Nova Pilbeam

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Nova Pilbeam
Born (1919-11-15) 15 November 1919 (age 95)
Wimbledon, London, England, UK
Occupation Actress

Nova Margery Pilbeam (born 15 November 1919) is a British film and stage actress. She was born in Wimbledon, London. Her father was RADA-trained actor Arnold Pilbeam.


Pilbeam had widely noted roles as a child stage actress. This led to much work in her teen years, appearing in Alfred Hitchcock's film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), followed by her lead performance as Lady Jane Grey in Tudor Rose (1935). In 1937 when she was seventeen Pilbeam had a starring role in Hitchcock's Young and Innocent, for which she is most widely known. She was considered for Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938), but lost the role to Margaret Lockwood.

In 1939 she appeared on an early British television drama. That year, David O. Selznick wanted Pilbeam for the lead in Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and thought she could be an international film star. However, her agent was worried about the length of a five-year contract and meanwhile Hitchcock, whose outlook on the film was not the same as Selznick's, auditioned hundreds of others over many months, at last giving the role to Joan Fontaine. Unlike some of her peers, Pilbeam never made a film in Hollywood. She carried on with appearances in at least nine British films along with many stage roles throughout the 1940s. One of Pilbeam's last films was The Three Weird Sisters (1948), its post-war Gothic-drama screenplay credited to five writers, among them Dylan Thomas. By 1949, before the age of 30, she had left her acting career.

Personal life[edit]

In 1939 Pilbeam married Pen Tennyson, a great-grandson of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and an assistant director to Hitchcock. Tennyson became a film director the year they were married but died in a 1941 plane crash while working as part of the Admiralty's instructional films unit. Pilbeam was married to BBC Radio journalist Alexander Whyte from 1950 until his death in 1972. Their child Sarah Jane was born in 1952.

Pilbeam lives in Dartmouth Park, North London.



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