Sabrina (actress)

Norma Ann Sykes (19 May 1936 – 24 November 2016), better known as Sabrina or Sabby, was a 1950s English glamour model who progressed to a minor film career. She was best known for her hourglass figure of 42.5-inch (108 cm) breasts coupled with a tiny 19-inch (48 cm) waist and 36-inch (91 cm) hips.[1][2][3]

Norma Ann Sykes

(1936-05-19)19 May 1936
Stockport, England
Died24 November 2016(2016-11-24) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Other namesSabby
  • Model
  • actress
  • singer
Harold Melsheimer
(m. 1967; div. 1974)

Sabrina was one of "a host of exotic, glamorous (British) starlets ... modelled on the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Lana Turner";[4] others included Diana Dors, Belinda Lee, Shirley Eaton and Sandra Dorne.[4]

Early life and career

Sabrina was born on 19 May 1936 at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Cheshire,[5] to Walter and Annie Sykes. She lived in Buckingham Street, Heaviley, for about 13 years and attended St George's School there,[6] before moving with her mother to Blackpool.[7] She spent some time in hospital with rheumatic fever. At the age of 16 she moved to London,[8] where she worked as a waitress and did some nude modelling, posing for Russell Gay in a photoshoot that led to her appearance on the five of spades in a deck of nude playing cards.[9]

In 1955 she was chosen to play a dumb blonde sidekick in Arthur Askey's new television series Before Your Very Eyes (BBC 1952–56, ITV 1956–58). The show ran from 18 February 1955 to 20 April 1956, and made Sabrina a household name.[1] She was promoted by the BBC as "the bosomy blonde who didn't talk", but surviving kinescope episodes show quite clearly that she did.[10][11][12]

James Beney, of Walton Films, released a 100-foot 9.5 mm short glamour film "At Home With Sabrina" around July 1955.[6][13]

Goodnight with Sabrina (c.1958, 3:49 mins) is included with Beat Girl, in 2016, newly remastered by BFI Flipside[14][15][16][17]

She made her film debut in Stock Car in 1955. She then appeared in a small role in the 1956 film Ramsbottom Rides Again.[18] In her third film, Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957), she had a non-speaking role in which, despite sharing equal billing with the star Alastair Sim on posters and appearing in many publicity stills in school uniform, she was required only to sit up in bed wearing a nightdress, reading a book, while the action took place around her.[19]

Sabrina's penultimate film role was in the western The Phantom Gunslinger (1970),[lower-alpha 1] in which she starred alongside Troy Donahue. Her final film was the horror movie The Ice House (1969), in which she replaced Jayne Mansfield, who had died in a car crash two years earlier.

On 27 November 1967 Sabrina married Dr. Harold Melsheimer (born 11 June 1927 in Germany), a Hollywood gynaecologist/obstetrician. They divorced ten years later.[21]

In 2002 an article in the Daily Mail claimed that Sabrina was living "a lonely and sad existence" in Los Angeles. The paper later issued an apology, stating that "allegations in the article were untrue and that she lives in a desirable residence in West Toluca Lake".[22] However, in 2007 there were further newspaper reports that Sabrina had become a hermit, "living in squalor" in a Spanish-style house on a street known as 'Smog Central', under the flightpath of Burbank Airport.[23] Sabrina admitted that she was confined to the house due to back problems, but denied living in squalor.[24]

Having suffered ill health for many years, partly owing to botched back surgery, she died of blood poisoning in 2016, at the age of 80.[25][26]

Cultural depictions

The scripts of The Goon Show are littered with references to Sabrina's bosom, such as "By the measurements of Sabrina!" and "By the sweaters of Sabrina!"[27]

In "The Scandal Magazine", an episode of the radio programme Hancock's Half Hour, Sid James plays the editor of a sleazy gossip magazine that has carried an embarrassing story about Tony Hancock. James tells Hancock that his readers "will believe anything. ... If I told them that Sabrina was Arthur Askey's mother, they'd believe me." Hancock replies, "Well, I don't", pauses and asks, "She's not, is she?" James says emphatically "No", but Hancock reflects, "Mind you, there is a resemblance ..."

Hunchfront of Lime Grove – "A somewhat unappealing nickname given to the generously endowed starlet known as Sabrina ..."[28][29]

In the 1950s members of the Royal Air Force dubbed parts of the Hawker Hunter jet fighter plane "Sabrinas" owing to two large humps on the underside of the aircraft.[30] Similarly, in the late 1950s, when ERF, a British firm that made lorries (trucks), produced a semi-forward control heavy goods vehicle (HGV) with a short protruding bonnet, these vehicles were nicknamed "Sabrinas" because they had "a little more in front".

The 1959 Triumph TR3S 1985 cc iron-block alloy-headed engine was called "Sabrina" because of its dome-shaped cam drivers.[31]

In 1974 the British motoring press gave the name "Sabrinas" to the oversized pairs of protruding rubber bumper blocks added to the MG MGB, Midget and Triumph TR6 sports cars, when U.S. safety regulations mandated sturdier impact protection. The name stuck and is used around the world.[32] See Dagmar bumpers.

Television appearances

  • Before Your Very Eyes (1955–1956, ten episodes)
  • Double Your Money (1955)[33]
  • Tarzan (one episode, 1967)
  • This Is Your Life (Arthur Askey, 1974)

Acting credits



  1. Although it was not released until 1970, the film was produced in 1967.[20]


  1. Davenport-Hines (2012), p. 128
  2. "Norma Sykes Stock Photos and Pictures – Getty Images". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  3. "Norma Ann Sykes Stock Photos and Pictures – Getty Images". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  4. Cook, Pam (2001), "The Trouble with Sex: Diana Dors and the Blonde Bombshell Phenomenon", in Babington, Bruce (ed.), British Stars and Stardom, Manchester University Press, pp. 167–178
  5. "Dr Harold Melsheimer & Sabrina Divorced, Joint Family Tree & History". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  6. "SABRINA". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  7. Holmes, Su (1 November 2015). "Entertaining Television: The BBC and Popular Television Culture in the 1950s". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  8. "Grahame Rhodes Jazz". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  9. "Sabrina – the nudie cards!". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  10. Holmes, Su (2011), "Whoever Heard of Anyone Being a Screaming Success for Doing Nothing?", Media History, 17 (1): 33–48, doi:10.1080/13688804.2011.532376
  11. Kynaston, David (2 November 2009). "Family Britain, 1951–1957". A&C Black. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  12. "Sabrina, the Blackpool Celebrity - 1956 Premium Photographic Print by Ken Russell at". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  13. "02 – May – 2009 – shadowplay". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  15. "Beat Girl Blu-ray – Edmond T. Gréville". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  16. SHE NEARLY CAUSED RIOT; Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 – 1956); Sat 19 November 1955; Page 3;
  17. "SHE NEARLY CAUSED RIOT – APPROVED BY 12 MILLION – Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 – 1956) – 19 Nov 1955". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  18. Heilbron, Hilary (22 October 2012). "Rose Heilbron: Legal Pioneer of the 20th Century: Inspiring Advocate who Became England's First Woman Judge". Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  19. Davenport-Hines (2012), p. 129
  20. "The Phantom Gunslinger (1967)", British Film Institute, retrieved 11 August 2014
  21. News, Manchester Evening (4 September 2007). "Fifties Pin-Up Star Now Living in Squalor". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  22. "Sabrina", "Daily Mail" 16 January 2005
  23. "Fifties Pin-Up Star Now Living in Squalor", Manchester Evening News, 4 September 2007;
  24. Sabrina
  25. "Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes", The Times, 7 October 2017
  26. Sabrina: Tributes
  27. "Sabrina Sounds", The Encyclopaedia Sabrina, retrieved 18 October 2013
  28. "Hunchfront of Lime Grove – Oxford Reference". doi:10.1093/acref/9780199916214.001.0001/acref-9780199916214-e-1114. Retrieved 30 January 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  29. "Voices of change – The Spectator". The Spectator. 21 October 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  30. Griffin (2006), p. 19
  31. "by-richard-heseltine". Motor Sport. 7 July 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  32. Clausager (1994), p. 25
  33. Hayes, created by Graham J. "Double Your Money – A Cherished Television Review". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  34. Mobberley, Martin (23 July 2013). "It Came From Outer Space Wearing an RAF Blazer!: A Fan's Biography of Sir Patrick Moore". Springer Science & Business Media. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  35. "Goodnight with Sabrina". Internet Movie Database. 1 January 2000. Retrieved 30 January 2017.


  • Clausager, Anders D (1994), Original MGB, Bay View Books
  • Davenport-Hines, Richard (2012), An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-00-743586-9
  • Griffin, David. J. (2006), Hawker Hunter 1951 to 2007, Lulu Enterprises, ISBN 978-1-4303-0593-4
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