Mary Ure

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Mary Ure
Mary Ure in the film Where Eagles Dare in 1968
Born Eileen Mary Ure
(1933-02-18)18 February 1933
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Died 3 April 1975(1975-04-03) (aged 42)
London, England
Cause of death Barbiturate overdose
Resting place London Road Cemetery
Occupation Actress
Years active 1955–1974
Spouse(s) John Osborne
(m. 1957–63)

Robert Shaw
(m. 1963)
(4 children)
Children 4; including Ian Shaw[1]
Parent(s) Colin McGregor Ure
Edith Swinburne

Eileen Mary Ure (18 February 1933 – 3 April 1975) was a Scottish stage and film actress. She was first married to playwright John Osborne, and later to the actor Robert Shaw.

Early life[edit]

Born in Glasgow, Ure was the daughter of civil engineer Colin McGregor Ure and Edith Swinburne. She went to the independent Mount School in York, where in 1951 she played the role of the Virgin Mary in the York Cycle of Mystery Plays, revived for the Festival of Britain.[2] She trained for the stage at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London, where her classmates included the actress Wendy Craig.[3] Known for her beauty, Ure began performing on the London stage and quickly developed a reputation for her abilities as a dramatic actress.

Stage career[edit]

Ure was known principally as a stage actress. She made her London debut as Amanda in "Time Remembered" (1954). While performing a leading role as Alison Porter in Osborne's play Look Back in Anger (1956), she began a relationship with the married dramatist; after he obtained a divorce from his then-wife, they married in 1957. In 1958, she was in the Broadway production of Look Back in Anger and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Dramatic Actress. In the 1959 film version of the play, Ure reprised her role with Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter. By this point, her marriage to Osborne had become strained due to multiple affairs by Osborne and his diminishing respect for her acting abilities and stable upbringing. In 1959 she began an affair with actor Robert Shaw, her co-star in The Changeling at London's Royal Court Theatre. She gave birth to a son, fathered by Shaw, while still married to Osborne. She divorced Osborne and married Shaw on 13 April 1963 after which Shaw legally adopted Colin, who then became Colin Murray Shaw.[4] The couple had three more children: Elizabeth, actor Ian Shaw, and Hannah.


She transferred her fragile, captivating portrayal of "Alison Porter" from stage to screen in the 1959 film adaptation of Look Back in Anger (1959), which also starred Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. In 1960 she appeared in the film Sons and Lovers as Clara Dawes, and was nominated for both the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In this period, she also performed a season at Stratford and, while pregnant, The Changeling at the Royal Court with Robert Shaw.

In 1963, after an absence of three years, she returned to cinema screens with a performance in The Mind Benders (1963) with Dirk Bogarde, a thought-provoking sci-fi drama. Then it was The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964) and the flawed Custer of the West (1967), both with Shaw. Neither of these productions made a significant impact, though Ure performed admirably.[citation needed] In 1968, she had a role in Where Eagles Dare (1968) with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. It was a box-office success, but it would be five years before Ure's next and last film appearance, in 1973's A Reflection of Fear (1973) co-starring her husband.

Ure continued to perform on stage during this time; however, her personal life had become difficult again and her growing alcoholism affected her career[5] to the point that she was fired from the 1974 pre-Broadway production of Love for Love and was replaced by her understudy, Glenn Close.

Decline and death[edit]

Ure's mental health had been deteriorating since the early 1970s.[6] On 2 April 1975 she appeared on the London stage with Honor Blackman and Brian Blessed in an adaptation of the teleplay The Exorcism, and after a disastrous opening night was found dead aged 42, from an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates. Her body was discovered by her husband Robert Shaw in their London home.[7]

Plays (partial list)[edit]


In popular culture[edit]

The Irish poet Richard Murphy includes a poem about Mary Ure in his Collected Poems[8], where she is depicted as a nymph-like figure on the shores of Lough Mask on a summer afternoon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Mystery Play archive
  3. ^ ‘Fogie – The Life (1865-1945) of Elsie Fogerty Pioneer of speech training for the theatre and everyday life’, Marion Cole (Peter Davis, London, 1967),
  4. ^ Heilpern, p.270
  5. ^ Donald Fullarton "Tragic story of talented actress" 27 May 2014
  6. ^ Heilpern, p. 212
  7. ^ Obituary Variety, 9 April 1975, p,78.
  8. ^ Murphy, Richard. Collected Poems 1952-2000 (2001 ed.). Wake Forest Univ Press. 

Major sources[edit]

  • Heilpern, John (2006). John Osborne: A Patriot for Us. Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0099275864. 
  • Upton, Julian (2004). Fallen Stars. Critical Vision. 

External links[edit]