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Pamela Brown (actress)

Pamela Brown (actress)

Pamela Mary Brown (8 July 1917 – 19 September 1975) was a British actress.

Pamela Brown
Brown in I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)
Pamela Mary Brown

(1917-07-08)8 July 1917
Died19 September 1975(1975-09-19) (aged 58)
Years active1942–1975
(m. 1941; div. 1953)
Partner(s)Michael Powell (??–her death 1975)

Early life

She was born in Hampstead, London, to George Edward Brown, a journalist, and his wife, Helen Blanche (née Ellerton).[1] Brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, she attended St Mary's School, Ascot.[2]


After attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art she made her stage debut in 1936 as Juliet in a Stratford-upon-Avon production of Romeo and Juliet.[3] Three of her early film roles were in Powell and Pressburger films: her first screen part in One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942), a memorable supporting role in I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), and in the fantasy film-opera The Tales of Hoffmann (1951). She played a bitter spinster in Personal Affair, starring Gene Tierney (1953).

From the early 1950s, her arthritic condition (first appearing when she was sixteen) began to make playing on the stage difficult; her mobility was restricted and she was in great pain, which was kept at bay by drugs. Nevertheless, she was a notable success as Jennet in the London production of Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not For Burning, opposite Richard Burton, Claire Bloom and John Gielgud (1949), which transferred to Broadway for an extended run (1950–51).[4][5] Time magazine wrote (20 November 1950): "As the lady, Pamela Brown proves that Fry did not write the part for her in vain. No one has a more gloriously uppity charm; no voice can simultaneously so rasp and thrill; no one ever made standoffishness more come-hitherable."[6]

Her success in film continued as Jane Shore in Laurence Olivier's Richard III (1955) and opposite Kirk Douglas in the Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life (1956). Highlights of her 1960s work include the epic Cleopatra (High Priestess; 1963), Becket (Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine; 1964) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (High Priestess; 1966). She played Lady Bessborough in Lady Caroline Lamb (1972) and Archduchess Sophie of Austria in Fall of Eagles (1974).

Personal life

In February 1953, she divorced her husband, Peter Copley, for infidelity. They had no children. A devout Roman Catholic, she could not remarry while Copley was still alive but chose to live with her partner Michael Powell, the director who had given her her early film roles. They remained together until her death from pancreatic cancer in 1975, aged 58, in Avening, Gloucestershire. She was buried in Holy Cross churchyard, Avening.[7]

Complete filmography


  1. "Brown, Pamela Mary (1917–1975)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40455. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. "26 famous people who went to school in Berkshire". Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  3. "Shakespeare Festival at Stratford". The Times. London. 23 March 1936. p. 10.
  4. Ellis, Samantha (28 May 2003). "The Lady's Not For Burning, Globe Theatre, May 1949". The Guardian.
  5. Zolotow, Sam (8 November 1950). "Play by Fry bows tonight at Royale; 'The Lady's Not for Burning,' a British Importation, Stars John Gielgud, Pamela Brown". The New York Times. p. 49.
  6. "New Play in Manhattan". Time. Vol. 56, no. 21. 20 November 1950. p. 60 via EBSCO.
  7. Thomson, David (1 October 1995). "Cinema: A genius without a job". The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
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