Anna Massey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anna Massey
Anna Massey in Bunny Lake Is Missing
Anna Raymond Massey

(1937-08-11)11 August 1937
Thakeham, Sussex, England
Died3 July 2011(2011-07-03) (aged 73)
Kensington, London, England
Years active1955–2011
(m. 1958; div. 1962)
Dr Uri Andres
(m. 1988)
Parent(s)Raymond Massey
Adrianne Allen
RelativesDaniel Massey (brother)
Vincent Massey (uncle)
Alice Massey (aunt)

Anna Raymond Massey CBE (11 August 1937 – 3 July 2011)[2][3] was an English actress.[4] She won a BAFTA Best Actress Award for the role of Edith Hope in the 1986 TV adaptation of Anita Brookner's novel Hotel du Lac,[5] a role that one of her co-stars, Julia McKenzie, has said "could have been written for her".[6] Massey is also well-known for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) as a barmaid who becomes involved with a suspected killer. She performed over one hundred character roles in British film and television. [7]

Early life[edit]

Massey was born in Thakeham, Sussex, England, the daughter of British actress Adrianne Allen and Canadian-born Hollywood actor Raymond Massey.[8] Her parents divorced when she was an infant and she continued to live in England with her mother. Her older brother Daniel Massey also became an actor. She was the niece of Vincent Massey, a Governor General of Canada, and her godfather was film director John Ford.[9]


Although she had no formal training at either drama school or in repertory, Anna Massey made her first appearance on stage in May 1955 at the age of 17, at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, as Jane in The Reluctant Debutante, subsequently making her first London appearance in the same play at the Cambridge Theatre in May 1955 "and was suddenly famous".[10] She then left the cast in London to repeat her performance in New York in October 1956.[11] In the 1990s she appeared with Alan Bennett in a dramatised reading of T.S. Eliot's and Virginia Woolf's letters, in a production at the Charleston Festival devised by Patrick Garland.

Several of her early film roles were in mystery thrillers. She made her cinema debut in the Scotland Yard film Gideon's Day (1958) as Sally, daughter of Jack Hawkins's Detective Inspector. The director was her godfather John Ford.[10] She played a potential murder victim in Michael Powell's cult thriller Peeping Tom (1960) and appeared in Otto Preminger's Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965). In 1972 she played the role of the barmaid Babs in Alfred Hitchcock's penultimate film Frenzy. In the documentary on the film's DVD release, Massey mentioned that she originally auditioned for the much smaller role of the secretary Monica, a part for which Jean Marsh was cast. She also noted that her character's nude scenes in Frenzy were performed by body doubles. She appeared alongside her brother Daniel—they played siblings—in the horror film The Vault of Horror (1973).

Massey continued to make occasional film and stage appearances, but worked more frequently in television. She made her first small-screen appearance as Jacqueline in Green of the Year in October 1955,[11] and thereafter featured in dramas such as The Pallisers (1974), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978), the 1979 adaptation of Rebecca (in which she starred with her ex-husband Jeremy Brett), The Cherry Orchard (1980), and Anna Karenina (1985). She had roles in the British comedy series The Darling Buds of May (1991)[12] and The Robinsons (2005). She also appeared in a number of mysteries and thrillers on television, including episodes of Inspector Morse, The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Midsomer Murders, Strange, Lewis, and Agatha Christie's Poirot.

With Imelda Staunton, she co-devised and starred as Josephine Daunt in Daunt and Dervish on BBC radio. She was the narrator of This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4, a history of Britain from Roman times which ran for more than 300 fifteen-minute episodes. In 2009, she also appeared in a new radio version of The Killing of Sister George.[10]

In 1987, Massey was awarded the BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her role in Hotel du Lac[13] after acquiring the TV rights two years earlier, only a few weeks before the novel won the Booker Prize.[6] She also appeared as Mrs D'Urberville in the 2008 BBC adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles.[9]

Acting style[edit]

One of Massey's assets as an actress was her "extraordinary voice... it was so listenable".[6] Although Massey's parts were varied, her "cut-glass English accent conveyed a cold and repressed character on screen".[14] Michael Billington of The Guardian characterised her work as being informed by "stillness", such as in the National Theatre's production of Harold Pinter's A Kind of Alaska.[15] Massey was the principal narrator of the BBC Radio series on British history This Sceptred Isle. She also recorded several audiobooks, including Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca.

She was known for a high level of preparation and effort, with one producer saying that she had a practice of using five different coloured pens on scripts to mark out "breaths and pauses" and the development of a scene; for example, "if a phrase early in a paragraph was going to be picked up again later, she would highlight those two bits in the same colour, so that it would remind her that that first phrase was referring to something later".[6]

Personal life[edit]

In the New Year's Honours List published on 31 December 2004, she was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to drama.[16]

Massey published an autobiography in 2006, Telling Some Tales, in which she revealed a difficult early life, including a distant relationship with her famous father and estrangement with her brother. She described her failed marriage (1958–1962) to actor Jeremy Brett, discussing his struggle with bipolar disorder. Brett and Massey divorced on 22 November 1962 after she claimed he left her for a man.[17][18] The couple had one son, writer and illustrator David Huggins (b. 1959).[19] At an August 1988 dinner party held at the home of their mutual friend, Joy Whitby,[8] she met Russian-born metallurgist Uri Andres, who had been based at Imperial College, London since 1975.[20] The couple were married from November 1988 until her death in 2011.[15]

Massey was quoted as saying, "Theatre eats up too much of your family life. I have a grandson and a husband and I'd rather I was able to be a granny and a wife."[21]

She died from lung cancer in Kensington, London[22] on 3 July 2011, aged 73.[5][9]

Selected TV and filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1958 Gideon's Day Sally Gideon
1960 Peeping Tom Helen Stephens
1963 The Trip to Biarritz Marjorie Robertson
1965 Bunny Lake Is Missing Elvira Smollett
1969 David Copperfield Jane Murdstone
1969 De Sade Renée de Montreuil
1970 The Looking Glass War Avery's Wife
1970 Wicked Women Christiana Edmunds TV episode[23]
1972 Frenzy Babs Milligan
1973 The Vault of Horror Donna Rogers (segment 1 "Midnight Mess")
1973 A Doll's House Kristine Linde
1974 The Pallisers Laura Kennedy TV miniseries
1978 The Mayor of Casterbridge Lucetta Templeman
1979 Rebecca Mrs. Danvers TV miniseries
1979 A Little Romance Ms. Seigel
1980 Sweet William Edna McClusky
1982 Five Days One Summer Jennifer Pierce
1982 I Remember Nelson Lady Frances Nelson TV series, Episode: "Love"
1983 Mansfield Park Mrs. Norris TV series - 6 episodes
1984 Another Country Imogen Bennett
1984 Journey into the Shadows: Portrait of Gwen John Gwen John TV film
1984 The Little Drummer Girl Chairlady
1984 The Chain Betty
1985 Sacred Hearts Sister Thomas
1986 Hotel du Lac Edith Hope BAFTA award-winning TV role
1986 Foreign Body Miss Furze
1987 A Hazard of Hearts Eudora, Serena's Maid
1988 La couleur du vent Norma
1988 Tears in the Rain Emily
1989 The Tall Guy Mary
1989 A Tale of Two Cities Miss Pross
1989 Killing Dad Edith
1989 Around the World in 80 Days Queen Victoria
1990 Mountains of the Moon Mrs. Arundell
1990 Killing Dad or How to Love Your Mother Edith
1991 Impromptu George Sand's mother
1992 Inspector Morse Lady Emily Balcombe TV series, Episode: "Happy Families"
1992 Emily's Ghost Miss Rabstock
1992 The Darling Buds of May Mam’selle Antoinette Dupont, a French hotelier
1995 The Grotesque Mrs. Giblet
1995 Angels & Insects Miss Mead
1995 Haunted Nanny Tess Webb
1995 The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse TV series, Episode: "The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies and Mrs. Tittlemouse"
1996 Sweet Angel Mine Mother
1997 Driftwood Mother
1997 The Slab Boys Miss Elsie Walkinshaw
1997 Deja Vu Fern Stoner
1998 Midsomer Murders Honoria Lyddiard Episode "Written in Blood"
1999 Captain Jack Phoebe Pickles
1999 Mad Cows Dwina Phelps
2000 Room to Rent Sarah – A healer
2001 Dark Blue World English teacher
2002 The Importance of Being Earnest Miss Prism
2002 Possession Lady Bailey
2004 The Machinist Mrs Shrike
2004 Agatha Christie: A Life in Pictures Agatha Christie
2004 He Knew He Was Right Miss Stanbury TV film
2004 Belonging Herself TV mini series
2005 Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont Mrs Arbuthnot
2005 The Worst Week of My Life Aunt Yvonne
2006 The Gigolos Edwina
2007 Fairy Stories by The Brothers Grimm Narrator Audiobook
2007 Lewis Professor Margaret Gold Episode: “Whom the Gods Would Destroy”
2007 Oliver Twist Mrs Bedwin TV miniseries, 4 episodes
2008 Doctor Who – The Girl Who Never Was Miss Pollard 8th Doctor audio drama
2008 The Oxford Murders Mrs. Julia Eagleton
2008 Affinity Miss Haxby TV film
2008 Tess of the D'Urbervilles Mrs D'Urberville TV miniseries, Episode #1.1
2009 Kingdom Winifred TV series, Episode #3.3
2009 Midsomer Murders Brenda Packard Episode: "Secrets and Spies"
2010 Agatha Christie’s Poirot Miss Pebmarsh Episode: "The Clocks"
2011 Act of Memory: A Christmas Story Older Maria short, (final film role)


  • Massey, Anna (2006). Telling Some Tales. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-179645-8.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Anna Massey". The Film Programme. 17 August 2007. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Anna Massey dies at 73". The Guardian. 4 July 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  3. ^ The Sunday Times Magazine, The Sunday Times, 18 December 2011, page 64
  4. ^ Maitland, Peter (23 November 1956). "Anna Massey Recalls Sudden Leap to Stardom on Stage". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. p. 10. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Anna Massey, TV and Film Actress, Dies at 73". The New York Times. Associated Press. 6 July 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d Presented by John Wilson (8 July 2011). "BBC Radio 4, "Last Word"". Last Word. BBC. Radio 4.
  7. ^ *Anna Massey at IMDb
  8. ^ a b "Anna Massey: Obituaries". The Daily Telegraph. London. 5 July 2011. p. 27. Archived from the original on 12 July 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  9. ^ a b c BBC News: "Actress Anna Massey dies at the age of 73"
  10. ^ a b c "Anna Massey (Obituary)". The Times. London. 5 July 2011. p. 49.
  11. ^ a b Who's Who in the Theatre, 17th edition, Gale 1981 ISBN 0-8103-0235-7
  12. ^ Taylor, Alan F. (2002). Folkestone Past and Present. Somerset: Breedon Books. pp. 22–24. ISBN 1859832962.
  13. ^ "BAFTA Awards Search". 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  14. ^ Bergen, Ronald (4 July 2011), "Anna Massey obituary", The Guardian
  15. ^ a b Billington, Michael (4 July 2011), "Anna Massey obituary", The Guardian
  16. ^ BBC NEWS: "Anna Massey collects CBE"
  17. ^ Massey, Anna (2006). Telling Some Tales. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-179645-8.
  18. ^ Davies, David Stuart (2006). Dancing in the Moonlight: Jeremy Brett. London: MDF The BiPolar Organisation.
  19. ^ David Huggins "At Christmas I dreaded playing charades", The Guardian, 17 November 2001
  20. ^ Sue Fox "How we met: Uri Andres and Anna Massey", The Independent, 7 March 1993
  21. ^ "Actress Anna Massey loses battle with cancer at 73". London Evening Standard (4 July 2011). Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  22. ^ "Massey, Anna Raymond (1937–2011)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/103953. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  23. ^ Wicked Women at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata

External links[edit]