Patricia Roc

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Patricia Roc
PatriciaRoc.jpg
Born Felicia Miriam Ursula Herold
(1915-06-07)7 June 1915
London, England
Died 30 December 2003(2003-12-30) (aged 88)
Locarno, Switzerland
Cause of death
Kidney failure
Other names Felicia Riese
Occupation Actress
Years active 1938 – 1962
Spouse(s) Dr. Murray Laing (1939)
André Thomas (1949-54)
Walter Reif (1962-86)
Website
http://www.wickedlady.com/films/ladies/RocPatricia/

Patricia Roc (7 June 1915, London – 30 December 2003, Locarno, Switzerland), born Felicia Miriam Ursula Herold, was a British film actress, popular in the Gainsborough melodramas such as Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945), though she only made one film in Hollywood, Canyon Passage (1946). She also appeared in Millions Like Us (1943), Jassy (1945), The Brothers (1947) and When the Bough Breaks (1947).

Early life[edit]

The adoptive daughter of a Dutch-Belgian father, André Riese, a wealthy stockbroker, and a half-French mother, she was educated at private schools in London and Paris, before joining RADA in 1937.[1] She did not learn that she was adopted until 1949.

Film career[edit]

Roc began as a stage actress, debuting in the 1938 London production of Nuts in May, in which she was seen by Alexander Korda who cast her in a leading role as a Polish princess in The Rebel Son.[1]

She was employed by the studio of J. Arthur Rank, who called her "the archetypal British beauty"[2] She achieved her greatest level of popularity in British films during the Second World War in escapist melodramas for Gainsborough Studios.[1] She played prominent roles in some patriotic films of the period, such as Let the People Sing (1941) with Alastair Sim and We'll Meet Again (1943) with Vera Lynn. She co-starred with Phyllis Calvert, Jean Kent and Flora Robson as an internment camp inmate in Two Thousand Women (1944).[1]

Love Story (1944) allowed her to play the jealous rival of Margaret Lockwood. She later commented that although they were required to slap each other's faces, she and Lockwood were always the best of friends.[1] They played rivals in two subsequent films, The Wicked Lady (1944) and Jassy (1945). Roc's more overt sexuality in such films as The Wicked Lady was downplayed for the American market; her décolletage led US censors to call for retakes to de-emphasise it[3]) and "the Goddess of Odeons", whilst Noël Coward said she was "a phenomenon" and "an unspoiled film star who can act".[2] She played the central role in Millions Like Us, a powerful World War II film, made by Launder and Gilliat, which portrayed the changes that wartime wrought on the 'home front', starring alongside Gordon Jackson.

Her brief move to Hollywood to film Canyon Passage (1946) was a lend lease agreement between Rank Pictures and Universal Studios of British in return for American film actors.[1] During filming, Roc was romantically linked with Ronald Reagan, while her US co-star Susan Hayward stated "that Limey glamour girl is a helluva dame."[citation needed]

In 1947 British exhibitors voted her the 6th most popular British star in the country.[4] The following year she was 9th.[5]

Roc returned to England later in the decade following the death of husband André Thomas. She produced only 3 more films and made a few television appearances (including the first episode of The Saint).

Personal life[edit]

Two weeks after the outbreak of war in 1939, Roc married Canadian-born Mayfair osteopath Dr Murray Laing, 12 years her senior. A possessive ­husband, who objected to his beautiful young wife kissing other men on screen, Laing soon had real cause for jealousy. While filming The Farmer’s Wife in 1941, Roc plunged headlong into a torrid affair with her co-star, Michael Wilding (who was later to marry Elizabeth Taylor). This hastened the collapse of his first marriage to the actress Kay Young. Her scandalous affairs with married men earned her the name of ‘Bed Roc’ within the film industry.

In Johnny Frenchman, the voluptuous Roc played opposite Ralph Michael, who was married to the distinguished actress Fay Compton, sister of the novelist and playwright Sir Compton Mackenzie. Roc embarked on yet another affair. Miss Compton, who never forgave her, divorced Ralph Michael, citing Roc, while Roc’s husband Murray Laing divorced her, citing Ralph Michael. After filming The Wicked Lady, in which, ironically, she played the ‘good girl’ to Margaret Lockwood’s villainess, Roc departed for ­Hollywood to star in the Western Canyon Passage. And there, in August 1945 on her second day in Tinseltown, she met Ronald Reagan over lunch at the famous Brown Derby restaurant. They had an intense affair and Reagan wanted to marry her. In 1947 she had an affair with the Scottish director David MacDonald who was directing her in the film The Brothers, causing the breakup of his marriage.

Roc married again in 1949 to André Thomas, a lighting cameraman, and moved to Paris where she started to work more and more in French and Italian cinema (along with a French-Canadian feature in Quebec). In 1952 Roc co-starred with the Rank Organisation’s ‘Mr Beefcake’ Anthony Steel, in the film Something Money Can’t Buy. Succumbing to what she described as Steel’s ‘animal magnetism’ (‘I’m afraid he was very, very good in bed’), she began an affair which resulted in the birth of a son, Michael. Her husband André, although knowing the child could not be his as he could not have children, accepted paternity, but suffered a massive stroke in 1956, and died at the age of 45.

She was married, a third and final time, to Walter Reif in 1962, and a year later retired. During her retirement, she moved to Locarno, where she later died of kidney failure.

In 1995, at the age of 80, she returned to London to attend the thanksgiving service for the life of her brother-in-law, tennis champion Fred Perry (whose third wife was her sister). Police had to rescue her when she was mobbed by ­hundreds of fans as she left St Paul’s Cathedral with her son.

Right to the end of her life, on ­December 30, 2003, she kept a photograph of Reagan and herself in the drawing-room of her Swiss home at ­Minusio, overlooking Lake Maggiore. It showed them gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1938 The Divorce of Lady X Minor role (uncredited)
The Barbarian and the Lady Marina
The Gaunt Stranger Mary Lenley
1939 The Mysterious Mr. Reeder
1940 The Missing People Doris Bevan
Pack Up Your Troubles Sally Brown
Lady in Distress Pat
Dr. O'Dowd Rosemary
Three Silent Men Pat Quentin
It Happened to One Man Betty Quair
1941 The Farmer's Wife Sibley
My Wife's Family Peggy Gay
1942 Suspected Person Joan Raynor
Let the People Sing Hope Ollerton
1943 We'll Meet Again Ruth
Millions Like Us Celia Crowson
1944 Two Thousand Women Rosemary Brown / Mary Maugham
Love Story Judy
1945 Madonna of the Seven Moons Angela Labardi
The Wicked Lady Caroline
Johnny Frenchman Sue Pomeroy
1946 Canyon Passage Caroline Marsh
1947 The Brothers Mary
So Well Remembered Julie Morgan
Jassy Dilys Helmar
When the Bough Breaks Lily Bates
Holiday Camp Herself
1948 One Night with You Mary Santell
1949 The Perfect Woman Penelope Belman
Return to Life Lieutenant Evelyne
The Man on the Eiffel Tower Helen Kirby
1950 Black Jack Ingrid Dekker
Fugitive from Montreal Helen Bering
1951 Circle of Danger Elspeth Graham
1952 Something Money Can't Buy Anne Wilding
1953 La mia vita è tua
1954 Cartouche Donna Violante
1956 The Errol Flynn Theatre Episode: "Farewell Performance"
1957 Scotland Yard Dragnet Mary Foster
The House in the Woods Carol Carter
1958 White Hunter Marge Wilson Episodes: "Pegasus"
1959 The Widow Diana
No Hiding Place Mrs. Ottlone Episode: "Who Is Gustav Varnia?"
1960 Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons Mme. Dueaux
Skyport Iris West 1 episode
1961 Dixon of Dock Green Brenda Episode: "A Kiss for the Constable"
1962 The Saint Madge Clarron Episode: "The Talented Husband"

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Bergan, Ronald (31 December 2003). "Actress Patricia Roc, Rank starlet seen as the epitome of the English rose". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "Actress Patricia Roc dies, aged 88". London: Daily Telegraph. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  3. ^ "Obituary". London: Daily Telegraph. 30 December 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  4. ^ 'Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown', The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 03 Jan 1948: 12.
  5. ^ 'BRITTEN'S "RAPE OF LUCRETIA": NEW YORK DIVIDED', The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 31 Dec 1948: 8.

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