Mary Ure in the film Where Eagles Dare (1968)
|Born||Eileen Mary Ure
18 February 1933
|Died||3 April 1975
|Spouse(s)||John Osborne (1957–1963)
Robert Shaw (1963–1975)
|Children||Colin Murray Shaw (formerly Osborne)
|Parents||Colin McGregor Ure
Born in Glasgow, Ure was the daughter of civil engineer Colin McGregor Ure and Edith Swinburne. She went to the independent Mount School in York, where she trained for the stage at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Known for her beauty, Ure began performing on the London stage and quickly developed a reputation for her abilities as a dramatic actress.
Ure was known principally as a stage actress. She made her London debut as Amanda in "Time Remembered" (1954). She was first married to playwright John Osborne, and later to the actor Robert Shaw. While performing a leading role as Alison Porter in Osborne's play Look Back in Anger (1956), she began a relationship with the married dramatist; after he obtained a divorce from his then wife, they married in 1957. In 1958, she was in the Broadway production of Look Back in Anger and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Dramatic Actress. In the 1959 film version of the play, Ure reprised her role with Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter. By this point, her marriage to Osborne was in turmoil. In 1959 she began an affair with actor Robert Shaw, her co-star in The Changeling at London's Royal Court Theatre. She gave birth to a son, naming him Colin Murray Osborne despite his physical resemblance to Shaw. She married Shaw on 13 April 1963 after which Shaw legally adopted Colin, who then became Colin Murray Shaw. The couple went on to have three more children.
She transferred her fragile, captivating portrayal of "Alison Porter" from stage to screen in the 1959 film adaptation of Look Back in Anger (1959), which also starred Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. In 1960 she appeared in the film Sons and Lovers as Clara Dawes, and was nominated for both the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In this period, she also performed a season at Stratford and, while pregnant, The Changeling at the Royal Court with actor Robert Shaw.
In 1963, she married Shaw and, after an absence of three years, returned to cinema screens with a performance in The Mind Benders (1963) with Dirk Bogarde, a thought-provoking sci-fi drama. Then it was The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964) and the flawed Custer of the West (1967), both with Shaw. Neither of these productions made a significant impact, though Ure performed admirably. In 1968, she made her one and only bona-fide big-budget blockbuster, Where Eagles Dare (1968) with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. It was a financial success, but it would be five years before Ure's next and last film appearance, in 1973's "A Reflection of Fear", co-starring her husband Robert Shaw.
Ure continued to perform on stage during this time; however, her personal life was in turmoil and her growing alcoholism affected her career to the point that she was fired from the 1974 pre-Broadway production of Love for Love and was replaced by her understudy Glenn Close.
Decline and death
Despite her professional successes, and her ostensibly happy motherhood, Ure's mental health deteriorated. On 2 April 1975 she appeared on the London stage with Honor Blackman and Brian Blessed in The Exorcism, and, after a disastrous opening night, she was found dead from an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates, by her husband Robert Shaw in their London home. She was 42 years old at the time.
Plays (partial list)
- Time Remembered (1954) (London)
- Hamlet (1955) (Stratford)
- A View from the Bridge (1956) (London)
- Look Back in Anger (1957) (London & Broadway)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959) (Stratford)
- Othello (1959) (Stratford)
- Duel of Angels (1960) (London & Broadway)
- The Changeling (1961) (London)
- Old Times (1971) (Broadway)
- Love for Love (1974) (Broadway)
- The Exorcism (1975) (London)
- Storm Over the Nile (1955)
- Windom's Way (1957)
- Look Back in Anger (1958)
- Sons and Lovers (1960)
- The Mind Benders (1963)
- The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964)
- Custer of the West (1967)
- Where Eagles Dare (1968)
- A Reflection of Fear (1973)
- Heilpern, p.270
- Heilpern, p. 212
- Obituary Variety, 9 April 1975, page 78.
- Heilpern, John (2006). John Osborne: A Patriot for Us. Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0099275864.
- Upton, Julian (2004). Fallen Stars. Critical Vision.