Jill Adams: Actress billed as 'Britain's Monroe'

Wednesday 06 August 2008 00:00 BST

A tall, striking blonde, Jill Adams provided good humour and a welcome touch of glamour to several films from the mid-Fifties. At the start of her film career, she was publicised as "Britain's Marilyn Monroe". It was hardly an accurate description, but the former model Adams made a stunning cover girl, featuring on the cover of the popular weekly Picturegoer twice, in 1954 and 1955, and she played in over 20 films in the space of a decade.

The James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli is credited with having discovered her when she played a bit part in his production The Black Knight (1954), and she was soon playing larger roles, notable among which were her fine comic performance in the Launder-Gilliat black comedy The Green Man (1956), with Alastair Sim and George Cole, and her glamorous depiction of the "girl upstairs" in the comedy about barristers, Brothers in Law (1957), her role a deliberate echo of Monroe's in The Seven Year Itch.

She was born in London in 1930, the daughter of the silent-screen actress Molly Adair (real name Mary Marguerite Potter). Jill's New Zealand-born father, Arthur Siggins, had met the Irish-American Adair when she was on location in Algiers filming a spectacular version of A.E. Mason's adventure novel The Four Feathers (1921). Siggins, a former member of the Rhodesian police and an expert animal handler, worked on the film, and later wrote a book about the experience, Shooting with Rifle and Camera.

Jill was one of four children. When she was six years old, she moved to Wales where Jill continued her education, after which she worked for four years on a farm. Her ambition was to become an artist, and she moved to London to pursue that career, taking work as a sales assistant, window dresser and secretary before finding that her poise and glamour could bring her modelling assignments – during the Second World War her face was used in a recruiting poster for the Wrens.

In 1951 she married an American sailor, Jim Adams, whose surname she adopted professionally, but though they had a daughter the marriage ended in 1953. The same year, Jill Adams had a part in a late-night stage revue, On with the New, starring Anthony Newley, and began taking bit roles in movies – dancing with Nigel Patrick in Forbidden Cargo (1953), appearing in the Arthur Askey comedy The Love Match (1954), and in Doctor at Sea (1955) with Dirk Bogarde.

She had one of her first substantial roles in the sprightly "B" movie One Jump Ahead (1955), in a rare villainous portrayal as a murderess who was once an old flame of a reporter (Paul Carpenter) who is usually "one jump ahead" of the police. Adams was one of Rex Harrison's seven wives in the sophisticated comedy The Constant Husband (1955).

The film was produced and directed by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and the team then gave Adams possibly her best remembered role, in the often hilarious The Green Man, which starred Alistair Sim as an out-of-practice hitman given the task of assassinating politician Raymond Huntley. Adams was third billed as the fiancée of a BBC announcer (Colin Gordon), uniting with a vacuum salesman (George Cole) to foil the plot.

The Boulting Brothers were also champions of Adams, and she had a prominent role in their satire on army life, Private's Progress (1956), followed by the leading female role in Brothers in Law, a witty look at the legal system, in which a gauche new barrister (Ian Carmichael), and the cockily experienced barrister helping him (Richard Attenborough), become rivals for the affections of Adams.

At the peak of her acting career in 1957, Adams married Peter Haigh, the debonair presenter of radio's Movie-Go-Round and the founding co-presenter (with Derek Bond) of Picture Parade, a weekly television movie magazine that would evolve into the show presented for many years by Barry Norman.

Adams appeared with Attenborough again in The Scamp (1957), and was given star billing in an Australian movie, Dust in the Sun (1958), but it had limited distribution. In 1960/61 she featured in a television series, The Flying Doctor, based on the real-life activities of the Royal Flying Doctor Service serving the Australian outback.

Her career at this point seemed to lose direction. Death on My Shoulder (1958) and Crosstrap (1960) had been poor "B" movies, and her roles in Carry On Constable (1960) and Doctor in Distress (1963) were small. The Yellow Teddy Bears (1963) was an exploitation thriller (its US title was Gutter Girls), and her small role in Promise Her Anything (1965), starring Warren Beatty and Leslie Caron, was to be her last.

In the early 1970s, she and Haigh, whose radio and television career had also faded, moved to the Algarve in Portugal, where they ran the harbour-side Galeao Bar in Albufeira until their marriage ended in 1976. (Haigh died in 2001.) Adams, with a reputation for "fabulous" cooking, continued in the restaurant business with a new partner, Mike Johnson. She later moved to Lisbon with another partner, Alan "Buster" Jones. They then moved to Spain, but when Jones died, Adams returned to be with her granddaughter and great-granddaughter in Portugal.

Tom Vallance

Jill Siggins, actress and model: born London 22 July 1930; married 1951 James Adams (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1953), 1957 Peter Haigh (died 2001; one daughter; marriage dissolved 1976); died Clareance, Portugal 13 May 2008.

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