Obituary: Elizabeth Montgomery

IN 1929, when I was playing in Shakespeare at the Old Vic, a shy, handsome young woman brought some charming drawings she had made of me from memory, writes Sir John Gielgud (further to the obituary by Harriet Devine, 20 May). When I came to know Elizabeth Montgomery better she introduced me to two sisters, Sophie and Margaret Harris, both art students, with whom she shared a flat in Kensington.

In 1932, when I was making my debut as a director for the OUDS at Oxford, I asked the three girls to design the costumes for Romeo and Juliet, and their success in this field led them to assume the official name of 'Motley', under which they became extremely well-known. Their imaginative and practical gifts, economical budgets, and admirably decorative inventions, were enormously appreciated by the public, and they were able to open a boutique and establish themselves in a big studio just off St Martin's Lane, which became a hospitable centre of attraction to a number of actors, directors and writers, notably George Devine, Michel St Denis and Glen Byam Shaw and his wife Angela Baddeley.

Their first big success was with their decor for Richard of Bordeaux in 1933, and I was then able to use their invaluable contributions in many successful productions, Noah and The Old Ladies in particular, as well as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. Also working with Devine and St Denis at his Old Vic School, they taught and lectured brilliantly.

Later, Laurence Olivier sent for them to design his American production of Romeo, but unfortunately it was not a success. While there Elizabeth married an American and did not return to England for many years. Sophie Harris died, and Margaret (Percy) Harris was left alone as the trio was sadly broken up. However, she continued working with unflagging dedication (as she still does today) and nursed Elizabeth, sadly dogged by increasingly bad health, with infinite devotion.

I have so many unforgettable memories of Elizabeth, not only in the theatre, but in long talks and delightful travels, especially of a short holiday just before the war, when Percy and Liz came with me to Venice, which we saw together for the first time, and another at a villa I had leased in the South of France, with Elizabeth bathing with us looking like a portrait by Gauguin, her beautiful long black hair glistening in the sunshine. Shy and reserved, she was tremendously talented and a very dear friend.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
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 People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee