Lynne Frederick

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Lynne Frederick
LynneFrederickB&Wportrait.jpg
Portrait by Terry Fincher
Born
Lynne Maria Frederick

(1954-07-25)25 July 1954
Died27 April 1994(1994-04-27) (aged 39)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeGolders Green Crematorium
London, England, U.K.
Other namesLynne Sellers
Occupation
  • Actress
  • film producer
  • fashion model
Years active
  • 1969–1979 (actress)
  • 1970–1980 (model)
  • 1980 (producer)
Known for
Height5 ft 2 in (157 cm)
Spouse(s)
Peter Sellers
(m. 1977; d. 1980)

David Frost
(m. 1981; div. 1982)

Barry Unger
(m. 1982; div. 1991)
Children1

Lynne Maria Frederick (25 July 1954 – 27 April 1994) was a British actress, film producer, and fashion model known for her classic English rose beauty, girl next door charm, angelic features, and highly acclaimed performances. In a diverse and promising career, spanning ten years, she made over thirty appearances in film and television.

For many years she was best remembered as the last wife and widow of Peter Sellers. But in recent years she has begun to establish a newfound cult following for her diverse and critically acclaimed collection of film work in Hollywood. Some of her most beloved performances to modern day audiences include her roles in films such as The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972), Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), and Voyage of the Damned (1976).

Other films of hers such as Vampire Circus (1971), Phase IV (1974), Four of the Apocalypse (1975), A Long Return (Largo retorno) (1975), and Schizo (1976) have all become underground hits or established a status as a cult film in their respective genres.

She was also the first recipient of the award for "Best New Coming Actress" from the Evening Standard British Film Awards in 1973, for her breakout performances in Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972) and The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972). She is one of only eight actresses, and the youngest, to hold this honorary title.

Early life[edit]

Frederick was born in Hillingdon, Middlesex to Andrew Frederick (1914–1983) and Iris C. (née Sullivan) Frederick (1928–2006). Her mother became a casting director for Thames Television. Lynne's parents separated when she was two years old, and she was brought up by her mother and her grandmother, Cecilia, at Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

Career[edit]

1969–74: Early roles[edit]

She was first discovered at the age of 15 by Hungarian-American actor and film director, Cornel Wilde, who was a mutual friend and co-worker of her mothers. Wilde had been looking for a young unknown actress to star in his upcoming film adaptation of The Death of Grass. Wilde first saw her when she came to work with her mother to pose for some test shots and was immediately smitten by her angelic beauty, natural charisma, and bubbly personality. Despite no previous experience in theater, films, or commercials, Wilde offered her the role without even an audition.

When No Blade of Grass (1970) was released, the film received mixed reviews from critics. Despite the lukewarm reception of the film, it made her an overnight sensation and her career skyrocketed. She became a teen idol amongst the British public in the early 1970s, achieving success and popularity equivalent to that of Hayley Mills and Olivia Hussey before her. She appeared in numerous newspaper and magazine spreads, most notably the British Vogue in September 1971, where she was photographed by top photographer Patrick Anson, 5th Earl of Lichfield. She also acted and starred in several television commercials for various products that included Camay soap and Protein 21 shampoo. A top British National newspaper even chose her as their “Face of 1971”.

She appeared the following year in the 1971 biographical film Nicholas and Alexandra, in which she played the Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia, second eldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. For the films press tour she toured around Europe with her three co-stars Ania Marson, Candace Glendenning, and Fiona Fullerton. Frederick's best-known appearance was in 1972, where she played another historical character, Catherine Howard, in Henry VIII and His Six Wives. Her next role was in the 1972 family film The Amazing Mr. Blunden; in 1973 she won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best New Actress.

Shortly before turning eighteen, she auditioned for the title role of Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but lost the role to her Nicholas and Alexandra co-star and friend, Fiona Fullerton. That same year she was also first runner up for the role of Clare of Assisi in the Franco Zeffirelli production of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, but the role was instead awarded to Judi Bowker.[1][better source needed]

She continued to work in various film and television projects throughout 1973 and 1974 where she was often cast in the archetype of the girl next door, an ingénue, or a princess. The characters she played where often angelic, feminine, soft spoken, or vivacious. Some of the shows she appeared on where Follyfoot, The Generation Game, and an adaptation of The Canterville Ghost where she first met David Niven, who would become a lifelong friend of hers.

1975–77: Adult stardom[edit]

She landed her first grown up and womanly role in the Spanish romance film A Long Return (Largo retorno) (1975), where she also made her debut and only appearance on a film's soundtrack. She also appeared alongside Fabio Testi in the Spaghetti Western film Four of the Apocalypse as well as the adventure film Cormack of the Mounties. She returned to playing a teenaged character one last time in another Spanish film, El Vicio Y La Virtud (1975).

She began 1976 with an appeared on a controversial episode of the BBC series Play for Today where she played a sexually enigmatic girl who falls for a lesbian artist played by Jane Lapotaire. Breaking out of her traditional teenage characters once and for all, she cut her long brown hair for her role in Voyage of the Damned (1976). After she finished production, she starred in the slasher film Schizo (1976) where she played her only antagonist role. Schizo (1976) came and went with little fan fare but became an underground hit in the years to come in the horror film community.

When Voyage of the Dammed (1976) hit theaters, it won universal acclaim from critics, and Frederick was highly praised for her performance. She was even considered a potential candidate for an Oscar nomination for the ballet of best supporting actress, which was instead given to her co-star Lee Grant (who lost to Beatrice Straight).

During this time period of her stardom in films, she also emerged as a fashion trendsetter and model. She evolved from being the angelic and sweet looking girl next door with long brown hair to a sophisticated glamour girl, sporting a variety of fashions and ever changing hair styles (from a feathered hair fringe, a bob cut, a short blonde cut, etc.). During the disco wave of the late 1970s she became a popular fashion icon in Japan. She was also a frequent face in the Japanese entertainment magazine, Screen, making the cover three times. In addition to gracing the cover multiple times, she was also featured as a celebrity pin-up and centerfold subject with other rising stars of the time such as John Travolta, Farrah Fawcett, Al Pacino, Glynnis O'Connor, Sylvester Stallone, Jodie Foster, and various others.

By this point in her career, Frederick was earning over £4,000 (£22,542.87 in 2018) a week working on films alone. In addition, she had reached the point in her career where she no longer needed to go on auditions for roles, and was instead being sent stacks of scripts and lucrative film offers at her disposal. She was also being represented by top A-list agents, such as Hazel Malone Management and Dennis Selinger.

1978–80: Career decline and blacklisting[edit]

Following her marriage to Peter Sellers, her career came to a halt for over a year while she tended and cared for Sellers. This also included supporting and looking after him on the sets of his films.

She attempted to make a career comeback in 1978 by campaigning and auditioning for several films. The role that she most desired, and spent a great deal of time chasing after, was the leading role of Maggie Cleary in The Thorn Birds. She went as far as dying her hair red in attempt to showcase herself for this highly sought after role, which many other young actresses in Hollywood where going after. She also auditioned for the roles of Fantine and Cosette for the 1978 British adaptation of Les Misérables. All of which she was rejected for.

She made her final onscreen appearance with her husband, Peter Sellers, in the 1979 remake of The Prisoner of Zenda, which was a box office and critical flop. Her final credit was as an executive producer on Sellers' last film The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.

Following Sellers' death, controversial will, and her marriage to David Frost, Frederick was shunned and blacklisted by Hollywood.

Personal life[edit]

Later Life[edit]

After being blacklisted by Hollywood and losing her acting career, she lived a very narrow, private, and reclusive lifestyle. Shortly after her divorce from David Frost, she faced a public embarrassment when it was reported that she became overtly intoxicated at a formal restaurant and had to be escorted out. After this incident she fled from Great Britain to California, and would never return to her native homeland again.

After her divorce from her third husband, she lived in a Los Angeles mansion that was once previously owned by Gary Cooper. As the years went on, Frederick struggled with alcoholism and clinical depression. There where even rumors of half hearted suicide attempts. Despite participating in numerous recovery treatments at hospitals and clinics, she was never able to regain her health. As she continued to rapidly decline, her mother, Iris, moved in with Frederick to help care for her and her daughter, Cassie.

Frederick was the sole manager behind Peter Sellers estate and net worth. She took such pride in being Sellers wife that she legally changed her last name to “Sellers”.

Family and relationships[edit]

Frederick, who never met her biological father, regarded actor David Niven as her adopted father figure. They first met while filming the 1974 television film adaptation of The Canterville Ghost. They remained close friends over the years until Niven's death in 1983, which occurred just eight weeks after the birth of her daughter. Growing up she was very close with her mother and grandmother, but was briefly estranged from both of them during the course of her first marriage.[2][better source needed]

When she made the film Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), the director had her and her co-stars live together during production, which lasted for nine months, to establish a family like bond. During this time period she became good friends with her co-star, Fiona Fullerton, who played her sister in the film. They remained good friends with each other for several years.

In 2018, Judy Matheson revealed that she had worked with Frederick in the early 1970s. They were slated to appear in a film together that was to be shot in Holland. Since Frederick was still young and a relative newcomer to Hollywood at the time, Matheson (who was a few years older and had industry experience) was personally asked to be Lynne's chaperone for the trip (as Lynne's mother was unavailable). They spent about three weeks living together in a hotel room before production on the film was prematurely shut down due to financial withdrawals. Matheson stated that she enjoyed Frederick's company and that they managed to have fun together despite the production struggles. After returning home to Great Britain, they corresponded for a while before unintentionally and gradually losing touch with each other due to the limited resources of communication that was available at the time (as social media and cell phones didn't exist), as well as their busy and contrasting work schedules.

During production of the Spaghetti Western film Four of the Apocalypse, she was rumored to have had a brief romance with her co-star Fabio Testi (who was having trouble in his relationship with actress Ursula Andress at the time). Naturally, this helped Testi and Frederick with their chemistry in the movie and they were paired together again for the film Cormack of the Mounties. There has been much speculation about such a romance between Testi and Frederick, but the truth of it is still unknown.[3][better source needed]

She was once said to have turned down a dinner date offer from American actor Ryan O'Neal when she was in her early 20s.[4][better source needed]

Frederick's first marriage, at age 22, was to Peter Sellers; they married on 18 February 1977. The marriage was rocky, and Sellers was reportedly in the process of excluding her from his will a week before he died of a heart attack on 24 July 1980, the day before her 26th birthday. The planned changes to the will not having been finalized, she inherited almost his entire estate, worth an estimated £4.5 million (£19.0 million today), while his children received £800 each (£3,369 today).[5][6] Despite appeals from a number of Sellers' friends to make a fairer settlement to the children, Frederick refused to give her stepchildren anything. As a result, the British public and film industry turned against Frederick: she was never hired for any movies and got into drug and alcohol abuse.

She briefly married David Frost (on 25 January 1981); they divorced 17 months later. In December 1982, she married a Californian, surgeon and heart specialist Dr. Barry Unger; they divorced in 1991. In her last marriage, she bore her only child, Cassie Unger (born 1983).[7]

Political views and beliefs[edit]

In a 1975 interview with Men Only, Frederick discussed that she "partially agreed" with Women's Lib. Adding "I agree with the fact that women should have equal rights", but also adding that she also believed in some old fashioned gender roles. "I agree that there are certain things that men are designed to do; just as there are things women are designed to do."[8]

Despite her split views on women's rights, she was a supporter of Margaret Thatcher, calling her a "very capable woman", and stating that "I think women are just as capable of ruling people and looking after our affairs as men are. Sometimes possibly better because women have a level of sensibility and sensitivity as well, which possibly men don't sometimes."[8]

Frederick was also known for being a blunt and outspoken advocate for same sex relationships and LGBT rights, during a time when it was considered highly taboo. Following her appearance on a controversial episode of the BBC television series Play For Today, where she played a sexually fluid character and shared an onscreen kiss with her female co-star, Jane Lapotaire, she spoke out on the issue saying "with homosexuality and lesbianism, I just don't think you can put a ban on it, I don't think you can say it's wrong. I think people should live how they want to live. I don't think it should be illegal."[8]

She was agnostic and briefly spoke on her religious beliefs when she was asked about the progressive Roman Catholic priest's response to the Pope declaring premarital sex a sin. "I really agree with the other priests that it should have never been issued. I think that does put the Church back; I really do. I can say it because I'm not particularly religious. But I think people who are religious, I hope they would feel that it's not a step forward. I think premarital sex is a good idea. I think the worst thing that could possibly happen is to not have sex before you get married, then get married and find out its dreadful."[8]

Philanthropy[edit]

Following the death of her first husband, Peter Sellers, she became very involved in donating to various heart charities. After her death, she left $250,000 to be split between the British Heart Foundation and the Middlesex Hospital in London as tribute to Sellers (who died of a heart attack). As a sign of gratitude, the Middlesex Hospital hung up a plaque thanking both Sellers and Frederick for their generous contribution.

Death[edit]

On 27 April 1994, Frederick was found dead in her West Los Angeles home, aged 39. A post-mortem failed to determine the cause of death.[9] Her remains were cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in London and her ashes were mingled and then interred with those of her first husband, Peter Sellers.

Legacy[edit]

Described as one of the most promising, talented, beautiful, and ascending young British actresses of the 1970s, there has been continued belief that she would have achieved greater career success had it not been for her marriage to Peter Sellers. Others speculate that she could have even had the potential to achieve success equivalent to that of fellow British actresses such as Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, and Judi Dench. Many accredit the negative events in her life to her marriage to Sellers (such as the loss of her acting career, blacklisting in Hollywood, and untimely death). Peter Sellers biographer, Roger Lewis, claims that of all of Sellers's wives, Lynne Frederick was the most poorly treated.[10]

For her extraordinary beauty, she has often been associated with the title of English rose. For her gifted and natural acting talents, as well as her critically acclaimed performances in films, she has been compared to many contemporary and classic British actress such as Kate Winslet, Olivia Hussey, Emma Watson, Jane Seymour, Keira Knightley, Vivien Leigh, Gemma Arterton, Audrey Hepburn, Charlotte Riley, Kate Beckinsale, and Hayley Mills. In one of her public obituaries she was described as "the Olivia Hussey of her day".

In the years after her death, Frederick's legacy remained poisoned and she was seldom ever talked about in favorable terms. In the 2004 book, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Rodger Lewis claimed that "there is yet to find a single person to say a good thing about Lynne"[11]. In 1995, a year after her death, she was excluded from the 67th Academy Awards annual "In Memoriam" tribute, despite being in two Oscar nominated films. She was even barely mentioned in the 2004 HBO movie adaptation of Lewis's book where she was portrayed by British actress Emilia Fox. All scenes featuring Fox's portrayal of Frederick where later deleted from the final cut of the film. On portraying Frederick, Fox stated "I had thought very carefully about playing Lynne. I wanted to represent her in a way that I though was fair - which was a very young girl being taken up in this world of laughter and light, and then finding out the reality. Peter Sellers was completely obsessed by work and it's very difficult to live with someone like that."[12]

Overtime, views towards her image gradually shifted, and she soon gained a cult following through her films.

Her performance as Catherine Howard in Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972) was a first for many in the history of Tudor films. Frederick's portrayal saw Howard as a victim of circumstances and a pawn in a political game. In contrast to other portrayals of Howard as a materialistic, selfish, and lustful hedonist. Frederick is also the youngest actress to have ever portrayed the controversial English Queen on film. The real Catherine Howard may have been as young as 14 or as old as 21 when she married King Henry VIII, and Frederick was 17 years old when she took on the role. Frederick's performance as Howard was so acclaimed and sought after that her image and likeliness as Catherine Howard was used on the paperback book cover for the 1982 novel The Dark Rose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.

The Amazing Mr Blunden (1972) is another film of hers that helped revive people's interest in her. However, the interest sparked is primarily about the film itself, and second to the other talents in the film such as Diana Dors and Laurence Naismith, both of whom got higher billing in the film over Frederick. Despite this, Frederick and her co-star, Rosalyn Landor, are arguably the centerpieces of the film and each have more screen time than some other actors who where billed higher than them. The enduring popularity of The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972), and its close association with the far more successful The Railway Children (1970), has kept film scholars and movie buffs fascinated with Frederick. The film also became a family classic in Great Britain due to its showings on television during the holiday season, where it managed to merit the nostalgia value of other classic films of the era; such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), among others.

Frederick has even garnered a strong cult following as a scream queen in the horror film genre for her work in such films as Vampire Circus (1972) and Schizo (1976). Although these films where not box office hits during their initial releases, their association with horror icons such as Hammer Horror and Pete Walker films have helped solidify an eminent spot for Frederick in the history of horror films. Schizo (1976) in particular showcases Frederick the best, and became a sleeper hit over the years. While her role in Vampire Circus (1972) doesn't showcase her quite as well as Schizo (1976), scenes with Frederick in the film are among the most memorable.

Despite the fact that her role of Tatiana Romanov she played in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) was a mere background role, the enduring fascination of the real Romanov princesses helped Frederick become more well known to admires of the royal family. In the film, Frederick has more screen time than her sister counterparts, which allowed her to steal the scenes. One provocative scene in the film that still generates controversy to this day is a scene in which Frederick's character, Tatiana, exposes herself to a soldier. This is especially given the fact that Tatiana Romanov and her family where later canonized as Saints in the Russian Orthodox Church ten years after Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) was released. Despite the controversy, viewers are still taken by Frederick's portrayal of the tragic royal figure.

Two of her lesser-known films, A Long Returning (1975) and The Vice and Virtue (1975), helped establish a small following for Frederick in Spain during the height of her career in the 1970s. These films managed to gain a second life on the internet nearly 30 years later with rare montage clips and stills from the films surfacing on various video sharing websites. This generated further interest in Frederick's career. Many film critics consider these films to be her best work, and showcase Frederick the best. Despite the growing popularity and demand for A Long Returning (1975) and The Vice and Virtue (1975), they have yet to receive a DVD releases. The films did receive a small home video release on VHS and BETA in Europe during the late 70s to early 80s, but copies of the film are extremely rare, hard to find, and sought after by movie buffs and admirers of Frederick alike.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1970 No Blade of Grass Mary Custance (film debut)
1971 Nicholas and Alexandra Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna
1971 Vampire Circus Dora Miller
1972 Henry VIII and His Six Wives Catherine Howard Evening Standard British Film Award for Best New Coming Actress
1972 The Amazing Mr. Blunden Lucy Allen Evening Standard British Film Award for Best New Coming Actress
1973 Keep an Eye on Denise Denise Television film
1974 The Lady From the Sea Hilde Television film
1974 Phase IV Kendra Eldridge
1974 The Canterville Ghost Virginia Otis Television film
1975 Four of the Apocalypse Emmanuella "Bunny" O'Neill
1975 Cormack of the Mounties Elizabeth
1975 A Long Return Anna Ortega
1975 The Vice and Virtue Rosa
1976 Schizo Samantha Grey/Jean
1976 Voyage of the Damned Anna Rosen
1977 Hazlitt In Love Sarah Walker Television film
1979 The Prisoner of Zenda Princess Flavia (final film role)

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1971 Now, Take My Wife Jenny Love Series 1, Episode 1: Just Harry and Me
1971 Comedy Playhouse Jenny Love Series 11, Episode 1: Just Harry and Me
1971 Fathers and Sons Dunyasha Series 1, Episode 1
1972 BBC Play of the Month Nellie Ewell Series 7, Episode 5: Summer and Smoke
1972 Softly Softly: Task Force Judith “Judy” Oram Series 3, Episode 17: Anywhere in the Wide World
1972 Opportunity Knocks Never Again Series 12, Episode 25: The Script Writers Chart Show
1973 No Exit Abigail "Abby" Series 1, Episode 3: A Man's Fair Share of Days
1973 Away From It All Vinca Series 1, Episode 1: The Ripening Seed
1973 Follyfoot Tina Series 3, Episode 8: The Bridge Builder, Episode 9: Uncle Joe
1973 Wessex Tales Rosa Harlborough Series 1, Episode 1: "A Tragedy of Two Ambitions"
1973 The Generation Game Cinderella Series 3, Episode 17: 1973 Christmas Special
1974 Masquerade Natalie Fieldman Series 1, Episode 3: Mützen ab!
1974 The Pallisers Isabel Boncassen Series 1, Episodes 24, 25, and 26
1976 Play For Today Nikolai “Nikki” Series 6, Episode 11: The Other Woman
1977 Space: 1999 Shermeen Williams Series 2, Episode 15: A Matter of Balance

‡ denotes lost film

Discography[edit]

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

Title Year Album
"Today (Anna's Love Song)" 1975 A Long Return Soundtrack¤
"Today (Anna's Love Song) (Reprise)"

¤ denotes that the soundtrack/album never received an official release

Live performances[edit]

Title Year Other artist(s)
"If You Were the Only Girl in the World" 1973 Bruce Forsyth

៛ Performed live 25 December 1973 on the BBC show The Generation Game

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominated work Result
1973 Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Newcomer - Actress The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972) and Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972) Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)- Trivia". imdb.com.
  2. ^ https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0292802/bio. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073594/trivia. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Lynne Frederick - Trivia". IMDb.
  5. ^ Richard Savill,The Telegraph: "Peter Sellers tried to cut fourth wife Lynne Frederick out of his £4.5 million will", 5 November 2009
  6. ^ "Peter Sellers 'tried to change will' before he died". BBC News – Entertainment. BBC. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  7. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-lynne-frederick-1433336.html
  8. ^ a b c d Robbins, Fred (1975). "Men Only Interview with Lynne Frederick". Men Only Magazine: 18–22.
  9. ^ Obituary, nytimes.com, 2 May 1994.
  10. ^ Lewis, Roger (1995). The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. UK: Applause. ISBN 1557833575.
  11. ^ Lewis, Rodger. The life and death of Peter Sellers. Applause. ISBN 1557833575.
  12. ^ Hoggard, Liz. "'I felt like an awful old harlot'". The Guardian. The Observer.

External links[edit]