Shelagh Fraser

Shelagh Fraser (25 November 1920 – 29 August 2000) was an English actress. She is best known for her roles in the television serial A Family at War (1970–1971) and as Luke Skywalker's aunt Beru in Star Wars (1977).

Shelagh Fraser
in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Born
Sheila[1] Mary Fraser

(1920-11-25)25 November 1920
Purley, Surrey, England, UK
Died29 August 2000(2000-08-29) (aged 79)
London, England, UK
OccupationActress
Years active1944–2000
Spouse(s)Anthony Squire
(m. 1961; div. ?)
RelativesMoyra Fraser (sister)

Early life

Shelagh Fraser was born in Purley, Surrey, on 25 November 1920. Her parents were John Newton Mappin Fraser and Vera Eleanor (née Beardshaw). Her father was a director of the jewellery company Mappin & Webb, and the family was sent to Australia to establish a branch of the family business there. They returned to the United Kingdom in 1924.[2][3][4]

As a child, Shelagh suffered from spinal tuberculosis, but overcame the debilitating effects of the illness. She was educated at St Christopher's School in Kingswood and won a scholarship to train as an actor at Croydon Repertory Theatre Drama School. It was there that Fraser made her first stage appearance in 1938.[5][4]

Career

Fraser had a wide range of roles on the stage. She made her West End theatre debut in 1944 at the Comedy Theatre as Effie in This Was a Woman. She went on to play Mabel Crumm in While the Sun Shines (1945), Hetty, in Call Home the Heart (1947), Lady Orreyd in a revival of The Second Mrs Tanqueray (1950). She took roles in a number of plays in the 1960s and 70s by noted contemporary playwrights such as the role of Flora in Harold Pinter's A Slight Ache, Delia in Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce, Martha in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.[4]

In cinema, Fraser often played demure character roles in films such as the Master of Bankdam (1947) and Raising a Riot (1955), although she is also remembered for her roles as the vulgar Mrs Orreyd in the 1952 film The Second Mrs Tanqueray. In the 1970s she took one of her best-known roles as Jean Ashton, the embattled mother of a family wartime in Liverpool in the television serial A Family at War. In 1977 she played the part of Beru Lars, the aunt of Luke Skywalker, in the science fiction blockbuster Star Wars. In his casting notes, writer and director George Lucas wrote, "A little British, but okay". Fraser took part in location filming in Matmata, Tunisia, and her voice was later recorded at home for additional wild track lines and dialogue dubbing.[5][6]

Fraser appeared in more than 50 films and TV shows during her career, including Z-Cars; Softly, Softly; A Family at War; The Professionals and Heartbeat on television, and such films as The Witches, Till Death Us Do Part, The Body Stealers, Doomwatch and Hope and Glory.[7] She was a member of the BBC Repertory Company and appeared in over 500 BBC Radio plays.[4]

In the 1950, Fraser began to write for the theatre, and in the 1970s, she wrote two children's books, Captain Johnny and Princess Tai Lue. Building on her experience in radio, she also worked as a radio dramatist, and wrote her own radio play, The Maid's Room, about the relationship between a servant and her mistress. She also adapted Rose Macauley's novel The World My Wilderness and Rebecca West's short story "The Salt of the Earth" for BBC Radio 4.[4]

Personal life

Fraser was married and divorced from Anthony Squire.[8] She was the sister of ballerina/actress Moyra Fraser.[9]

Selected filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
1944Welcome, Mr. WashingtonMillie
1945I Live in Grosvenor Square2nd Girl in Guard's Van
1947 Meet Me at DawnMinor RoleUncredited
Master of BankdamAlice France
1948Esther WatersMargaret
1949The History of Mr. PollyMinnie Larkins
1950 Your WitnessEllen Foster
TrioMinor RoleUncredited
1952 Salute the ToffMyra Lorne
The Second Mrs Tanqueray
1955Raising a RiotMary Kent
1956The Last Man to Hang?Mrs Bracket
1958The Son of Robin HoodConstance
1966The WitchesMrs Creek
1968Till Death Us Do PartMike's Mother
1969 The Body StealersMrs Thatcher
A Touch of LoveMiss Gurnsey
StaircaseCub Mistress
Two Gentlemen SharingHelen Marriott
1972DoomwatchMrs. Betty Straker
1973Nothing But the NightMrs Alison
1974PersecutionMrs Banksaka Sheba, The Graveyard, The Terror of Sheba
1977Star WarsAunt Beru
1987Hope and GloryWVS Woman

Television

YearTitleRoleNotes
1960Emergency – Ward 10Brownie Bevan9 episodes
1963MaigretClaire JusserandEpisode: Maigret's Little Joke
1970–1971A Family at WarJean Ashton
1971DoomwatchJoan PrenticeEpisode: The Islanders
1976BeastsDorothy PummeryEpisode: Baby
2017Star Wars RebelsAunt BeruEpisode: Twin Suns, uncredited (archive audio)

References

  1. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  2. Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 1999, vol. 1, p. 147
  3. Herbert, Ian; Parker, John; Baxter, Christine; Finley, Robert E. (1977). Who's who in the Theatre. Pitman. p. 627. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  4. Granger, Derek (20 September 2000). "Obituaries: Shelagh Fraser". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  5. McFarlane, Brian; Slide, Anthony (2013). The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780719091391. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  6. Rinzler, J. W. (2008). The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film. Ebury Press. pp. 179, 229. ISBN 9780091924997. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  7. "Shelagh Fraser". BFI.
  8. "Shelagh Fraser". Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. 20 September 2000. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  9. Coveney, Michael (15 December 2009). "Moyra Fraser obituary". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
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