Imogen Hassall

Imogen Hassall (25 August 1942 – 16 November 1980) was an English actress who appeared in 33 films during the 1960s and 1970s.

Imogen Hassall
Imogen Hassall in 1976 (Photograph by Allan Warren)
Imogen Hassall

25 August 1942 (1942-08-25)
Woking, Surrey, England
Died16 November 1980 (1980-11-17) (aged 38)
Wimbledon, London, England
OccupationActor, model
Years active1963–1980
Spouse(s)Kenneth Ives (1974–1978)
Andrew Knox (1979–1979)

Early life

Named after Shakespeare's Cymbeline heroine, she was born in Woking, Surrey, to a family of artists and businessmen. Her grandfather, John Hassall, and her aunt, Joan Hassall, worked as illustrators, while her father, Christopher Hassall, was a poet and lyricist. She had a brother. Her godfather is said to have been the composer Ivor Novello, with whom her father had worked extensively as lyricist. Yet on occasion Imogen would proudly claim that this distinction was Sir William Walton's with whom her father had collaborated in the early 1950s, quietly denied by Lady Walton.[1]


Imogen boarded and attended Elmhurst Ballet School, Camberley 1952–1954 and the Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, Richmond Park 1955–1958. Later in 1958 (aged 16) she studied in New York City, then returned to live with family in the Vale of Health by Hampstead Heath, London. She continued her absorption of the theatre mode with study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art 1960–1962, following which she joined the company of the Royal Shakespeare Company for one season.[2] After enjoying an appearance in the William Douglas-Home comedy "The Reluctant Peer" at the Duchess Theatre in 1964, she appeared in British TV adventure series of the 1960s such as The Saint, The Avengers and The Persuaders! In her first significant film role, she played Tara in The Long Duel (1967). She gained further public notice as a dominant cave-girl in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and played major roles in Carry On Loving and the cult horror film Incense for the Damned the same year. In 1973, she appeared in White Cargo alongside David Jason.

Personal life

Hassall was married to actor Kenneth Ives, and before they were married, they had a daughter called Melanie Ives Hassall, who died four days after being born in 1972.[3] She was briefly married to Andrew Knox (an actor who appeared in Doctor on the Go and who later committed suicide in 1987)[4] but they separated after a few months of marriage, and she lost the baby she was expecting.[5]

Hassall's private life was a regular subject of interest in tabloid newspapers. She was known for playing sexy, scantily clad characters in film and on TV. This, and the revealing outfits she wore at film premieres, resulted in her being referred to as the "Countess of Cleavage".[6]


After her failed relationships, the death of her child, her miscarriage, and her career decline, she became depressed. Following previous suicide attempts, she was found dead in her Wimbledon home on the morning of 16 November 1980, when she failed to meet a friend, the actress Suzanna Leigh, with whom she was due to go on holiday to Mombasa that day. She had apparently committed suicide by overdosing on Tuinal tablets.[7] She was interred in Gap Road Cemetery, Wimbledon, London.[8]

Portrayal on stage and TV

Her appearance in the film Carry On Loving (1970) led many years later to her being portrayed as a character in the play Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick written by Terry Johnson. The play was produced at the Royal National Theatre in September 1998 and received the Olivier Award 1999 for Best New Comedy. Hassall was played by Gina Bellman. Johnson later adapted the play for a 2000 television film Cor, Blimey!, although the character of Hassall does not appear in the tv version, which was much changed by Johnson from his original play.





  1. Page 71, Biography: Leissner, D. (2002)
  2. Biography: Leissner, D. (2002)
  3. Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries, pp. 315–316 |
  4. Andrew Knox – biography, IMDb |
  5. Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries, pp. 315–316 |
  6. A defining picture of the "Countess of Cleavage" enjoying the flash-bulbs at a premiere |
  7. Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries, pp. 315–316 |
  8. Imogen Hassall – Find A Grave |
  • Biography: Leissner, D. (2002). Tuesday's Child: The Life and Death of Imogen Hassall. Baltimore, MD: Luminary Press. ISBN 1-887664-47-5.
  • Obituary: Donnelley, P. (2005). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus Press. pp. 315–316. ISBN 1-844494-30-6.
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