Adrienne Corri in her most notable role in a trailer for ‘’A Clockwork Orange‘’ (1971)
13 November 1930
|Died||13 March 2016 (aged 85)|
|Cause of death||Coronary artery disease|
(m. 1961; div. 1967)
She was born Adrienne Riccoboni in Glasgow, the daughter of Olive Smethurst and an Italian father Luigi Riccoboni (sometimes spelt Reccobini). Her distinctive auburn hair came from her mother’s Lancastrian Mancunian Smethurst family. In the 1930s, her father Luigi (known as Louis) ran the Crown Hotel in Callander, Perthshire. She had one brother.
Despite having significant roles in many films, Corri is best known for one of her smaller parts, that of Mrs. Alexander, the wife of the writer Frank Alexander, in Stanley Kubrick‘s dystopian film ‘’A Clockwork Orange‘’ (1971). Though not originally cast in this role, she was brought in after the previous actress, reported to be Bernadette Milnes, left the film. Corri was offered the role after two actresses had already withdrawn from the film, one of them, according to Malcolm McDowell (Alex in the film), because she found it “too humiliating -– because it involved having to be perched, naked, on Warren Clarke‘s (playing Dim the Droog) shoulders for weeks on end while Stanley decided which shot he liked the best.” Corri had no such qualms about appearing naked, joking to McDowell: “Well, Malcolm, you’re about to find out that I’m a real redhead.” Corri earned Kubrick’s respect by her willingness to undergo the grueling process of shooting endless takes. She recalled: “For four days I was bashed about by Malcolm (Alex) and he really hit me. One scene was shot 39 times until Malcolm said ‘I can’t hit her anymore!’”
Corri’s film debut was in ‘’The Romantic Age‘’ (1949), which was followed by Jean Renoir‘s version of ‘’The River‘’ (1951). Her other film roles included Lara’s mother in David Lean‘s ‘’Dr. Zhivago‘’ (1965), and Dorothy in Otto Preminger‘s thriller ‘’Bunny Lake Is Missing‘’ (also 1965). She also appeared in a number of horror and suspense films until the 1970s including ‘’Devil Girl from Mars‘’ (1954), ‘’The Tell-Tale Heart‘’ (1960), ‘’A Study in Terror‘’ (1965) and ‘’Vampire Circus‘’ (1972). She also appeared as Therese Duval in ‘’Revenge of the Pink Panther‘’ (1978). The range and versatility of her acting is shown by appearances in such diverse productions as the science fiction movie ‘’Moon Zero Two‘’ (1969) where she played opposite the character actor Sam Kydd (Len the barman), and again in a television version of ‘’Twelfth Night‘’ (1969), directed by John Sichel, as the Countess Olivia, where she played opposite Alec Guinness as Malvolio.
Her other television credits include Angelica in ‘’Sword of Freedom‘’ (1958), Yolanda in ‘’The Invisible Man‘’ episode “Crisis in the Desert” (1958), a regular role in ‘’A Family at War‘’ (1971) and ‘’You’re Only Young Twice’’ (also 1971), a television series created by Jack Trevor Story, as Mena in the ‘’Doctor Who‘’ story “The Leisure Hive“ (1980), as Veronica in ‘’Love in a Cold Climate‘’ (1980). She guest-starred as the mariticidal Liz Newton in the ‘’UFO‘’ episode “The Square Triangle“ (1970) and was in two episodes of ‘’Danger Man‘’ (US: ‘’Secret Agent’’, both 1965). She was equally at home in the classics of British theatre, giving an outstanding performance as Lady Fidget in a BBC ‘’Play of the Month‘’, William Wycherley‘s Restoration comedy ‘’The Country Wife‘’ (1977) with Helen Mirren.
Corri had a major stage career, appearing regularly both in London and in the provincial theatres. She appeared in one of the first English performances in 1968 of ‘’Come and Go‘’, Samuel Beckett‘s one-act “dramaticule”, in Beckett’s coinage, performed at the Royal Festival Hall as part of “a gala entertainment concerning depravity and corruption” (the words coming from the nineteenth-century definition of obscenity), sponsored by the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Defence of Literature and the Arts Society, which raised funds to support publishers being prosecuted for obscenity. It was directed by Deryk Mendel, with Corri appearing alongside Marie Kean and Billie Whitelaw in the roles of Flo, Vi, and Ru. The evening included both classical and rock music, and a mixed programme compèred by George Melly. In his entry for Clifford Anthony Smythe in the online ‘’Oxford Dictionary of National Biography‘’, John Calder records that “The profit was much less than expected for a sold-out house, as the person who had volunteered to organise the souvenir programme spent too little time finding advertisers as against providing editorial content.”
Personality and friendships
Corri was known for her feisty character. Various stories are recounted of her, such as that when the audience booed on the first night of John Osborne‘s ‘’The World of Paul Slickey‘’, she responded with her own abuse: she raised two fingers to the audience and shouted “Go fuck yourselves”. During the making of ‘’Moon Zero Two‘’, she poured a glass of iced water inside James Olson‘s rubber space suit, in which Olsen was left in an uncomfortable state: in the end, he was obliged to wear it for the remainder of the day’s shooting.
Corri was acquainted with many of the leading figures in the British theatre, including Joe Orton, and he recounts in his diaries how he asked her advice on how best to end his relationship with his lover Kenneth Halliwell. She enjoyed a good relationship with Stanley Kubrick, who joked with her that in the surprise visit sequence in ‘’A Clockwork Orange’’ that she was cast in “the Debbie Reynolds part”, a reference to Reynolds’ role in the film ‘’Singin’ in the Rain‘’ (1952). After completing ‘’A Clockwork Orange’’, Corri kept in touch with Kubrick, who complained to her about the problem he had of losing socks whenever he did the washing, so for Christmas she gave him a pair of bright red socks, a humorous reference to her scene in ‘’Orange’’, where after Alex had finished snipping off her red pyjama suit, she was naked except for a pair of red socks.
In the louche atmosphere of the 1960s, when peers, film stars and gangsters rubbed shoulders, Corri became acquainted with some of the figures in London’s demi-monde, including the much-married ‘’bon viveur’’ John Wodehouse, 4th Earl of Kimberley, as well as socialising with other actors and the Kray twins at their El Morocco club, one of the haunts of the Krays’ acquaintance the Conservative politician Robert Boothby, who used the Krays to supply him with rent-boys.
She was the author of ‘’The Search for Gainsborough’’, a book written in diary form, detailing her efforts to establish the provenance of a painting of David Garrick that she believes to be by a young Thomas Gainsborough. She also wrote a scholarly article in The Burlington Magazine about the portrait and its connection to Gainsborough’s very early work, ‘’Self Portrait as a Boy’’ c.1739, (the latter can be seen online at the Historical Portraits Image Library). The book displays her wit and erudition, as well as providing the reader with a fund of anecdotes regarding the actress herself. Corri’s researches and her article are discussed in “Tom will be a genius – new landscapes by the young Thomas Gainsborough”, the catalogue of an exhibition at Philip Mould Ltd, 4–28 July 2009, with text by Linsay Stainton and Bendor Grosvenor. Corri’s claim that the painting was by the young Gainsborough was based on her detailed researches in the archives of the Bank of England, which indicated that significant financial payments were made to Gainsborough while he was still a boy. Following a claim by Corri for the expense incurred restoring and authenticating the picture, the painting was given to her in May 1990, in an out of court of settlement by the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, who disputed her valuation and the attribution to Gainsborough.
Corri was married to actor Daniel Massey from 1961 until they divorced in 1967. The marriage to Massey proved to be somewhat tempestuous, with Massey describing the relationship in the following terms, “We were agonizingly incompatible but we had an extraordinary physical attraction.” Massey envisaged a domestic life for Corri but she realised that she was not suited to being a full-time housewife and after a six-year hiatus she resumed her career as an actress. Reports that Corri was married earlier to Derek Fowlds are apparently false.
|1949||The Romantic Age||Norah|
|Quo Vadis||Young Christian Girl||Uncredited|
|1953||The Kidnappers||Kirsty||(US: The Little Kidnappers)|
|1954||Devil Girl from Mars||Doris|
|Meet Mr. Callaghan||Mayola Verville|
|Lease of Life||Susan Thorne|
|Make Me an Offer||Nicky|
|1956||The Anatomist||Mary Paterson||TV Movie|
|The Feminine Touch||Maureen|
|Behind the Headlines||Pam Barnes|
|The Shield of Faith|
|Three Men in a Boat||Clara Willis|
|The Big Chance||Diana Maxwell|
|The Surgeon’s Knife||Laura Shelton|
|1958||Corridors of Blood||Rachel|
|1959||The Rough and the Smooth||Jane Buller|
|1960||The Tell-Tale Heart||Betty Clare|
|The Hellfire Club||Lady Isobel|
|1961||Dynamite Jack||Pegeen O’Brien|
|1963||Lancelot and Guinevere||Lady Vivian|
|1965||Bunny Lake Is Missing||Dorothy|
|A Study in Terror||Angela|
|1967||The Viking Queen||Beatrice|
|Africa: Texas Style||Fay Carter|
|Woman Times Seven||Mme. Lisiere||(Segment: At The Opera)|
|1968||Journey into Darkness||Terry Lawrence||(Segment: The New People)|
|1969||The File of the Golden Goose||Angela Richmond|
|Moon Zero Two||Liz|
|Cry Wolf||Mrs. Quinn – woman in tobacconist’s shop|
|1971||A Clockwork Orange||Mrs. Alexander|
|1972||Vampire Circus||Gypsy Woman|
|1974||Madhouse||Faye Carstairs Flay|
|The Three Musketeers||Milady||Voice|
|1978||Revenge of the Pink Panther||Therese Douvier|
|1979||The Human Factor||Sylvia|
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- "The postcard that exposes pervert Tory peer's lies that Ronnie Kray was not his friend". dailymail.co.uk. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
- Morgan, Tom (23 October 2015). "The Spy Files: Lord Boothby's sordid sex parties with Ronnie Kray revealed in MI5 files". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
- "Adrienne Corri, Actress Known For 'Clockwork Orange', Dies 84". The New York Times.com. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
- Mould, Philip. "Historical Portraits Image Library". Self Portrait as a Boy c.1739. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- Corri, Adrienne (April 1983). "Gainsborough's Early Career: New Documents and Two Portraits". The Burlington Magazine (125): 210–216.
- Corri, Adrienne (1986). The Search for Gainsborough. Vanguard Press. p. 281. ISBN 0-8149-0906-X.
- Lindsay Stainton and Bendor Grosvenor (2009). Tom will be a genius. Philip Mould Ltd. p. 50.
- Heraldscotland, Heraldscotland. "Actress settles theatre art row". heraldscotland.com. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
- Vallance, Tom (28 March 1998). "Obituary: Daniel Massey". The Independent. London. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "Adrienne Corri | The Times". The Times. 26 March 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.