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21 June 2015

Joan Greenwood

Silky, English actress Joan Greenwood (1921-1987) made several memorable appearances in classic film comedies of the 1940s and 1950s. Her husky, sultry voice was her trademark, and in 1995 she was ranked number 63 on Empire magazine's list of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history.

Joan Greenwood
British postcard by Astra. Photo: J. Arthur Rank Organisation.

Joan Greenwood
British autograph card.

Joan Greenwood
British autograph card.

Joan Greenwood
British postcard.

A Special Blend of the Aristocratic and the Sultry


Joan Greenwood was born in Chelsea in 1921 as the daughter of renowned British artist Sydney Earnshaw Greenwood.

She was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made her stage debut at age 18. Three years later she was cast by Leslie Howard opposite himself in the wartime morale-booster The Gentle Sex (Leslie Howard, 1942). On the stage she appeared with Donald Wolfit's theatre company in the years following World War II.

The gifted Greenwood possessed a special blend of the aristocratic and the sultry which made her extremely useful for a time in British film. Between 1948 and 1958 she made several memorable screen appearances, most notably as Sibella, the bewitching, blackmailing mistress of anti-hero Dennis Price in the black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949), and as the Honourable Gwendolen Fairfax in the film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (Anthony Asquith, 1952).

She also appeared in two Ealing comedies, Whisky Galore! (Alexander Mackendrick, 1949) and as the mercenary lady friend of inventor Alec Guinness in The Man in the White Suit (Alexander Mackendrick, 1952).

In 1954, she starred in her first Broadway production, The Confidential Clerk. Other films in which she appeared include Monsieur Ripois (René Clément, 1954) starring Gérard Philipe, Father Brown (Robert Hamer, 1954) opposite Alec Guinness, the Gothic Swashbuckler Moonfleet (Fritz Lang, 1955) with Stewart Granger, and Stage Struck (Sidney Lumet, 1958) starring Henry Fonda.

Joan Greenwood
Vintage postcard. Photo: Eagle Lion.

Joan Greenwood
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht.

Joan Greenwood
German postcard by Film-Postkartenverlag Hbg., Bergedorf, no. 159. Photo: J. Arthur Rank Organisation.

Joan Greenwood
German collectors card, no. 4408. Photo: Fox Film.

Joan Greenwood
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 1068, 1959. Photo: J. Arthur Rank. Publicity still for The Importance of Being Earnest (Anthony Asquith, 1952).

More Eccentric Than Sexy


From the 1960s on Joan Greenwood specialized in highly enjoyable character roles, still classy and authoritative but more eccentric than sexy. Her films included the Jules Verne based Mysterious Island (Cy Endfield, 1961), and Tom Jones (Tony Richardson, 1963), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress.

In 1960, Greenwood appeared as the title character in a stage production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at The Oxford Playhouse. Starring opposite her as Brack was the actor André Morell. They fell in love and flew in secret to Jamaica, where they were married, remaining together until his death in 1978.

On TV she appeared as Lady Carlton, a quirky romance novelist and landlady to the main characters in the British sitcom Girls On Top (1985) with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

In 1987 Joan Greenwood died of a heart attack in London five days prior to her 66th birthday. Her last film was the fine Charles Dickens adaptation Little Dorrit (Christine Edzard, 1988), made the year of her death. She and André Morell had one child, actor Jason Morell.


Trailer Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). Source: Hermthy (YouTube).


Trailer The Importance of Being Earnest (1952). Source: MOVIECLIPS Classic Trailers (YouTube).


Trailer of Mysterious Island (1961). Source: Plamen Plamenov (YouTube).


Trailer of Tom Jones (1963). Source: R6dw6C (YouTube).

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia, TCM Movie Database, and IMDb.

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