|Born||Norma Ann Sykes
19 May 1936
|Died||24 November 2016
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Blood poisoning|
(m. 1967; div. 1974)
|Parent(s)||Annie Haslam and Walter Sykes|
Norma Ann Sykes (19 May 1936 – 24 November 2016), better known as Sabrina or Sabby, was a 1950s English glamour model who progressed to a minor film career. She was best known for her hourglass figure of 42.5-inch (108 cm) breasts coupled with a tiny 19-inch (48 cm) waist and 36-inch (91 cm) hips.
Sabrina was one of "a host of exotic, glamorous (British) starlets ... modelled on the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Lana Turner"; others included Diana Dors, Belinda Lee, Shirley Eaton and Sandra Dorne.
Early life and career
Sabrina was born on 19 May 1936, in Stockport, Cheshire, at Stepping Hill Hospital to Walter and Annie Sykes, living in Buckingham Street, Heaviley for about 13 years and attended St. George's School, before moving with her mother to Blackpool. She spent some time in hospital with rheumatic fever. At the age of 16 she moved to London, where she worked as a waitress and did some nude modelling, posing for Russell Gay in a photo-shoot that led to appearing on the five of spades in a deck of nude playing cards.
In 1955, she was chosen to play a dumb blonde sidekick in Arthur Askey's new television series, Before Your Very Eyes (BBC 1952–56, ITV 1956–58), from 18 February 1955 to 20 April 1956, which soon made her a household name. She was promoted by the BBC as "the bosomy blonde who didn't talk", but existing kinescope episodes show quite clearly that she did.
She made her motion-picture debut in Stock Car in 1955. She then appeared in a small role in the 1956 film Ramsbottom Rides Again. In her third movie, Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957), she had a non-speaking role in which, despite sharing equal billing with the star Alastair Sim on posters and appearing in many publicity stills in school uniform, she was required only to sit up in bed wearing a nightdress, reading a book whilst the action took place around her.
Sabrina's penultimate movie role was in the western The Phantom Gunslinger (1970),[a] in which she starred alongside Troy Donahue. Her final film was the horror movie The Ice House (1969) as a replacement for Jayne Mansfield, who had died in a car crash two years earlier.
On 27 November 1967, Sabrina married Dr. Harold Melsheimer (born 11 June 1927, Germany), a Hollywood gynaecologist/obstetrician; they divorced ten years later.
In 2002, an article in the Daily Mail claimed Sabrina was living "a lonely and sad existence" in Los Angeles. The paper later issued an apology, stating that "allegations in the article were untrue and that she lives in a desirable residence in West Toluca Lake".
However, in 2007 there were further newspaper reports that Sabrina had been reduced to living in squalor, and had become a hermit living in a Spanish-style house on a street known as 'Smog Central', under the flightpath of LA's Burbank Airport. Sabrina admitted she was confined to the house due to back problems but denied living in squalor.
The scripts of The Goon Show are littered with references to Sabrina's bosom, such as "by the measurements of Sabrina!" and "by the sweaters of Sabrina!". In "The Scandal Magazine", an episode of the radio programme Hancock's Half Hour, Sid James plays the editor of a sleazy gossip magazine which has carried an embarrassing story about Tony Hancock. James tells Hancock that his readers "will believe anything... If I told them that Sabrina was Arthur Askey's mother, they'd believe me." Hancock replies, "Well, I don't", pauses and asks, "She's not, is she?" James says emphatically "No", but Hancock reflects, "Mind you, there is a resemblance..."
British aircrews of the 1950s Royal Air Force dubbed part of the Hawker Hunter jet fighter plane "Sabrinas" owing to two large humps on the underside of the aircraft. Similarly, in the late 1950s the British truck manufacturer ERF produced a semi-forward control HGV with a short protruding bonnet – those vehicles were also nicknamed "Sabrinas" because they had "a little more in front."
In 1974, the British motoring press gave the name "Sabrinas" to the oversized pairs of protruding rubber bumper blocks added to the MG MGB, Midget and Triumph TR6 sports cars, when US auto safety regulations mandated sturdier impact protection. The name stuck, and is used worldwide. See Dagmar bumpers.
- Before Your Very Eyes (1955–1956, ten episodes)
- Double Your Money (1955)
- Make Mine a Million (1959)
- Tarzan (one episode, 1967)
- This Is Your Life (Arthur Askey, 1974)
- Stock Car (1955)
- Ramsbottom Rides Again (1956)
- Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957)
- Goodnight with Sabrina (1958)
- Satan in High Heels (1962)
- House of the Black Death (1965)
- The Ice House (1969)
- The Phantom Gunslinger (1970)
- Although not released until 1970, the film was produced in 1967.
- Davenport-Hines (2012), p. 128
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- Davenport-Hines (2012), p. 129
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- Sabrina: Tributes
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- "Goodnight with Sabrina". Internet Movie Database. 1 January 2000. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- Clausager, Anders D (1994), Original MGB, Bay View Books
- Davenport-Hines, Richard (2012), An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-00-743586-9
- Griffin, David. J. (2006), Hawker Hunter 1951 to 2007, Lulu Enterprises, ISBN 978-1-4303-0593-4