Anna Massey: Award-winning actress on stage, film and television acclaimed for her subtlety and intelligence

A stage and screen actress highly regarded for her subtlety and intelligence, Anna Massey carved out a career playing repressed women and spinsters while constantly battling with insecurity.

Stage fright was there from the beginning, when she made her professional debut, aged 17, as Jane atthe Theatre Royal, Brighton, inthe pre-London tour of WilliamDouglas Home's play The Reluctant Debutante (1955). Nevertheless, one critic described her as giving a performance of "nice, down-to-earthdetermination" and Massey herself recalled of the first night that, as Wilfrid Hyde-White and Celia Johnson joined her to take a curtain-call, he told his older co-star: "Let's get in front of that bloody girl – she's too damned good for us."

Massey continued in the role in the West End (Cambridge Theatre, 1955-56) and the Broadway production (Henry Miller's Theatre, 1956-57), for which she received a Tony Award nomination. Her pinched features and slim figure stood out, making her unconventionally attractive.

She made her film debut as Sally, daughter of the Scotland Yard detective, in Gideon's Day (1958), a crime drama directed by her godfather, John Ford, then had a good leading role in Michael Powell's notorious Peeping Tom (1960) as Helen Stephens, who falls in love with a film focus puller who has a sideline in photographing young women, then killing them.

However, the cinema struggledto come to terms with Massey'sunstereotypical looks and she wasbetter served by television. She played a vinegary Miss Murdstone in David Copperfield (1969), the superficial Lucetta Farfrae in Dennis Potter's adaptation of The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978) and a wonderfully severeMrs Danvers in Rebecca (1979), aserialisation that also featured her first husband, Jeremy Brett, as Maximde Winter.

Massey's best role on the small screen was in the 1986 BBC adaptation of Anita Brookner's novel Hotel du Lac, as Edith Hope, the mousy, cardigan-wearing crime writer who lives on her own, is having an affair with a married man and seeks to escape her loneliness by moving to a hotel – but discovers the other guests are just as lonely. The performance won her Best Actress awards from both Bafta and the Royal Television Society.

Born in Thakeham, West Sussex, Massey was the daughter of the actors Raymond Massey (a Canadian best known for playing Dr Gillespie in the television series Dr Kildare) and Adrianne Allen (the original Sybil in Noel Coward's Private Lives), whose elder child, Daniel, also went on to become an actor. The couple split up when Massey was a baby. Her father married an American lawyer whose ex-husband then married Raymond Massey's former wife.

With her mother away much of the time, Massey was brought up by a nanny and educated in London, New York, Switzerland, France and Italy. On leaving school, she decided to follow her parents on to the stage.

She was a regular in the West End for a quarter of a century. Her many roles included Penelope Shawn in Dear Delinquent (Westminster Theatre, 1957), Lady Teazle in School for Scandal (Haymarket Theatre Royal, 1962), Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie (Haymarket Theatre Royal, 1965), the title character in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Wyndham's Theatre, 1966) and Driver in Donkey's Years (Globe Theatre, 1977).

In the cinema, she was seen as the murdered bartender Babs Milligan, carried off in a sack, in Frenzy (1972, directed by Alfred Hitchcock), the pivotal lonely widow Mrs Linde in A Doll's House (1973), Imogen Bennett, the public schoolboy Guy's society mother, in Another Country (1984) and the governess Miss Laetitia Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest (2002).

Not all of Massey's film shoots were a happy experience. In her 2006 autobiography, Telling Some Tales, she described the director Otto Preminger – with whom she worked on Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) –as "one of the cruellest and most unpleasant directors that I have ever worked with."

On television, she also played Lady Laura Kennedy in The Pallisers (1974), Aunt Norris in Mansfield Park (1983), Queen Victoria in Around the World in 80 Days (1989). Towards the end of her career she played Baroness Thatcher in Pinochet in Suburbia (2006) and Mrs D'Urberville in Tess of the D'Urbervilles (2008).

To the end, Massey remained unconventional in an industry where glamour is often the watchword. "Over the years," she said in 2006, "I've put on less and less make-up. The unadorned face is far more interesting, if less flattering, but it requires courage. Nowadays, facelifts prevent the map of people's lives from being seen. This saddens me. It's like putting a cover on your life."

When her son, the writer David Huggins, from her first marriage, to Jeremy Brett, was a child, Massey employed her own former nanny to care for him. On her death in1965, the actress suffered a nervous breakdown.

Massey was created a CBE in 2005 for her services to drama. Her four-year marriage to Jeremy Brett was dissolved in 1962 after she claimed that he left her for another man. Twenty-six years later, Massey married the Russian scientist Uri Andres, who survives her, along with her son.

Anna Raymond Massey, actress: born Thakeham, West Sussex 11 August 1937; CBE 2005; married 1958 Jeremy Brett (divorced 1962, died 1995; one son), 1988 Uri Andres; died 3 July 2011.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?