Obituary:Joyce Buck

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The Independent Online
A beauty and a wit, Joyce Buck was a prominent member of the film and American communities in London from the 1950s to the early 1980s. Her husband, the producer Jules Buck, had founded Keep Films with Peter O'Toole in 1958 and for the next 20 years produced all O'Toole's projects except for Lawrence of Arabia.

Joyce was a prime mover in American Democrats Abroad, and became the co-chairman (with Toby Hyde) for the McGovern and Carter campaigns, on both occasions turning her house into an office for months on end.

In 1980 she and her husband returned to Los Angeles, where she worked as an interior designer on the houses of Sam Jaffee, Ralph Edwards (of This is Your Life), Coral Browne and Vincent Price, Jane Wyatt and Mrs William Wyler.

Born Joyce Ruth Getz, she was a child actress in New York who went on to become a successful cover girl and then, at 18, a contract artist in Hollywood. Here, almost at once, she met and married Captain Jules Buck, a rising young executive at Fox, one of the founders (along with Sam Spiegel and John Huston) of Horizon Pictures and at that time - 1945 - emerging from a hair-raising and hilarious war as a film- cameraman, ("D'you think we should be behind enemy lines?"). Joyce stopped perfor-ming and from then on her marriage to Jules was paramount.

A committed American (especially during her long period in Europe), she and her husband were among the first to sense that the emphasis in the film business was moving away from the big studios, and in 1952 they left for Paris (where Jules and Jacques Tati formed a partnership). Joyce first learnt fluent French and then embraced French cultural life.

The next shift was to London in 1957 where our two lives merged; first because of business, but very rapidly we formed an enduring friendship.

We were together on a daily basis for some 20 years and shared many highs and lows, though not once do I recall Joyce Buck recounting her problems or complaining about any misfortune. Self-absorption and whingeing were not her style and from her, an American, I learnt to keep a stiff upper lip and to apply more lipstick in times of trouble.

Joyce Buck was an experienced and gifted interior designer and she took me under her wing when I (hitherto a gypsy) embarked on the task of making a home for my growing family in London. She could have gone to work and in six months delivered a ravishing house; instead, she walked me through museums (to see the best), through dirty basements, cluttered back rooms and flea markets (to find the affordable), and I learnt patience as she took me to obscure craftsmen "fixing" things in parts of London I didn't know existed.

Her method of teaching was subtle and tactful and she happily released me into a pleasurable lifetime of working alone. But I could never match her eye for beauty or a bargain.

She also taught me to dress. She had a seemingly effortless perfection of appearance (she and Coral Browne were the most exclusively shod women I ever met). She instinctively knew how things ought to be as she gamely took on London, life and manners.

I don't recall which, but she was either my best man or she gave me away at my wedding to O'Toole in Dublin. The wedding party acquired poets, singers, actors, a politician or two and considerable riff-raff as it wound its way through the Dublin night.

At five in the morning, in a room the like of which she could never have seen before (different wallpaper on each wall, stars on the ceiling and alarming linoleum on the floor, an unknown child asleep in an arm-chair), she found herself seated at a table groaning under Guinness bottles. Harry Brogan - a wonderful Abbey actor who'd taken quite a shine to Joyce - shouted to her over yet another spirited rendering of "The Holy Ground", "Did you ever read Finnegan's Wake?" "No," she replied, taking a dainty sip of Guinness from a bottle and bestowing on him an enslaving smile, "but I rather feel I'm in it."

We once landed in a clearing in a jungle with a mountain of Gucci luggage. She realised that we had misjudged the situation and sent the luggage back to the city, retaining only essentials. Which was how, once filming was over, she waved me off to an uncertain fate - "it'll be such an adventure, I wish I could come" - in which I was one of the few people to attempt the source of the Orinoco in an Yves St Laurent safari suit. She taught me to be game for anything while staying as gussied up as possible.

When our paths diverged and she returned to America, I appreciated with relief that Emerson was right when he said "The best effect of a fine person is felt long after we have left their presence."

Sian Phillips

Joyce Ruth Getz, actress and interior designer: born Chicago 17 April 1925; married 1945 Jules Buck (one daughter); died Santa Monica, California 13 July 1996.

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