|Born||Valerie Jeanne Wilkinson
9 May 1931
Southport, Lancashire, England
|Died||11 October 2005 (aged 84)|
|Alma mater||Old Vic|
|Television||Fabian of the Yard, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents, The Champions, The Vice, The Avengers, The Cheaters, The Saint, The Baron, Harper's West One, Are You Being Served?, Casanova '73, Agony, O Happy Band!|
|Spouse(s)||Edwin Richfield (m. 1952–1973; divorced)
Louis Manson (m. 1988–2004: Her death)
|Relatives||Amanda Holden, great niece|
Valerie Jeanne Wilkinson (9 May 1931 – 11 October 2005) was an English actress known as Jan Holden, using her mother's maiden name as a stage name. In theatre she was known for her performances in light comedy and appeared in several popular television series during the 1950s and 1960s.
She was the great-aunt of the actress and television presenter Amanda Holden.
Born in Southport, Lancashire, Jeanne Wilkinson, as she then was, spent her early childhood in India, where her father was a senior manager at the Swadeshi Cotton Mills in Kanpur. At the age of six, she and her twin brother Geoffrey were sent to schools in the hills near Simla. Getting there took a two-day train journey. The term lasted nine months, and there were three months at home during the cool season. The schools were not mixed, so she and her brother only met at church on Sundays.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Holden and her mother returned to Britain, where she became a boarder at Lowther College in North Wales. When the war ended, her mother returned to India while Jan stayed at her school and lived with school friends during the holidays. At the age of eighteen, she was offered places at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Old Vic School, and the Bristol Old Vic, but her father declined to pay the fees, as he disapproved of her ambition to go on the stage. Eventually he was persuaded to allow her to take a directors' course at the Old Vic, where she was one of two pupils chosen as assistant stage managers.
After the Old Vic, Holden turned to repertory, where she met her first husband, the actor Edwin Richfield, who appeared in the television series The Buccaneers. They were married in 1952, while they were both appearing in a stage version of The Blue Lamp. They had three children.
Holden was an elegant actress, notable for her arresting pale blue eyes. She made her West End debut in 1958 in "Speaking of Murder" at St Martin's Theatre, which was followed by "The Tunnel of Love", a farce at the Apollo Theatre.
Holden was heartbroken when her twin brother drowned during the early 1960s. In 1973 her marriage broke down, leaving her with three teenage children to bring up. In 1988 she married Louis Manson, a solicitor and business man, but she was already in poor health and remained so during her final two decades. In 1999, one of her twin daughters died from a brain tumour, but she remained cheerful and courageous until her own death in 2005. She was survived by her husband, the son and remaining daughter of her first marriage, and two stepdaughters and four stepsons.
Holden's film appearances included:
- The Hornet's Nest (1955) – Miss Wentworth
- No Smoking (1955) – Receptionist
- Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1956) – Fire Maiden
- Assignment Redhead (1956) – Sally Jennings
- High Flight (1957) – Jackie
- The Whole Truth (1958) – Party guest
- The Camp on Blood Island (1958) – Nurse
- A Woman Possessed (1958) – Mary
- Links of Justice (1958) – Elsie
- The Stranglers of Bombay (1960) – Mary Lewis
- Work Is a Four-Letter Word (1968) – Mrs Price
- The Haunted House of Horror (1969) – Peggy
- The Best House in London (1969) – Lady Dilke
Her television credits included Fabian of the Yard, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents, The Champions, The Vice, The Avengers, The Cheaters, The Saint, The Baron, Harper's West One, Are You Being Served?, Casanova '73, Agony and O Happy Band!.
- Burl Barer, The Saint: A Complete History in Print, Radio, Film, and Television, 1928-1992 (McFarland, 2003), p 316