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.
Norma Ann Sykes
19 May 1936
|Died||24 November 2016 80) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
(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"; others included Diana Dors, Belinda Lee, Shirley Eaton and Sandra Dorne.
Early life and career
Sabrina was born on 19 May 1936 at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Cheshire, to Walter and Annie Sykes. She lived in Buckingham Street, Heaviley, for about 13 years and attended St George's School there, before moving with her mother to Blackpool. She spent some time in hospital with rheumatic fever. At the age of 16 she moved to London, 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.
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. She was promoted by the BBC as "the bosomy blonde who didn't talk", but surviving kinescope episodes show quite clearly that she did.
Goodnight with Sabrina (c.1958, 3:49 mins) is included with Beat Girl, in 2016, newly remastered by BFI Flipside
She made her film debut in Stock Car in 1955. She then appeared in a small role in the 1956 film Ramsbottom Rides Again. 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.
Sabrina's penultimate film role was in the western The Phantom Gunslinger (1970), 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.
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". 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. Sabrina admitted that she was confined to the house due to back problems, but denied living in squalor.
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!"
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 ..."
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. 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.
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. See Dagmar bumpers.
- Before Your Very Eyes (1955–1956, ten episodes)
- Double Your Money (1955)
- Tarzan (one episode, 1967)
- This Is Your Life (Arthur Askey, 1974)
- Davenport-Hines (2012), p. 128
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- Sabrina: Tributes
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