) Judi Dench
Judi Dench
(1998) Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie
(1999) Marcia Gay Harden
Marcia Gay Harden


Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Connelly
(2001) Catherine Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones
(2002) Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger
(2003) Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett
(2004) Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz
(2005) Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson
(2006) Tilda Swinton
Tilda Swinton
(2007) Penélope Cruz
Penélope Cruz
(2008) Mo'Nique
(2009) Melissa Leo
Melissa Leo
(2010) Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer
(2011) Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway
(2012) Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong'o
(2013) Patricia Arquette
Patricia Arquette
(2014) Alicia Vikander
Alicia Vikander
(2015) Viola Davis
Viola Davis
(2016) Allison Janney
Allison Janney

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 87985940 LCCN: n83217424 ISNI: 0000 0001 2142 6244 GND: 139037721 SUDOC: 059422378 BNF: cb14052959c (data) BNE: XX976712 SN