27 July 1942 |
London, England, UK
Barbara Gillian Ferris (born in London on 27 July 1942) is an English actress and former fashion model.
She appeared in a number of films and productions for television and is possibly best remembered as Dinah, the young woman who eloped with Dave Clark in the 1965 film Catch Us If You Can. Her other roles were as diverse as the female lead in Edward Bond's controversial play Saved (1965) and a vicar's wife in the television comedy series All in Good Faith in the mid-1980s. She is the sister of the actress Pam Ferris.
Screen roles of the 1960s
Barbara Ferris made her earliest television appearances in her teens. In 1961 she played the part of barmaid Nona Willis in Granada’s twice-weekly serial Coronation Street and appeared also in episodes of The Cheaters (1962) and Zero One (starring Nigel Patrick, 1963).
Ferris's films included  the drama Term of Trial (1962) starring Laurence Olivier, A Pair of Briefs (1962), a romantic comedy set around the Inns of Court; Children of the Damned (1964), starring Ian Hendry, in which a group of children brought to London by UNESCO turned out to be humans advanced by a million years; Michael Winner's The System (1964), with Oliver Reed and Julia Foster, an early "Swinging London"-style sex comedy about young loafers at a seaside resort; Catch Us If You Can (film) (1965), which featured the rock band the Dave Clark Five and owed much to the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night the previous year; Interlude (1968), alongside Oskar Werner, John Cleese and Donald Sutherland, which film historian Leslie Halliwell described as "Intermezzo remade for the swinging London set"; and Desmond Davis's A Nice Girl Like Me (1969), in which, surrounded by an impressive cast that included Harry Andrews, Gladys Cooper and Joyce Carey, Ferris played a young woman named Candida who kept getting pregnant ("Candida isn't much for sex but she's big on babies" as one critic put it ).
Ferris played the leading female role in Edward Bond's play Saved at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1965. This was subject to censorship by the Lord Chamberlain who was instrumental in bringing a successful prosecution when the producers went ahead and staged the play without cuts before private audiences. Despite the controversial subject matter, which included a scene in which a baby was stoned to death in its pram, the case was a step towards the Lord Chamberlain's losing his censorship role under the Theatres Act 1968. However, writer and critic Bernard Levin later opined that Saved contained "extremes [of cruelty] never seen before outside the Grand Guignol, or possibly even inside", while Ferris's character was described at the time by the Daily Telegraph's critic W.A. Darlington as "a young virago with a screech that afflicts the ear-drums".
Among Ferris’s later television roles were as Emilie Trampusch in The Strauss Family (1972), Elizabeth in Elizabeth Alone (1981) and Emma Lambe, the wife of a vicar played by Richard Briers, in the first two series of All in Good Faith (1985–87). She also appeared as Briers' wife, Enid Washbrook, in Michael Winner's film of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy A Chorus of Disapproval (1988). Depicting the tensions and rivalries among a provincial repertory company rehearsing The Beggar's Opera, the Washbrooks' daughter Linda was played by a young Patsy Kensit. Ferris was also in The Krays (1990), a film based on the lives of the Kray twins, who were leading figures in the criminal underworld of London’s East End in the 1960s.
On stage Ferris played the lead female role (Marion) in Terence Frisby's There's a Girl in My Soup (1966) at London's Globe Theatre, which for a time held the record as the longest running comedy in the West End (although by then Ferris had been succeeded in the part by Belinda Carroll). She played the leading role of Belinda in Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings, a black farce about a family Christmas which opened at the Apollo Theatre in London in 1982.
Barbara Ferris gave a number of well-regarded performances, but she did not become a big star. Equally, although ostensibly she fitted the stereotypical image of a mid-1960s blonde, she was never really a "starlet", a characteristic she shared with, among other actresses of a similar mould, Julie Christie and Carol White. For a while, after Catch Us If You Can, she acquired a certain "pin up" status  - and, indeed, in that film she was the model for an advertising campaign by the meat industry. However, even a scene in which the appetite of the audience was whetted by her having removed a fashionable striped jumper and replacing it over her brassiere with a chunky, more serviceable one, tended to emphasise the feistiness of her character, rather than necessarily making her appear sexy (or, for that matter, conveying the image of a "groupie").
The New York Times' review of A Nice Girl Like You by Roger Greenspun contained a vignette of Ferris in the late '60s:
"Barbara Ferris is a strong-featured girl with an odd facial resemblance to Noël Coward. Despite her winsome smile, flaxen hair and peaches-and-cream complexion, she plays innocence as if it were an allegory of experience and lines of calculation enmesh the cornflowers."
- See generally Halliwell's Film Guide (7th ed, 1989)
- Released in America as The Girl Getters in 1966: see Time, 29 August 1966.
- Released in America as Having a Wild Weekend (the title of a song on the soundtrack), which Bosley Crowther of the New York Times thought the best young generational film of its era: see sleeve notes of CD, Glad All Over Again (Dave Clark Five, 1993)
- Halliwell's Film Giide (7th ed, 1989). Intermezzo was a romantic comedy film of 1939 directed by David O. Selznick and starring Leslie Howard and Ingrid Bergman.
- Roger Greenspun in New York Times, 4 December 1969
- Bernard Levin (1970) The Pendulum Years
- Quoted by Samantha Ellis, The Guardian, 23 April 2003
- Mrs Lamb was played by Susan Jameson in the third series of All in Good Faith (1988)
- The première of Season's Greetings was in Scarborough in 1980.
- One "spin off" of her association with Catch Us If You Can was Ferris's appearance in September 1965 on BBC TV's weekly "pop" panel programme Juke Box Jury.
- Roger Greenspun in New York Times, 4 December 1969. His comparison with Noel Coward was perhaps a little unfair: the critic Kenneth Tynan thought Coward had face like an old boot, albeit "an unmistakeably handmade boot" (quoted in Sunday Times Magazine, 25 February 2007).