The joy of six: The leading ladies of David Lean

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The Independent Culture

David Lean's first wife was his cousin, Isabel Jean, who he married in 1930. She gave him his only son, Peter, but Lean soon decided that cosy family domesticity was not for him, and just six years after the wedding, the marriage was over.

Kay Walsh, a brilliant actor who helped push Lean's career as a director, was under no pretences as to how married life would be after wedding him in 1940. "David warned me that life with him would be very difficult," she later recalled. "He had damaged so many women and didn't want to damage me. Being in love with David was a killer... how I survived I don't know." The marriage lasted nine years.

Ann Todd had emerged as a major British movie star thanks to her masochistic role as the pianist tormented by James Mason in The Seventh Veil. Sometimes called the "British Garbo", she was initially suspicious of Lean's standoffish attitude toward her on the set of The Passionate Friends, but then – as she later wrote – he swept her off her feet. The marriage, which lasted from 1949 to 1957, didn't turn out well. As Todd later said, "There are some people who shouldn't be married and David Lean was one of them."

Leila Matkar met Lean in India in the mid-1950s. She left her husband and two children to be with him. They married in 1960. The marriage was Lean's longest-lasting, but ended in 1978.

Lean's fifth wife, Sandra Hotz, appears briefly in his final feature, A Passage To India. He had met her in the 1960s when she was only 20 and fell in love with her. They wed in 1981 and split in 1984.

Lean met his sixth wife, Sandra Cooke, in the food hall at Harrods. "I just wanted to congratulate David Lean and ask what he was doing next," she later recalled. They married in December 1990; Lean died four months later.