Rachel Roberts (actress)
Roberts in 1976
20 September 1927|
Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales, United Kingdom
|Died||26 November 1980
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Spouse(s)||Alan Dobie (1955–1961)
Rex Harrison (1962–1971)
Rachel Roberts (20 September 1927 – 26 November 1980) was a British actress noted for her fervour and passion. Roberts is best remembered for her forthright screen performances as the older mistress of the central male character in two key films of the 1960s, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and This Sporting Life (1963). For both films, she won the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress. She was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for This Sporting Life. Her other notable film appearances included Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and Yanks (1979).
Early life and career
Roberts was born in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. After a Baptist upbringing (against which she rebelled), followed by study at the University of Wales and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she began working with a repertory company in Swansea in 1950. She made her film debut in the Welsh-set comedy Valley of Song (1953), directed by Gilbert Gunn.
Her portrayal of Brenda in Karel Reisz's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) won her a British Academy Film Award. Lindsay Anderson cast her as the suffering Mrs Hammond in This Sporting Life (1963), earning another BAFTA and an Oscar nomination. Both films were significant examples of the British New Wave of film-making.
In theatre, she performed at the Royal Court and played the title role as the life-enhancing tart in Lionel Bart's musical Maggie May (1964). In films, she continued to play women with lusty appetites as in Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man! (1973), although the haunting Australian-made Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), directed by Peter Weir, provided her with a different kind of role, as the authoritarian head teacher of a Victorian girls' school.
After relocating to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, she appeared in supporting roles in several American films such as Foul Play (1978). Her final British film was Yanks (1979), directed by John Schlesinger, for which she received a Supporting Actress BAFTA.
Personal life and suicide
She married Alan Dobie (1955–1961), then Rex Harrison (1962–1971). Both marriages ended in divorce. Her alcoholism and depression increased after her divorce from Harrison. Devastated by their divorce, she moved to Hollywood in 1975 and tried to forget the relationship. In 1980, a final attempt to win Harrison back proved futile, and, impulsive and insecure, she died by suicide on 26 November 1980, at her home in Los Angeles.
It was reported that her death was a result of swallowing lye, alkali, or another unidentified caustic substance, as well as barbiturates and alcohol, as detailed in her posthumously published journals. The corrosive effect of the poisonous agent was an immediate cause of death. Her gardener found her body on her kitchen floor, lying amidst shards of glass; she had fallen through a decorative glass divide between two rooms. Her cause of death was initially reported as cardiac arrest. The coroner documented the cause of death as "swallowing a caustic substance" and, later, "acute barbiturate intoxication." It was ruled a suicide. She was 53 years old.
In 1992, Roberts' ashes, along with those of her very good friend Jill Bennett (who died by suicide in 1990), were scattered on the River Thames in London by director Lindsay Anderson during a boat trip, with several of the two actresses' professional colleagues and friends aboard; musician Alan Price sang "Is That All There Is?" The event was included as a segment in Anderson's BBC documentary film, also titled Is That All There Is?
|1953||Valley of Song||Bessie Lewis||Alternative title: Men Are Children Twice|
|The Limping Man||Barmaid|
|1954||The Weak and the Wicked||Pat, pregnant inmate||Alternative title: Young and Willing|
|The Crowded Day||Maggie||Alternative title: Shop Spoiled|
|1957||The Good Companions||Elsie and Effie Longstaff|
|1959||Our Man in Havana||Prostitute||Uncredited|
|1960||Saturday Night and Sunday Morning||Brenda||BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role|
|1961||Girl on Approval||Anne Howland|
|1963||This Sporting Life||Mrs. Margaret Hammond||BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
|1968||A Flea in Her Ear||Suzanne de Castilian|
|1969||The Reckoning||Joyce Eglington||Alternative title: A Matter of Honour|
|1971||Doctors' Wives||Della Randolph|
|Wild Rovers||Maybell (town madam)|
|1973||Alpha Beta||Nora Elliot|
|The Belstone Fox||Cathie Smith||Alternative title: Free Spirit|
|O Lucky Man!||Gloria Rowe/Madame Paillard/Mrs. Richards|
|1974||Murder on the Orient Express||Hildegarde Schmidt|
|1975||Picnic at Hanging Rock||Mrs. Appleyard|
|1978||Foul Play||Delia Darrow/Gerda Casswell|
|1979||Yanks||Mrs. Clarrie Moreton||BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role|
|When a Stranger Calls||Dr. Monk|
|1981||Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen||Mrs. Dangers|
|1958–1959||Our Mutual Friend||Lizzie Hexam||Miniseries|
|1960||On Trial||Mrs. Rogerson||1 episode|
|BBC Sunday-Night Play||Mrs. Holyoake||1 episode|
|1963||The Eleventh Hour||Mary Newell||1 episode|
|1966||ITV Play of the Week||Lady Hamilton||1 episode|
|Out of the Unknown||Anna Preston||1 episode|
|Blithe Spirit||Ruth Condomine||US TV movie|
|1969||Destiny of a Spy||Megan Thomas||US TV movie|
|Happy Ever After||1 episode|
|1970||Night Gallery||Rebecca Brigham||1 episode|
|1971||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Dr. Victoria Thorson||1 episode|
|1973||Baffled!||Mrs. Farraday||Television movie|
|1974||Graceless Go I||UK TV drama|
|Play for Today||Olwen||1 episode|
|Great Expectations||Mrs. Gargery||Television movie|
|1976–1978||The Tony Randall Show||Mrs. Bonnie McClellen||32 episodes|
|1977||A Circle of Children||Helga||USA TV movie|
|1979||Family||Angela Brown||1 episode|
|Six Plays by Alan Bennett: The Old Crowd||Pauline||British Videotaped TV drama|
|3 by Cheever: The Sorrows of Gin||Mrs. Henlein||Television movie|
|1980||The Hostage Tower||Sonya||Television movie|
|1982||The Wall||Regina Kowalska||Television movie|
- Halliwell's Who's Who on the Movies. John Walker (ed); HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd. (2003) pg398 ISBN 0-06-053423-0
- The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. John Davies, Nigel Jenkins, Menna Baines and Peredur Lynch (2008) p. 769 ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6
- Upton, Julian (2004). Fallen Stars. Headpress. ISBN 1-900486-38-5.
- "Rachel Roberts Ruled a Suicide". The New York Times. 1981-01-06. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
- Edwards, Robert (2001-10-19). "Rachel Roberts (1927–1980)". Find A Grave. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
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