Norma Varden

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Norma Varden
Varden in Casablanca, 1942
Born (1898-01-20)20 January 1898
London, UK
Died 19 January 1989(1989-01-19) (aged 90)
Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
Other names Norma Varden Shackleton[1][2]
Occupation Actress
Years active 1920-69

Norma Varden (20 January 1898 – 19 January 1989) was a British-born American actress with a long film career.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Born in London, the daughter of a retired sea captain, Varden was a child prodigy. She trained as a concert pianist in Paris and performed in England before deciding to take up acting. She studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and made her first appearance as Mrs Darling in Peter Pan.[4]

Theater career[edit]

In England, Varden was a protoge of actress Kate Rorke.[5] She acted in repertory theater and made her West End debut in The Wandering Jew in 1920. From Shakespeare to farce, she established herself as a regular member of the Aldwych Theatre company where she appeared in plays from 1929 to 1933. She began to appear in British films, usually in haughty upper-class roles.[4]

Move to America and film career[edit]

Visiting California with her ailing mother in the 1940s, she decided to settle permanently there and began her American film career. She appeared in Casablanca (1942), The Major and the Minor (1942), The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), National Velvet (1944), The Green Years (1946), Forever Amber (1947), Strangers on a Train (1951), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Jupiter's Darling (1955), and Witness for the Prosecution (1957). She played the housekeeper Frau Schmidt in The Sound of Music (1965). Two years later, she had a minor part as Lady Petherington in Doctor Dolittle (1967).[6]

Television career[edit]

She had a recurring role in the 1960s NBC sitcom Hazel as Harriet Johnson. She appeared on CBS's I Love Lucy as "Mrs. Benson", the neighbor with whom the Ricardos switch apartments after the birth of Little Ricky in 1953. She was cast as Mrs. Murdock in the 1961 episode "The Swedish Girl" on ABC's The Real McCoys. She appeared on CBS's Perry Mason as Winifred Wileen in the 1964 episode, "The Case of the Illicit Illusion." She also appeared on the 7th season episode of The Beverly Hillbillies "Problem Bear" as the snobby socialite, Mrs. Vanransenhoff, who went home with Granny to get gossip on Mrs. Drysdale.[7]

Personal life[edit]

She became a naturalized United States citizen on 28 January 1949.[8]

Varden died of heart failure in Santa Barbara, California, on the day before her 91st birthday.[9]



  1. ^ England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915 for Norma Varden Shackleton
  2. ^ U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project) for Norma Varden Shackleton
  3. ^ "Norma Varden". BFI. 
  4. ^ a b Hal Erickson. "Norma Varden - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie. 
  5. ^ "Mask and Wig on Broadway". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York, Brooklyn). April 26, 1929. p. 42. Retrieved June 14, 2016 – via  open access publication - free to read
  6. ^ "Search Results Page". 
  7. ^ "The Beverly Hillbillies: Problem Bear (1969) - - Cast and Crew - AllMovie". AllMovie. 
  8. ^ Naturalization paperwork for Norma Varden,; accessed 13 October 2015.
  9. ^ "Noted actress Norma Varden dead at 90". Reading Eagle. January 22, 1989. 

External links[edit]