Barbara Jefford

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Barbara Jefford
Born Mary Barbara Jefford
(1930-07-26) 26 July 1930 (age 84)
Plymstock, Devon, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 1949–present
Spouse(s) Terence Longdon ((1953-1960) (divorced)
John Turner) (1967-present)

Barbara Jefford, OBE (born 26 July 1930) is a British Shakespearean actress best known for her theatrical performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Old Vic and the National Theatre, and her role as Molly Bloom in the 1967 film of James Joyce's Ulysses.

Early life[edit]

Jefford was born Mary Barbara Jefford in Plymstock, Devon, the daughter of Elizabeth Mary Ellen (née Laity) and Percival Francis Jefford.[1] She was brought up in the West Country and attended Weirfield School in Taunton, Somerset. She attended the Hartly-Hodder School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art before training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where she was awarded the Bancroft Gold Medal. In 1946, whilst still a student, she obtained small parts in the radio production of Westward Ho! and other radio plays, but her stage debut came in 1949, when she played the part of Viola in Twelfth Night at the Dolphin Theatre, Brighton.

Theatre[edit]

Stratford[edit]

After spending just one year working in repertory theatre, she was given the part of Isabella in 1950 in Peter Brook's production of Measure for Measure at the Shakespeare Memorial Company, (now the Royal Shakespeare Company) in Stratford-upon-Avon, playing opposite John Gielgud (Angelo) and Harry Andrews (Vincentio).

Over the next four years she went on to play many more major Shakespearean roles: Anne Bullen (Boleyn) in Henry VIII opposite Tyrone Guthrie in 1950; Calphurnia in Julius Caesar opposite Anthony Quayle and Michael Langham in 1950; Hero, opposite John Gielgud and Peggy Ashcroft in 1950; Lady Percy in Henry IV, opposite John Kidd, Anthony Quayle and Michael Redgrave in 1951; Isabel opposite Richard Burton in Henry V, in 1951; Desdemona to Anthony Quayle's Othello in 1952; Rosalind in As You Like It (New Zealand Tour, 1953); Lady Percy in Henry IV, Part 1 ( New Zealand Tour and International Tour, 1953); Hippolyte in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1954; Kate to Keith Michell's Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew in 1954; and Helen in Troilus and Cressida in 1954.

The Old Vic[edit]

After leaving Stratford she co-starred with Michael Redgrave, in Tiger at the Gates in the West End and on Broadway, before returning to work at the Old Vic. Amongst other roles she played there were Portia in The Merchant of Venice; Imogen in Cymbeline; Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing; Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona; Tamora in Titus Andronicus; Lady Anne in Richard III; Viola in Twelfth Night; Queen Margaret in Henry VI 1-3 ; Isabella in Measure for Measure; Regan in King Lear; Rosalind in As You Like It; and Viola in Twelfth Night. In 1978 she played Gertrude to Derek Jacobi's Hamlet.

She also played Beatrice in Shelley's The Cenci and Joan in George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, emulating her mentor and friend, Dame Sybil Thorndike. Many of these productions toured the USA, the USSR, the Middle East and Europe.

Other productions[edit]

Jefford next started a period of work with Frank Hauser's Oxford Playhouse which included the first of her three Cleopatras, Racine's Phèdre and Lina in Misalliance which transferred to the Criterion Theatre.

Other West End plays included Ride A Cock Horse, Filumena, Mistress of Novices and The Dark Horse, as well as the Almeida Theatre's Racine Season at the Albery Theatre. With this company she also played her second Volumnia in Coriolanus, opposite Ralph Fiennes in London, New York and Tokyo, her first being at Stratford with Charles Dance. In 1976 she was in the opening production at the Olivier Theatre playing Zabina in Tamburlaine the Great with Albert Finney.

She has repeated many Shakespeare roles in her long career, appearing in 54 productions of all but four of his plays. The last of these was Michael Grandage's Richard III with Kenneth Branagh in 2002, at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield in which she played Queen Margaret, opposite Derek Jacobi for the second time.

In July 2007 she played Mrs Higgins (the mother of Henry Higgins) in Peter Hall's acclaimed Theatre Royal, Bath production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, which transferred to the Old Vic in May 2008

Film and television[edit]

In 1959 she appeared as Ophelia in a TV production of Hamlet. For the James Bond film From Russia with Love (1963) she provided the voice (uncredited) of the Russian heroine. Jefford provided additional voice work in later Bond films, dubbing Molly Peters in Thunderball (1965) and Caroline Munro in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Her first major film role was as Molly Bloom in Ulysses (1967), for which she was nominated for a British Academy Award. This was followed by The Bofors Gun (Jack Gold, 1968); The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) and Lust for a Vampire (1971) She played Magda Goebbels in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (Ennio de Concini, 1973). Other films include Nelly's Version (1983), Fellini's And the Ship Sails On (E la nave va) (1983) Claudia (1985) and The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 1999).

Jefford has appeared in several television dramas in the Play For Today series (Edna, the Inebriate Woman, 1971); and has appeared in several other television series. These include Journey to the Unknown, which also aired in the U.S., in 1968;Walter and June (TV, 1986); Porterhouse Blue (TV, 1987); When the Whales Came (1989); Harold Pinter's Reunion (1989); Mrs Herriton in Where Angels Fear to Tread (Charles Sturridge, 1991); The House of Eliott (TV, 1991); The Saint (Phillip Noyce, 1997); Midsomer Murders (TV, 2000) and Madame Bovary (TV, 2000). She has also appeared in episodes of The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Campion and the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries. She also appeared in The Creeper a 2010 episode of Midsomer Murders. In 2013, she played Sister Hildegard in Stephen Frears' "Philomena" with Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.

Radio[edit]

Selected radio roles include:

  • Isabella in Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure", BBC Home Service 23/4/1950.[2]
  • Thomas Otway's "Venice Preserved", BBC Third Programme 10/8/1960; with Donald Woolfit.[3]
  • Goneril in Shakespeare's "King Lear", BBC Third Programme 29/9/1967; with John Gielgud and Howard Marion-Crawford.[4]
  • Maja Rubek in "When We Dead Awaken" by Henrik Ibsen, BBC Third Programme 3/8/1969; with Ralph Richardson, Irene Worth and Gordon Jackson .[5]
  • Tamora in Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus", BBC Radio 3 28/10/1973.[6]
  • Duchess of Gloucester in episodes 5 & 6 of "Vivat Rex", BBC Radio 3 1977.[8][9]
  • Cleopatra in Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra", BBC Radio 4 2/5/1981.[10]
  • Millie Crocker-Harris in "The Browning Version" by Terence Rattigan, BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play 26/6/1981; with Nigel Stock.[11]
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter" by James Goldman, BBC Radio 4 27-12-1981.[12]
  • Paulina in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale", BBC Radio 3 21/1/1982.[13]
  • Lucia in "Queen Lucia" & "Lucia in London", adapted by Aubrey Woods from E F Benson's Lucia books, BBC Radio 4 1984 & 1985.[16]
  • Queen Elizabeth I in Friedrich von Schiller "Mary Stuart", BBC Radio 4 30/11/1987; with Hannah Gordon.
  • Maria Lvovna Dzerzinskaya in "The Stalin Sonata" by David Zane Mairowitz, BBC Radio 4 1/8/1989; Giles Cooper Award Winner.

Awards[edit]

In 1965, Jefford was awarded the OBE for her service to the theatre, becoming the youngest ever recipient of the award to that date.

In 1977 she was also awarded the Jubilee Festival Medal.

References[edit]

External links[edit]