Obituary: Margaret Vyner

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The Independent Online
Margaret Leila Vyner, model, actress, playwright: born Armidale, New South Wales 3 December 1914; married 1940 Hugh Williams (died 1969; two sons, one daughter), 1972 Jack Clayton (deceased); died Reading 30 October 1993.

WHEN Cyril Ritchard directed Floradora in Sydney in the Twenties his production launched a bevy of exquisite Australian society beauties - to the chorus of 'Tell me pretty maiden are there any more at home like you?' came the answer 'There are a few, kind sir'. None more beautiful than the young Margaret Vyner. The number brought the house down - encores were demanded. Vyner was a rare creature who combined brains with a radiant beauty, but there was nothing scholastic about her. She added a wicked wit to her fetching sexuality.

Her father Robert Vyner was a squatter and Margaret grew up near Armidale, New South Wales, but life with sheep and cattle as a member of the 'squattocracy' was never for her. She fled from Sydney and came first to London in the early Thirties, then to Paris, and turned heads and made hearts beat faster - as a fashion model for Norman Hartnell in London and Jean Patou in Paris. In 1935 Cole Porter added lines to his famous song 'Anything Goes': 'You're the top, you're an ocean liner, / You're the top, you're Margaret Vyner.'

She had many beaux at her feet in London and Paris. She lived a very full and bejewelled social life in Belgravia and around the Place Vendome. She appeared in some films but acting for stage or films was not her forte.

She married the actor Hugh Williams in 1940. They had two sons, Hugo, the prize-winning poet, and Simon, the author and successful stage and television actor, and one daughter, Polly, now married to Nigel Havers. With Margaret's great sense of fun, in 1956 she began writing successful comedies for the West End with her husband. First Plaintiff with a Pretty Hat, then two years later their greatest hit, The Grass is Greener, which ran nearly 500 times at the St Martin's Theatre. They also wrote the book of Charley Girl, which ran for years at the Adelphi with Anna Neagle, then Evelyn Laye.

Not surprisingly they led a glamorous and fashionable extravagant life - gambling and racing led to terrible troubles with the income tax which made them bankrupt. All the jewels had to go and they moved to Portugal to Albufeira in the Algarve. They continued writing but, as so often happens with expatriates, no new hits were born. Her husband died in 1969. She married again but the union did not last. Always slim, elegant and funny, she remained an enchantress until her final days.

(Photograph omitted)