Byron in Black Narcissus
11 January 1921
|Died||18 January 2009 88) (aged|
Northwood, London, England, UK
|Other names||Kathleen Jacob|
(m. 1943; div. 1950)
(m. 1953; died 1995)
Byron was born in West Ham (then part of Essex) to what she described as "staunch working-class socialists", who later became Labour mayors of the County Borough of East Ham. She attended the local grammar school and trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She had her first speaking film role in Carol Reed's The Young Mr Pitt (1942), in which she had two lines as a maid opposite Robert Donat.
In 1943, she married a USAAF pilot, Lt. John Daniel Bowen, and moved to the United States. The director Michael Powell persuaded her to return to Britain where she made her best remembered films. She was cast in several films of the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger partnership: as an angel in A Matter of Life and Death (1946), the disturbed Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus (1947) and in The Small Back Room (1949). Byron was romantically linked with Michael Powell for a time; he was named as a co-respondent when her first marriage was dissolved in 1950. Her success in Black Narcissus eventually led her to Hollywood, which resulted in a supporting role in Young Bess (1953). She found the experience an unrewarding one and soon returned to Britain. Her subsequent roles of the time were mostly in B films. She had an occasional role in the 1957–67 soap Emergency Ward 10, playing the alcoholic wife of the consultant gynaecologist Harold de la Roux (John Barron).
In the 1960s and 1970s, she did extensive television work, including a small role as Queen Louise of Denmark in Edward the Seventh (1975), Madame Celeste Lekeu in two episodes of the BBC drama Secret Army (1977), entitled "Bait" and "Good Friday", and a brief stint on the soap opera Emmerdale Farm in 1979. Byron continued to act into the new millennium, her film, theatre and television work included Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap (1990), an adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma (1996), Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Stephen Poliakoff's series, Perfect Strangers (2001).
Personal life and death
In 1953, she married her second husband, the British journalist and writer Alaric Jacob (who predeceased her); Jacob was then working for the BBC. They had one son and daughter; with a child from Jacob's previous marriage.
She died on 18 January 2009 at Denville Hall in Northwood, London, one week after her 88th birthday. She was reportedly suffering from Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer at the time of her death. Her son, daughter, and stepdaughter survived her, along with five grandchildren.
|1938||Climbing High||Model on Sofa||Uncredited|
|1942||The Young Mr Pitt||Millicent Grey||Uncredited|
|1943||The Silver Fleet||Schoolmistress|
|1946||A Matter of Life and Death||An Angel|
|1947||Black Narcissus||Sister Ruth|
|1949||The Small Back Room||Susan|
|Madness of the Heart||Verite Faimont|
|1950||The Reluctant Widow||Mme. Annette de Chevreaux|
|Prelude to Fame||Signora Anne Bondini|
|Life in Her Hands||Ann Peters|
|Hell Is Sold Out||Arlette de Balzamann|
|I'll Never Forget You||Duchess of Devonshire|
|Four Days||Lucienne Templar|
|Tom Brown's Schooldays||Mrs. Brown|
|1952||My Death Is a Mockery||Helen Bradley|
|The Gambler and the Lady||Pat|
|1953||Young Bess||Ann Seymour|
|1954||Star of My Night||Eve Malone|
|Night of the Silvery Moon||Jane|
|1955||Secret Venture||Renne L'Epine|
|Handcuffs, London||Janet Tedford|
|1961||Hand in Hand||Mrs. O'Malley|
|Design for Murder||Elizabeth Carr||TV movie|
|1962||Night of the Eagle||Evelyn Sawtelle|
|1969||The Confessions of Marian Evans||TV movie|
|Wolfshead: The Legend of Robin Hood||Katherine of Locksley|
|1971||Private Road||Mrs. Halpern|
|Twins of Evil||Katy Weil|
|1973||Nothing But the Night||Dr. Rose|
|The Abdication||Queen Mother|
|The Little Mermaid||Queen||TV movie|
|1975||One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing||Colonel's Wife|
|1980||The Elephant Man||Lady Waddington|
|1981||Hedda Gabler||Juliana Tesman||TV movie|
|From a Far Country||Tadek's Mother|
|1998||Les Misérables||Mother Superior|
|Saving Private Ryan||Old Mrs. Ryan|
|2010||Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff||Herself||Documentary|
- "Kathleen Byron". bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
- Kathleen Byron obituary, The Daily Telegraph, 21 January 2009.
- 1921 Birth records index
- Brian Baxter Kathleen Byron obituary, The Guardian,19 January 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2009
- "Kathleen Byron: Actress who played Sister Ruth in "Black Narcissus"". The Independent. 20 January 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
- McFarlane, Brian. An Autobiography of British Cinema. London: Methuen. 1997; ISBN 0-413-70520-X
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