Janet Munro

Janet Neilson Horsburgh (28 September 1934 6 December 1972), known as Janet Munro, was an English actress. She won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the film Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) and received a BAFTA Film Award nomination for her performance in the film Life for Ruth (1962).

Janet Munro
Janet Neilson Horsburgh

(1934-09-28)28 September 1934
Died6 December 1972(1972-12-06) (aged 38)
Archway, London, England
Resting placeGolders Green Crematorium
Years active1957–1972
Tony Wright
(m. 1956; div. 1959)

Ian Hendry
(m. 1963; div. 1971)
Parent(s)Alex Munro
Phyllis Robertshaw

Munro starred in three Disney films: Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), Third Man on the Mountain (1959) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Other film credits were roles in The Trollenberg Terror (1958) and The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961).


Early Life

Born Janet Neilson Horsburgh, she was the daughter of Scottish comedian Alex Munro (real name Alexander Neilson Horsburgh) and his wife, Phyllis Robertshaw, in Blackpool, Lancashire in 1934, she used her father's stage name professionally.[1]

Munro grew up on the road with her father, often appearing with him on stage. Her mother died when Janet was seven and she was raised by her father at first. She later recalled "during the war he was head of entertainment for the RAF and I went along with him wherever he happened to be. We entertained the troops. I wore kilts and sang. My voice was even smaller than I was but the boys didn't seem to mind - I was a bit of baggage from home."[2]

She moved to the town of Embsay at aged ten to live with her aunt and uncle for a time. When her father remarried she was raised by him and her stepmother. After leaving school she worked in a shoe shop but her goal was to become an actress. [3] "I never had any doubt as to what I wanted to be," she said later.[2]

Early Appearances

Munro's father wanted her to join him on her act but she desired to become a legtimiate actress. She got a job at a repertory company as a student messenger and "learned as I went along, playing bits, and by the time I was 17 I was stage manager for the company."[2] She worked in towns like Preston, Oldham and Hull and her wage at the time was around £8 a week.[3]

Munro appeared in a BBC TV adaptation of I Capture the Castle (1954), playing the lead part of Rose.

She had a small part in the Gordon Harker comedy Small Hotel (1957) and started appearing regularly on British TV shows such as ITV Television Playhouse ("One of Us", "Pickup Girl", "Lace on Her Petticoat") and Armchair Theatre ("Trial by Candlelight", "The Deaf Heart"). [4]

Munro could be seen in ingenue parts in the feature films The Trollenberg Terror (1958), a horror film, and The Young and the Guilty (1958), a melodrama written by Ted Willis. She appeared on stage in Daughters of Desire[5] and was chosen "Miss English Television of 1958".


Munro's big break came in March 1958 when cast as the female lead in Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959). Although the film was shot in Hollywood it was cast out of London. Disney saw her in "Pick Up Girl" and she was screen tested over a two day period. Disney liked her so much he signed her to a five-year contract.[2] [6]

Disney put immediately used her again as the female lead in Third Man on the Mountain (1959) opposite James MacArthur. Contemporary reports compared her with June Allyson.[7]

Munro made her US television debut when she played the romantic lead in a TV adaptation of Berkeley Square (1959) for Hallmark Hall of Fame. She was directed by George Schaefer and appeared opposite John Kerr. One review said she did "beautiful work."[8]

Munro returned to England to play Tommy Steele's love interest in Tommy the Toreador (1959), then made a third film for Disney, Swiss Family Robinson (1960), again romancing MacArthur. It was shot in the West Indies over five months.

Munro was going to be in Bon Voyage for Disney with Karl Malden but it was not made for another few years, with Deborah Walley in the role announced for Munro.[9] Instead she appeared in The Horsemasters (1961) for him, shot in England for American television, and released theatrically in some markets.

Munro returned to US television with Time Remembered (1961) for Hallmark Hall of Fame.[10]

British films

Munro was the female lead in the science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), one of her best remembered parts.[11]

She had the female lead role in Life for Ruth (1962), directed by Basil Dearden, which earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Female Actor.[12]

She returned to Armchair Theatre ("Girl in a Bird Cage", "Afternoon of a Nymph" with Ian Hendry who she was to marry) and was top billed in a film for the first time with Bitter Harvest (1963), but it was not a success.[13]

Munro was the female lead in Hide and Seek (1964) with Ian Carmichael and A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964) with Leo McKern. She had a cameo in Daylight Robbery (1964).

Return to Acting

Munro was inactive in her profession for a few years in order to concentrate on raising a family but returned to acting after her second marriage to Ian Hendry ended in 1968.[14]

She appeared in episodes of Vendetta ("The Running Man"), and Thirty-Minute Theatre ("Turn Off If You Know the Ending") and had a support part in Sebastian (1968).[15]

Munro travelled to New York to star in a TV adaptation of The Admirable Crichton (1968).[16] She had a cameo in Cry Wolf (1969).

Munro was in ITV Playhouse ("Premiere: Flower Dew"),[17] and Cry Wolf (1969). She had the lead in a series, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1969). Reviewing the latter The Guardian called her "a revelation. She is no longer the B picture girl next door. She is a woman and her acting has power and experience of life."[18]

Her last roles were in Play for Today ("The Piano"), and in several episodes of the TV series Adam Smith.

In July 1971 she appeared on stage in Look - No Hands.[19]

Personal life

Munro was married to Tony Wright from 1956 until 1959. She married the actor Ian Hendry in 1963, and they had two children, Sally and Corrie. They lived in a house on Pharaoh's Island.

Val Guest, who directed Munro in The Day the Earth Caught Fire later said "Janet's life was a disaster... [she] didn't become an alcoholic until she met Ian. She tried too hard to keep up with him."[20]

In March 1966 she had a miscarriage.[21]

Munro and Hendry were divorced in December 1971. Hendry offered no contest to the charge that the marriage had broken down due to Hendry's "unreasonable behaviour".[22]


Munro died on 6 December 1972 on her way to hospital after collapsing at her London home in Tufnell Park.[23] Her death was ruled due to a heart attack caused by chronic ischaemic heart disease. She was aged 38 years[24][25] She was cremated and interred at the Golders Green Crematorium.[26]


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Small Hotel Effie
1958 The Trollenberg Terror Anne Pilgrim Alternative title: The Crawling Eye (U.S. theatrical release)
The Young and the Guilty Sue Connor
1959 Darby O'Gill and the Little People Katie O'Gill With Sean Connery
Third Man on the Mountain Lizbeth Hempel
Tommy the Toreador Amanda
1960 Swiss Family Robinson Roberta 'Bertie'
1961 The Day the Earth Caught Fire Jeannie Craig
1962 Life for Ruth Pat Harris Alternative title: Walk in the Shadow
1963 Bitter Harvest Jennie Jones
1964 Hide and Seek Maggie
They All Died Laughing Delia Brooks
Daylight Robbery
1968 Sebastian Carol Fancy
Cry Wolf Polly
Year Title Role Notes
1957 ITV Television Playhouse Elizabeth Collins 1 episode
19581962 Armchair Theatre Anne
4 episodes, including Afternoon of a Nymph
19571968 Hallmark Hall of Fame Helen Pettigrew
3 episodes
1967 Thirty-Minute Theatre Carol 1 episode
19681969 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Helen Graham 4 episodes
1971 Play for Today Mabel 1 episode
1972 Adam Smith Elizabeth Crichton 5 episodes, (final appearance)

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1960 17th Golden Globe Awards Most Promising Newcomer – Female
Darby O'Gill and the Little People
1963 16th British Academy Film Awards Best British Actress
Life for Ruth


  1. Hershman, Gabriel (2013). Send in the Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry. lulu.com. p. 60. ISBN 978-1291270976.
  2. Hopper, H. (1958, Jul 13). You'll love janet munro! Chicago Daily Tribune Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/182125751
  3. [url-http://www.cravenherald.co.uk/nostalgia/nostalgia_history/4681919.Too_short_life_of_star_who_captiva/ www.cravenherald.co.uk/nostalgia/nostalgia_history/4681919.Too_short_life_of_star_who_captiva/]
  4. EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME Jennings, Betty. Picture Show; London (Mar 19, 1960): 7-8.
  5. The Kash register Gardner, Raymond. The Guardian 28 Mar 1970: 8.
  6. Jennings, B. (1960, Mar 19). EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME. Picture show, 78. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1880298630
  7. Hopper, H. (1958, Apr 29). Walt disney discovery, janet munro, to be star. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/182172561
  8. THE TV SCENE: Wisdom Shines in Darkest Hours Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 9 Feb 1959: A10.
  9. By A.H. WEILER. (1960, Dec 25). GREAT EXPECTATIONS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/115084507
  10. Hopper, H. (1960, Aug 20). Walt disney will film romantic teen comedy. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/182536538
  11. "Movie gossip". The Australian Women's Weekly. 28 (51). Australia, Australia. 24 May 1961. p. 19. Retrieved 28 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  12. 18 FILMS COMPETE FOR BRITISH TITLE. (1963, Feb 04). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/116512767
  13. "Bitter Harvest". Western Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 2 April 1965. p. 5. Retrieved 28 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  14. Television News Chicago Tribune 28 Apr 1968: s22.
  15. Adler, R. (1968, Jan 25). Sebastian' arrives. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/118244553
  16. Television news. (1968, Apr 28). Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/175700255
  17. BRIEFING: The week's television The Observer 29 Sep 1968: 22.
  18. Dewhurst, Keith (30 December 1968). "The tenant of Wildfell Hall". The Guardian. p. 6.
  19. The Spectator's Arts Round-up The Spectator; London Vol. 227, Iss. 7464, (Jul 17, 1971): 108.
  20. Swires, Steve (February 1991). "Inferno Maker". Starlog. No. 163. p. 57.
  21. Ann-Margaret Tour Has Him Worried Dorothy Manners:. The Washington Post, Times Herald 21 Mar 1966: B4.
  22. Hendry divorce The Guardian 11 Dec 1971: 7.
  23. Actress dies The Guardian 7 Dec 1972: 1.
  24. Obituary Variety, 13 December 1972, pg. 63
  25. "Death". The Canberra Times. 47 (13, 301). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 8 December 1972. p. 5. Retrieved 28 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  26. JANET MUNRO DEAD; SCREEN ACTRESS, 38 New York Times 7 Dec 1972: 40.
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