Davina Whitehouse

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Davina Whitehouse OBE (born Eileen Eliza Smith, 16 December 1912 – 25 December 2002), also known by the stage name Davina Craig before her marriage, was an English-born New Zealand stage, film and television actress acclaimed in both her native United Kingdom as well as Australasia.

Early life and family[edit]

Born Eileen Eliza Smith in London on 16 December 1912,[1] Whitehouse was the daughter of David and Florence Smith.[2] Her father died when she was two years old, and she was renamed Davina in his memory. Her mother remarried 10 years later.[3]

In 1941 she married John Henry Archibald Whitehouse, and in 1952 they and their children emigrated to New Zealand.[3] Davina Whitehouse became a naturalised New Zealand citizen in 1977.[1]


Britain (1929–1952)[edit]

Whitehouse was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art aged 15, and graduated in 1929. Using the stage name Davina Craig, her acting roles were initially rare, but in 1932 she was seen by Ivor Novello and he offered her a role in a touring play, I Lived with You, which later was made into the 1933 film of the same name, for which Whitehouse receive critical praise. She was then signed by Twickenham Film Studios, and between 1933 and 1939, Whitehouse appeared in over 40 films, most commonly playing a comic servant, but she also had some larger roles, including in The Private Secretary in 1935.[3]

New Zealand and Australia (1952–2001)[edit]

In New Zealand Whitehouse soon gained work as an actor and director of radio drama, and became the executive producer of radio drama for the NZBC. She also acted at Downstage Theatre following its establishment in 1964.[3]

Whitehouse's television career began in 1972, appearing in the TV play An Awful Silence. In 1977 became co-host of the TV chat show Two on One with Ray Woolf.[3] For eight years, Whitehouse was a regular panellist on the advice show Beauty and the Beast, hosted by Selwyn Toogood.[3] She had acting roles in New Zealand's first TV soap opera, Close to Home, as well as Country GP, the third season of Gloss (1989), Marlin Bay, and a 30-minute monologue in the series Face Value (1995).[3][4]

On Australian television, Whitehouse appeared in numerous of the Crawford Productions series, including Matlock Police and The Box, as well as playing the role of Maggie May Kennedy in the Grundy production, Prisoner.[3][4]

Whitehouse made cameo appearances in films including Sleeping Dogs (1977), Solo (1977), and Braindead (1992).[3] She played a former opera diva in the 1977 Australian TV movie The Night Nurse,[3] and appeared as herself in Peter Jackson's 1995 mockumentary, Forgotten Silver.

From 1978, Whitehouse served a four-year term on the board of the New Zealand Film Commission.[3]

Honours and awards[edit]

Whitehouse won best actor at the 1973 Feltex Awards for her role in An Awful Silence.[3] In 1978 she won the best actress Sammy for The Night Nurse at the Australian FIlm and Television Awards.[4][5]

In the 1985 Queen's Birthday Honours Whitehouse was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the performing arts,[6] and in 1987 she was the subject of an episode of the New Zealand version of This is Your Life.[4]

Whitehouse received a best actress nomination for Face Value at the 1997 New Zealand film and television awards, and she received the Rudall Hayward Award for lifetime achievement in films at the 1998 New Zealand film and television awards.[5]

Later life and death[edit]

Whitehouse wrote her autobiography, Davina – An Acting Life, published in 1999.[4] She died on 25 December 2002 in Auckland,[4] following a series of strokes. She was predeceased by her husband, Archie Whitehouse, and survived by their two children.



  1. ^ a b "New Zealand, naturalisations, 1843–1981". Ancestry.com Operations. 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2016. (Subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ "Interview with Davina Whitehouse". National Library of New Zealand. 1988. Retrieved 9 November 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Davina Whitehouse". NZOnScreen. Retrieved 9 November 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Hayward, Anthony (1 January 2003). "Obituary: Davina Whitehouse". The Independent. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  5. ^ a b "Davina Whitehouse – awards". NZOnScreen. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  6. ^ "No. 50155". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1985. p. 2. 

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