Obituary: Eileen Way

Eileen Way, actress; born New Malden, Surrey 2 September 1911; married 1934 Felix Brown (died 1972; one son, two daughters); died Canterbury 16 June 1994.

EILEEN WAY's face, once seen, was never forgotten. It was an exotic, Mediterranean-type face with huge dark eyes suggesting wells of sadness and suffering; the antithesis of her character which was cheerful, lively, warm and


When I first met her in 1966 she was giving an unforgettably moving performance as Aase in Ibsen's Peer Gynt at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. She had already been a distinguished actress for over 35 years, but she approached rehearsals with characteristic modesty and would accept no special favours from the director or adoring younger actors.

Her kindness was legendary and it was typical of her that when I mentioned that I had to come to London for a television series, she insisted that I must stay with her and her family in her beautiful 18th-century house in Highgate. She was extremely happily married to the psychiatrist Felix Brown, and mealtimes were always a forum for discussion of topics of the day: Way's contribution was invariably far, far left of centre, a political viewpoint which she held consistently throughout her life.

She and Felix marched in peace demonstrations together to Aldermaston and espoused many causes which favoured the underprivileged. His death in 1972 was a huge blow, but self-pity was alien to her and she continued fighting for what was true and just. She was never troubled by pride and this enabled her to lend her magical presence to often small parts in a huge variety of productions. Way was memorable in The Vikings (1958), with Kirk Douglas, and in Jon Amiel's Queen of Hearts (1989), films separated by over 30 years. At 16 she had been the youngest student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and by the early Thirties was in the Stratford company, notably the 'first ever barefoot Audrey' (a sensation) in As You Like It. In the Forties she appeared in many plays in London including Laurence Olivier's production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Aldwych in 1949, with Vivien Leigh.

Way's career spanned six decades and she found steady employment, from its early days, in television - she was always ready for something new. She featured in the soap opera The Newcomers, and in Dixon of Dock Green, Dr Who, Upstairs Downstairs, Poldark, Inspector Morse, The Bill and scores of others - most recently as Mrs Pebbles in Sean's Show on

Channel 4.

Her interest in politics and theatre never waned, nor her loyalty to her friends. She would set off from her home in Canterbury, armed with railway timetables, for fringe theatres or friends' houses. I remember her battling through the snow to attend my 25th wedding anniversary, when she was 74, and her trying to refuse a lift to the station.

She accepted her last illness with grace and dignity, dying in her own home, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. My last sight of her was only a few days before she died, in a broadcast of the BBC production of D. H. Lawrence's The Rainbow (1988), on television in my hotel room in Vancouver. She looked beautiful and acted with truth and distinction. I asked my wife to tell her that I had seen her and that she must 'hang on for the repeat fee'. Eileen's humour never deserted her: she laughed gamely.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific