Margaret Leighton

Margaret Leighton, CBE (26 February 1922 – 13 January 1976) was an English actress, active on stage, television and film[1] Her film appearances included (her first credited debut feature) in Anatole de Grunwald's The Winslow Boy (1948). For The Go-Between (1971), she won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Margaret Leighton
Leighton in 1959
Born(1922-02-26)26 February 1922
Barnt Green, Worcestershire, UK
Died13 January 1976(1976-01-13) (aged 53)
Chichester, West Sussex, UK
Years active1938–1976
Max Reinhardt
(m. 1947; div. 1955)

Laurence Harvey
(m. 1957; div. 1961)

Michael Wilding (m. 1964)

Leighton began her career on stage in 1938, before joining the Old Vic and making her Broadway debut in 1946. A four-time Tony Award nominee, she twice won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play: for the original Broadway productions of Separate Tables (1957) and The Night of the Iguana (1962). She also won an Emmy Award for a 1970 television version of Hamlet.

Life and career

Born in Barnt Green, Worcestershire, Leighton made her stage debut as Dorothy in Laugh with Me (1938), which also was performed that year for BBC Television. She became a star of the Old Vic. Her Broadway debut was as the Queen in Henry IV (1946), starring Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson during a visit of the Old Vic to the U.S., and the company performed a total of five plays from its repertoire before returning to London.

After appearing in two British films, including the starring role of Flora MacDonald opposite David Niven in Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948) and in the popular The Winslow Boy (also 1948), the actress acted in Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949) and the crime/mystery Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951).

Leighton won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Separate Tables (1956); she won another Tony in that category for The Night of the Iguana (1962), playing Hannah Jelkes (a role played by Deborah Kerr in the film version) opposite Bette Davis's Maxine Faulk. Leighton was nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Much Ado About Nothing (1959) and for Tchin-Tchin (1962). She portrayed the wife of an American presidential candidate in the 1964 film The Best Man. Her last appearance on Broadway was as Birdie Hubbard in a revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1967).

She had a noteworthy list of TV appearances, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey and Burke's Law. She won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama for Hamlet (1970) and she was nominated for an Emmy in 1966 for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama for four episodes of Dr. Kildare. Her final TV performance was in the first season of Space: 1999 where she played Queen Arra in the episode "Collision Course."

For her film role as Mrs. Maudsley in The Go-Between (1970), Leighton won the British BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress. She received a BAFTA nomination for Best British Actress for her role as Valerie Carrington in Carrington V.C. (1955). She received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for The Go-Between.

Personal life

Leighton had three husbands: publisher Max Reinhardt (1947–55); actor Laurence Harvey (1957–61); and actor Michael Wilding (1964–76, her death). She had no children. She was appointed a CBE in 1974. Leighton died of multiple sclerosis in 1976, aged 53, in Chichester, Sussex.



Year Title Role Notes
1938 Laugh with Me Dorothy
1947 Everyman Beauty
1948 Arms and the Man Raina Petkoff
1948 The Winslow Boy Catherine Winslow First credited feature
1948 Bonnie Prince Charlie Flora MacDonald
1949 Under Capricorn Milly
1950 The Astonished Heart Leonora Vail
1950 The Fighting Pimpernel Marguerite Blakeney
1951 Calling Bulldog Drummond Helen Smith
1952 Home at Seven Janet Preston
1952 The Holly and the Ivy Margaret Gregory
1954 The Good Die Young Eve Ravenscourt
1954 The Teckman Mystery Helen Teckman
1954 Court Martial Valerie
1955 Marriage a la Mode Counsel for the Defence
1957 The Passionate Stranger Judith Wynter / Leonie Hathaway
1959 The Sound and the Fury Caddy Compson
1962 Waltz of the Toreadors Emily Fitzjohn
1964 The Best Man Alice Russell
1965 The Loved One Helen Kenton
1966 7 Women Agatha Andrews
1969 The Madwoman of Chaillot Constance
1971 The Go-Between Mrs. Maudsley
1972 X, Y, and Zee Gladys
1972 Lady Caroline Lamb Lady Melbourne
1973 Bequest to the Nation Frances Nelson
1974 From Beyond the Grave Madame Orloff Segment: "The Elemental"
1975 Galileo Elderly Court Lady
1976 A Dirty Knight's Work Ma Gore


Year Title Role Notes
1951, 1953 Sunday Night Theatre Catherine Bailey, Rosalind, Lucasta Angel Episodes: "Release (I)", "As You Like It", "The Confidential Clerk"
1955 ITV Opening Night at the Guildhall Gwendolen Fairfax TV film
1955, 1960 ITV Play of the Week Natalya Petrovna, Mrs. Manningham Episodes: "A Month in the Country", "Gaslight"
1956 Theatre Royal Marion Episode: "The Triumphant"
1957 Suspicion Miss Perry Episode: "The Sparkle of Diamonds"
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Iris Teleton Episode: "Tea Time"
1959 Playhouse 90 Miss Kerrison Episode: "The Second Man"
1959 DuPont Show of the Month Millie Crocker-Harris Episode: "The Browning Version"
1964 Ben Casey Leila Farr Episode: "August Is the Month Before Christmas"
1964 Burke's Law Connie Hanson Episode: "Who Killed Everybody?"
1965 Alfred Hitchcock Hour Nell Snyder Episode: "Where the Woodbine Twineth"
1965 Dr. Kildare Chris Becker Guest role (season 5)
1966 The F.B.I. Amy Hunter Episode: "The Chameleon"
1966 The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Gita Volander Episode: "The Lethal Eagle Affair"
1968 A Touch of Venus Rosemary Episode: "All on Her Own"
1968–69 Play of the Month Helen Lancaster, Mrs. Cheveley Episodes: "Waters of the Moon", "An Ideal Husband"
1969 Judd, for the Defense Mary Wright Episode: "The Crystal Maze"
1969 The Wednesday Play Florence Lancaster Episode: "The Vortex"
1970 The Name of the Game Amelia Rayner Episode: "The King of Denmark"
1970 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Gertrude Episode: "Hamlet"
1972 Armchair Theatre Lady Huntercombe Episode: "Hot Summer: Do Not Sell"
1973 The Upper Crusts Lady Seacroft TV series
1973 Frankenstein: The True Story Francoise DuVal TV film
1974 Great Expectations Miss Havisham TV film
1975 Space: 1999 Arra Episode: "Collision Course"

Awards and nominations

Year Award Work Result
1955 BAFTA Award for Best British Actress Carrington V.C. Nominated
1957 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Separate Tables Won
1960 Much Ado About Nothing Nominated
1962 The Night of the Iguana Won
1963 Tchin-Tchin Nominated
1966 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance in a Drama Dr. Kildare Nominated
1971 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Hamlet Won
1972 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress The Go-Between Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role Won


  1. Obituary Variety, 21 January 1976, page 111.
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