Obituary: Lana Morris

A PERKY, bright-eyed brunette, Lana Morris brought a refreshing liveliness and sense of humour to British films in the Fifties.

One of a group of Rank starlets that included Barbara Murray, Rona Anderson and Honor Blackman, she was the below-stairs maid snatching moments to read racy novels in Spring in Park Lane, and Norman Wisdom's girlfriend in Trouble in Store. Her marriage to the radio and television producer Ronnie Waldman was one of the happiest in show business. Later she was a star of television soaps such as The Forsyte Saga and Howard's Way, and was about to appear in a new stage production at the time of her death.

Born Pamela Matthews in Ruislip, Middlesex, Morris came from a theatrical family. Her great-grandfather was in Irving's Drury Lane company and her mother was the silent film actress Corinne Burford. At the age of 16 she played her first professional role in the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park and the same year made her screen debut (under her real name) as the wife of boffin David Tomlinson in School for Secrets (1946), but she first received major attention when she was given the part of the flirtatious maid in Spring in Park Lane (1948), the best of the Anna Neagle/Michael Wilding "London" films and an enormous success.

Though Morris was primarily a supporting player, with star roles only in B movies, her presence in such films as Trottie True (1949), The Chiltern Hundreds (1949) and The Woman in Question (1950) always provided extra sparkle, and she was rewarded with the female lead of the shop girl to whom Norman Wisdom sang "Don't Laugh at Me" in his final starring film Trouble in Store (1953). "She was a sweet girl," said Wisdom recently. Morris partnered the comic again in one of his best films, Man of the Moment (1955), and had leading roles in such supporting features as Black 13 (1953) and Radio Cab Murder (1964), but by the end of the decade her name had dropped well down the cast list of such films as No Trees in the Street (1958) and Passport to Shame (1959) .

Having starred on radio in The Forces Show, Morris now moved into television, working steadily both as actress and panellist. It was on the set of his television show Kaleidoscope that she met the BBC producer Ronnie Waldman, fondly remembered for his "Puzzle Corner" radio spots in the Forties, and later Head of BBC Light Entertainment. Waldman co-produced the television scripts about a hotel detective, The Inch Man (1951), in which Morris featured. Though he was 16 years her senior, their marriage was a successful one and their son Simon was born in 1957, after which Morris returned to acting - she and Waldman were publicised as a model example of a couple combining two media careers with a happy home life.

On stage, Morris played in Move Over Mrs Markham (1971), and her prolific television work included the role of barmaid at the luxury hotel run by Margaret Lockwood in The Royalty (1957-58) and a part in the distinguished BBC serialisation of The Forsyte Saga (1967). Waldman died in 1978 and Morris moved from their Hertfordshire home to a small London house. A decade later she revealed a new glamorous image as the powerful Vanessa Andenberg in the BBC's series centred on a South Coast boatyard, Howard's Way.

Pamela Matthews (Lana Morris), actress: born Ruislip, Middlesex 11 March 1930; married Ronnie Waldman (died 1978; one son); died Slough, Berkshire 27 May 1998.

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