Eleanor Bron

Eleanor Bron (born 14 March 1938) is an English stage, film and television actress, and an author. She is best known for her role as Ahme in the Beatles film Help!

Eleanor Bron
Bron in 1968
Born (1938-03-14) 14 March 1938
Stanmore, Middlesex, England, UK
OccupationActress, author
Years active1959–present
Partner(s)Cedric Price; widowed

Early life and family

Bron was born in 1938 in Stanmore, Middlesex, into a Jewish family. Before her birth, her father Sydney had legally changed his name from Bronstein to Bron, in an effort to enhance his newly founded commercial enterprise, Bron's Orchestral Service.[1]

She attended the North London Collegiate School and then Newnham College, Cambridge. She later characterised her time at Newnham as "three years of unparalleled pampering and privilege".[2]

Bron was the partner of the architect Cedric Price for many years until his death in 2003; they had no children.[3] Her elder brother was the record producer Gerry Bron.[4]

An interview with Bron in 2015 revealed that she had voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election.[5]


Early work

Bron began her career in the Cambridge Footlights revue of 1959, entitled The Last Laugh, in which Peter Cook also appeared. The addition of a female performer to the Footlights was a departure; until that time it had been all-male, with female characters portrayed in drag.

Film appearances

Her film appearances include the role of Ahme in the Beatles' film Help! (1965); her name inspired Paul McCartney when he composed "Eleanor Rigby".[6] Other roles included the doctor who grounds Michael Caine's character in Alfie (1966), the unattainable Margaret Spencer in Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's film Bedazzled (1967), Hermione Roddice in Ken Russell's Women in Love (1969) and Sisters McFee and MacArthur in The National Health (1973).

She also appeared in the films Two for the Road (1967) alongside Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, and A Touch of Love (1969) with Sandy Dennis and Ian McKellen. She later appeared in the film adaptation of Black Beauty (1994) and A Little Princess (1995).

Television work

Bron's earliest work for television included appearances on David Frost's Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life,[3] My Father Knew Lloyd George and BBC-3, where she performed in sketches with John Fortune; they had already worked together at Peter Cook's Establishment Club. Later, her work included such programmes as Where Was Spring? (1969, also alongside Fortune) and After That, This (1975) – the one with the "egg" timer in the opening credits.

She collaborated with novelist and playwright Michael Frayn on the BBC programmes Beyond a Joke (1972)[7] and Making Faces (1975).[8][9]

She appeared in "Equal Opportunities", a 1982 episode of the BBC series Yes Minister, playing a senior civil servant in Jim Hacker's Department.[10] Hacker plans to promote her—ostensibly to strike a blow for women's rights—only to be sorely disappointed.[11]

In 1979 Bron appeared as Maggie Hartley, a stage actress accused of murder, in an episode of the popular British legal series Rumpole of the Bailey, entitled "Rumpole and the Show Folk", which starred Leo McKern in the title role. She also appeared as Mary in The Day Christ Died (1980), and played Mrs Barrymore in the 1983 TV movie of The Hound of the Baskervilles which starred Ian Richardson as Sherlock Holmes.

Bron appeared in a brief scene in the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who serial City of Death (1979), alongside John Cleese. The pair are art critics in Denise Rene's art gallery in Paris who are admiring the TARDIS (which they think to be a piece of art), when the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward) and Duggan (Tom Chadbon) rush into it and it dematerialises. Bron's character, believing this to be part of the work, states that it is "Exquisite, absolutely exquisite!"[12] Later she had a more substantial guest role in another Doctor Who television serial, Revelation of the Daleks (1985).[13] Bron also appeared in the Doctor Who radio drama Loups-Garoux (2001), in which she played the wealthy heiress Ileana de Santos.[14]

Bron played an art critic again in 1990, appearing in the BBC sketch comedy show French and Saunders in a parody of an Andy Warhol documentary.[15] Later she made frequent appearances in Jennifer Saunders' television series Absolutely Fabulous. Bron played, via flashback, the recurring character of Patsy's mother, a woman who "scattered bastard babies across Europe like a garden sprinkler". After giving birth, she would always say "Now take it away! And bring me another lover."[3] She had a supporting role in the 1994 BBC ghost story The Blue Boy, and also appeared in the BBC's biographical TV movie Saint-Ex in 1996.

Stage appearances

In 1975 she appeared in the West End musical The Card. Throughout the 1980s she appeared in Amnesty International's The Secret Policeman's Ball live benefit shows, working alongside Peter Cook and Rowan Atkinson, starting with the stage show that preceded those, Pleasure at Her Majesty's in 1976. In 2005 she appeared at the Liverpool Empire Theatre in the musical play Twopence to Cross the Mersey. She appeared in the role of an abbess in Howard Brenton's play In Extremis, staged at Shakespeare's Globe in 2007. She also appeared in the dramatised version of Pedro Almodóvar's film All About My Mother, which opened at the Old Vic theatre in the late summer of 2007.[3]

Bron also gave the premiere performance of The Yellow Cake Revue (1980),[16] a series of pieces for voice and piano written by Peter Maxwell Davies in protest against uranium mining in the Orkney Islands.[17]

Since 1985

In 1985 Bron was selected, for her authoritative tone, to become "the voice of BT" and can still be heard on various British telephone error messages such as "The number you have dialed has not been recognized, please check and try again".[3]

In 1998, she appeared as Frau Luther in episode 2 "Stuckart" of the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Fatherland, a novel by Robert Harris, along with Anton Lesser, Angeline Ball, Stratford Johns, Michael Byrne, William Scott Masson and Michael Culver

In 2001 and 2002, she appeared in the BBC radio comedy sketch show The Right Time, along with Graeme Garden, Paula Wilcox, Clive Swift and Neil Innes. Another notable radio appearance was in The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in the 2002 episode "The Madness of Colonel Warburton". In 2001 she played the great-grandmother in the seven-part ITV series Gypsy Girl, based on books by Elizabeth Arnold.[18]

In 2006 she narrated the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of the Craig Brown book 1966 and All That. Her other voice work includes a recorded tour of Sir John Soane's Museum in London, England.[19]

In April 2010 Bron, along with Ian McKellen and Brian Cox, appeared in a series of TV advertisements to support Age UK,[20] the charity recently formed from the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged. All three actors gave their time free of charge.

In June 2010 Bron guest-starred in Foyle's War in the episode "The Russian House".

She appeared in the long-running British TV series Midsomer Murders as Lady Isobel DeQuetteville in the episode "The Dark Rider", first aired on ITV1 on 1 February 2012.[21]

On 25 December 2013 Bron appeared on BBC One in an adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story The Tractate Middoth.

On 25 July 2014 she joined the cast of radio soap The Archers, playing the part of Carol Tregorran.[22]

In November-December 2019 Bron read Salley Vickers’s Grandmothers[23] in 10 parts on BBC Radio 4.[24]


Year Title Role Notes
1966AlfieThe Doctor
1967Two for the RoadCathy Manchester
1969A Touch of LoveLydia
1969Women in LoveHermione Roddice
1970Cucumber CastleLady Margerie PeeTV movie
1973The National HealthSister McFee / Sister Mary MacArthur
1980The Day Christ DiedMaryTV movie
1983The Hound of the BaskervillesMrs Barrymore
1985Turtle DiaryMiss Neap (Flora)
1987Little DorritMrs. Merdle
1994Deadly AdviceJudge
1995Black BeautyLady Wexmire
1995A Little PrincessMiss Minchin
1996Saint-ExMarie de Saint-Exupéry
2000The House of MirthMrs. Julia Peniston, Lily's Aunt
2002The Heart of MeMrs. Burkett / Madeleine and Dinah's mother
2004Love's BrotherSignora Carmellina
2004WimbledonAugusta Colt
2010StreetDance 3DMadame Fleurie
2012Hyde Park on HudsonDaisy's Aunt

Selected theatre performances


She is the author of several books, including Life and Other Punctures, a 1978 account of bicycling in France and Holland on a Moulton bicycle; and Cedric Price Retriever, an inventory of the contents of the bookshelves of her late partner, architect Cedric Price.


  • Bron, Eleanor; Fortune, John (1972). Is Your Marriage Really Necessary?. Methuen. ISBN 0-413-29450-1.
  • Bron, Eleanor (1978). Life and Other Punctures. A. Deutsch. ISBN 978-0-233-97008-0.
  • Bron, Eleanor (1985). The Pillow Book of Eleanor Bron, or, An Actress Despairs. Jonathan Cape Ltd. ISBN 0-224-02142-7.
  • Bron, Eleanor (1988). Eleonora Duse. Blackwell. ISBN 0-86068-569-1.
  • Bron, Eleanor (1997). Double Take. Orion. ISBN 1-85799-883-9.
  • Bron, Eleanor; Hardingham, Samantha (2006). Cedric Price Retriever. Institute of International Visual Art. ISBN 1-899846-42-5.

Cultural influences

She is mentioned in the Yo La Tengo song "Tom Courtenay": "...dreaming 'bout Eleanor Bron, in my room with the curtains drawn...".


  1. Westbrook, Caroline (3 April 2007). "Gerry Bron interview". Something Jewish. Retrieved 24 April 2007.
  2. Grumbach, Doris (4 November 1979). "Nonfiction in Brief". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  3. Franks, Alan (27 May 2010). "Eleanor Bron, the accidental actress". The Sunday Times. London, UK. Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  4. Epstein, Dmitry (November 2004). "Interview with Gerry Bron". YDMME.net. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  5. Higgins, Charlotte (23 November 2015). "Eleanor Bron: 'I didn't want to be like other little girls'". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  6. "Eleanor Rigby | The Beatles Bible". www.beatlesbible.com. Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  7. ""Beyond a Joke" (1972)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  8. Moseley, Merritt (2006). Understanding Michael Frayn. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. p. 18. ISBN 1-57003-627-6. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  9. ""Making Faces" (TV series 1975)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  10. "Yes, Minister: 'Equal Opportunities' episode summary". TV.com. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  11. "Yes, Minister: 'Equal Opportunities' episode recap". TV.com. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  12. "Doctor Who: City of Death". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  13. "Revelation of the Daleks". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  14. "Loups-Garoux". DoctorWhoReviews.co.uk. Archived from the original on 16 February 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  15. "Episode Guide > Season 3, Episode 5: Dangerous Liaisons". TV.com. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  16. Griffiths, Paul (1982). Peter Maxwell Davies. Robson. ISBN 0-86051-138-3. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  17. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. "Work Detail: The Yellow Cake Revue". MaxOpus.com. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  18. "Gypsy Girl (TV Series 2001)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  19. "Sir John Soane's Museum: Audio Tours". Sir John Soane's Museum. 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
  20. "Eleanor Bron TV advert". Age UK. 2010. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2010.
  21. "ITV Review: Midsomer Murders – The Dark Rider". Bestbritishtv.com. 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  22. "Eleanor Bron joins The Archers as Carol Tregorran". BBC. 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  23. Vickers, Salley (2019). Grandmothers. UK: Penguin Random House. ISBN 978-0-241-37141-1.
  24. "Grandmothers. Episode 1". Retrieved 7 December 2019.

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