Hermione Baddeley

Hermione Youlanda Ruby Clinton-Baddeley (13 November 1906 – 19 August 1986) was an English character actress of theatre, film and television. She typically played brash, vulgar characters, often referred to as "brassy" or "blowsy".[1][2] She found her milieu in revue, in which she played from the 1930s to the 1950s, co-starring several times with Hermione Gingold.

Hermione Baddeley
Baddeley at home by Allan Warren, 1970s
Hermione Youlanda Ruby Clinton-Baddeley

(1906-11-13)13 November 1906
Broseley, Shropshire, England, UK
Died19 August 1986(1986-08-19) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1927–1983
Spouse(s)David Pax Tennant (1928–1937; divorced); 2 children
J. H. Willis (1940–1946; divorced)
Children2, including Pauline Tennant

Baddeley was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Room at the Top (1959) and a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore in 1963. She portrayed Ellen the maid in the Disney film Mary Poppins. In 1975 she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series for her portrayal of Nell Naugatuck on the TV series Maude.

Early life

Baddeley was born in Broseley, Shropshire, to W.H. Clinton-Baddeley; Mother: Louise Bourdin. Her mother was French.[3] Baddeley was a descendant of British American Revolutionary War General Sir Henry Clinton. Her elder sister, Angela Baddeley, was also an actress. Her half-brother, William Baddeley, was a Church of England clergyman who became Rural Dean of Westminster.[4]


Baddeley was known for supporting performances in such films as Mary Poppins (as Ellen, the maidservant), The Belles of St Trinian's, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Passport to Pimlico, The Pickwick Papers, Tom Brown's Schooldays and A Christmas Carol, although she first began making films back in the 1920s. One of her more important roles was in Brighton Rock (1947), in which she played Ida, one of the main characters, whose personal investigation into the disappearance of a friend threatens the anti-hero Pinkie.

She also had a stage career. She had a long professional relationship with Noël Coward, appearing in many of his plays throughout the 1940s and 1950s. The most successful was her teaming with Hermione Gingold in Coward's comedy Fallen Angels, though the two women were apparently "no longer on speaking terms" by the end of the run.[5]

She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Simone Signoret's best friend in Jack Clayton's Room at the Top (1959).[2] With just 2 minutes and 19 seconds,[6] hers is the shortest role to be nominated for an Academy Award. In 1960 she played prostitute Doll Tearsheet in the BBC's series of Shakespeare history plays An Age of Kings, acting alongside her sister Angela as Mistress Quickly. In 1963, she was nominated for Broadway's Tony Award as Best Actress (Dramatic) for The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore.

She was known to American audiences for roles in Bewitched, Batman, Little House on the Prairie, Camp Runamuck and Maude (playing the title character's second housekeeper, Nell Naugatuck).[2] Toward the end of her career, Baddeley was also a voice-over actress, including roles in The Aristocats (1970) and The Secret of NIMH (1982).

Personal life

In 1928 Baddeley married English aristocrat and socialite David Tennant (third son of Edward Tennant, 1st Baron Glenconner). She arrived an hour late for the wedding, having misremembered the time booked for the ceremony.

They rented Teffont Evias Manor, which became known for their boisterous parties (including mixed naked bathing in the goldfish pond).[7] She had a daughter, Pauline Laetitia Tennant (born 6 February 1927 – died 6 December 2008); the couple divorced in 1937.[8]

In 1940 Baddeley married J. H. "Dozey" Willis. They divorced in 1946. She had a relatively brief relationship with actor Laurence Harvey, a man 22 years her junior. Although Harvey proposed marriage to her, Baddeley thought the age difference was too great.[9]

Baddeley was known for her devotion to animals. She dedicated her autobiography, The Unsinkable Hermione Baddeley, to her pet dog. She continued to work in film and television until shortly before the end of her life.


She died following a series of strokes on 19 August 1986, aged 79, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. She was survived by two children, Pauline Tennant and David, from her first marriage. She was interred in St Mary and St Melor Parish Church in Amesbury, Wiltshire.[10]

Partial filmography

See also


  1. Max Ascoli, The Reporter, Volume 28', Reporter Magazine, Co., 1963, p. 49.
  2. Folkart, Burt, "Noted Actress Hermione Baddeley Dies", Los Angeles Times, 21 August 1986.
  3. Hermione Baddeley (1984). The Unsinkable Hermione Baddeley. p. 16.
  4. James Fergusson, "Obituary: The Very Rev William Baddeley", The Independent, 11 June 1998.
  5. Hugh M. Massingberd (ed), "Hermione Gingold", The Daily Telegraph Third Book of Obituaries: Entertainers, Pan Macmillan, 1998, p.14.
  6. "Screen Time Central: Shortest Performances". screentimecentral.com. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  7. Bates, Lesley. Three-year story of village where 'much has happened'. Salisbury Journal. 4 March 2004. page 31.
  8. Goldman, Lawrence (2013). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2005-2008. Oxford: OUP Oxford. p. 1101. ISBN 978-0199-67154-0.
  9. Hunter, Tab; Muller, Ernie (2006). Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Algonquin Books. p. 261. ISBN 978-1-56512-548-3.
  10. "Profile at Find-a-Grave". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
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