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Imogen Hassell, 1976. Photograph by Allan Warren.
|Born||25 August 1942
Woking, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
|Died||16 November 1980 (aged 38)
Wimbledon, London, England, United Kingdom
|Other names||Imogen Hassell|
|Spouse(s)||Kenneth Ives (divorced)
Andrew Knox (January 1979 - May 1979)
Named after Shakespeare's Cymbeline heroine, she was born in Woking, Surrey, to a family of artists and businessmen. Her grandfather, John Hassall, and her aunt, Joan Hassall, worked as illustrators, while her father, Christopher Hassall, was a poet and lyricist. Her godfather is said to have been the composer Ivor Novello, with whom her father had worked extensively as lyricist. Yet on occasion Imogen would proudly claim that this distinction was Sir William Walton's with whom her father had collaborated in the early 1950s, quietly denied by Lady Walton.
Imogen boarded and attended Elmhurst Ballet School, Camberley 1952-1954 and the Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, Richmond Park 1955-1958 and continued her absorption of the theatre mode with study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art,1960-1962, following which she joined the company of the Royal Shakespeare Company for one season. After enjoying an appearance in the William Douglas-Home comedy "The Reluctant Peer" at the Duchess Theatre in 1964, she appeared in British TV adventure series of the 1960s such as The Saint, The Avengers, The Persuaders! In her first significant film role she played Tara in The Long Duel (1967). She gained further public notice as a dominant cave-girl in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) and played major roles in Carry On Loving and the cult horror film Incense for the Damned the same year. In 1974 she appeared in White Cargo (London strippers get kidnapped for Arab sheikh's harem) alongside David Jason.
Imogen was twice married - firstly to Hawkeye actor Ken Ives (who later married the comedienne Marti Caine) and briefly to Andrew Knox, the actor who appeared in Doctor on the Go and who also committed suicide - and her private life was a regular subject of interest in tabloid newspapers. She was known for playing sexy, scantily-clad characters in film and on TV. This, and the revealing outfits she wore at film premieres resulted in her being publicly referred to as "the Countess of Cleavage".
She was found dead in her Wimbledon home on the morning of 16 November 1980 when she failed to meet a friend, actress Suzanna Leigh, with whom she was due to go on holiday to Africa that day. She had committed suicide by overdosing on Tuinal tablets.
Portrayal on stage and TV
Her appearance in the film Carry On Loving (1970) led many years later to her being portrayed as a character in the play Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick by Terry Johnson, which was produced at the Royal National Theatre in September 1998 and received the Olivier Award 1999 for Best New Comedy. She was played by the actress Gina Bellman. Johnson later adapted the play for a 2000 television film Cor, Blimey!.
- The Early Bird (1965)
- Press for Time (Uncredited, 1966)
- The Long Duel (1967)
- Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly (1969)
- When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
- Carry On Loving (1970)
- Incense for the Damned (1970)
- The Virgin and the Gypsy (1970)
- Toomorrow (1970)
- Take a Girl Like You (1970)
- El Condor (1970)
- Images (1972)
- White Cargo (1973)
- Licensed to Love and Kill (1979)
- The Sentimental Agent (1 episode, 1963)
- The Saint (3 episodes, 1964–1968)
- No Hiding Place (1 episode, 1965)
- Theatre 625 (1 episode, 1967)
- The Avengers (1 episode, 1967)
- Champion House (1 episode, 1967)
- The Wednesday Play (1 episode, 1967)
- Play of the Month (1 episode, 1967)
- The Troubleshooters (1 episode, 1967)
- The Champions (1 episode, 1968)
- Softly, Softly (1 episode, 1970)
- The Persuaders! (1 episode, 1972)
- Jason King (1 episode, 1972)
- Page 71, Biography: Leissner, D. (2002)
- Biography: Leissner, D. (2002)
- Andrew Knox - biography, IMDb | http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0461475/bio
- a defining pic of "the Countess of Cleavage" enjoying the flash-bulbs at a premiere | http://i1186.photobucket.com/albums/z369/onthebuseshugefan/hassallimogen_zpsee89f9f4.jpg
- Biography: Leissner, D. (2002). Tuesday's Child: The Life and Death of Imogen Hassall. Luminary Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. ISBN 1-887664-47-5.