30 August 2015

Samantha Eggar

Auburn-haired beauty Samantha Eggar (1939) is a gifted English film, television and voice actress. She played in several Hollywood movies, including the acclaimed psychological thriller The Collector (William Wyler, 1965), but somehow never managed to become a major star.

Samantha Eggar
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

The Collector

Samantha Eggar was born Victoria Louise Samantha Marie Elizabeth Therese Eggar in 1939 in Hampstead, London. Her parents were Ralph Eggar, a brigadier in the British Army, and his wife Muriel Eggar, of Dutch and Portuguese descent. Eggar was brought up as a Roman Catholic and educated at St Mary's Providence Convent in Surrey.

While at boarding school, she was given the opportunity to thrive in the arts, in school plays, in musical concerts and poetry competitions. After graduating from art school, she was accepted at the Webber Douglas School for Drama in London. Before finishing the two-year program at Webber Douglas, she was offered the role of Lady Hamilton in a play written by photographer Cecil Beaton.

She played in several Shakespearean companies and on television. While performing onstage at the Royal Court Theatre, film producer Betty Box spotted her. Box cast her in the film The Wild and the Willing (Ralph Thomas, 1962), a romantic drama about a group of students at university. She played a sluttish college coed opposite Ian McShane and John Hurt.

After this film debut she played in Dr. Crippen (Robert Lynn, 1962) as Ethel Le Neve, Crippen's mistress. Donald Pleasence starred as the real-life Edwardian doctor Hawley Harvey Crippen who was hanged in 1910 for the murder of his wife. In 1963, Eggar played the title character in the episode Marcia of the TV series The Saint, featuring Roger Moore. After her appearance in The Saint, Eggar did not appear in television for ten years, instead focusing exclusively on feature films. In England she made the thriller Return from the Ashes (J. Lee Thompson, 1965) with Maximilian Schell, Ingrid Thulin and Herbert Lom.

She received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role of kidnap victim Miranda Grey opposite Terence Stamp in the American psychological thriller The Collector (William Wyler, 1965). Brendon Hanley at AllMovie: “The success of The Collector depends almost entirely on its two stars, Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar, since scarcely anyone else is in the movie.” Eggar won a Golden Globe award for this performance and was also named Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival.

Eggar then starred in the Cary Grant comedy Walk, Don't Run (Charles Walters, 1966), set in Tokyo during the Olympic Games in 1964. It was the last appearance by Grant in a feature film, and also director Walters last film. Her next Hollywood production was the musical Doctor Dolittle (Richard Fleischer, 1967) starring Rex Harrison. The film received generally mixed critical reviews, but through 20th Century Fox's intense lobbying, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and won awards for Best Original Song and Best Visual Effects.

Samantha Eggar The Collector 1965
Publicity still for The Collector (William Wyler, 1965). Source: RetroGlamour Fan (Flickr).

The Brood

Samantha Eggar appeared opposite Richard Harris and Sean Connery in the American production The Molly Maguires (Martin Ritt, 1970). Set in late 19th century Northeastern Pennsylvania, this social drama tells the story of an undercover detective sent to a coal mining community to expose a secret society of Irish-American miners battling exploitation at the hand of the owners. Partly inspired by a true story, the film portrays the rebellious leader of the Molly Maguires and his will to achieve social justice. The film was considered a major box-office failure.

Another commercial flop was the adventure film The Light at the Edge of the World (Kevin Billington, 1971), starring Yul Brynner and Kirk Douglas. The plot, adapted from Jules Verne's novel Le Phare du bout du monde (1905), involves piracy in the South Atlantic during the mid 19th century, with a theme of survival in extreme circumstances, and events centering on an isolated lighthouse.

Next, she starred in the Italian Giallo L'etrusco uccide ancora/The Dead Are Alive (Armando Crispino, 1972) with Alex Cord and Nadja Tiller, and the American psychological thrille A Name for Evil (Bernard Girard, 1973) with Robert Culp. Eggar co-starred again with Yul Brynner in the television series Anna and the King (1972). She also starred in the episode The Cardboard House of the romantic anthology series Love Story (1973).

Returning to the British Stage, she starred with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Firth in Arthur Schnitzler's The Lonely Road and reunited with John Hurt in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. In 1976, she co-starred with Peter Falk and Theodore Bikel in the Columbo episode The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case. That same year, she also appeared in the Sherlock Holmes film The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Herbert Ross, 1976), playing the wife of Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall).

A highlight in her later career is her volcanic performance in David Cronenberg's early masterpiece The Brood (1979). Art Hindle plays a man who tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist's (Oliver Reed) therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife (Eggar). A series of brutal attacks committed by a brood of mutant children coincides with the husband's investigation. Brian J. Dillard at AllMovie: “Samantha Eggar's haughty, self-obsessed Nola, meanwhile, establishes the Cronenberg ice-queen archetype that Genevieve Bujold would fill so indelibly in Dead Ringers. Although hardly the most influential of the director's early and mid-period horror exercises, The Brood stands up as a fully realized study of modern discontent given terrifying shape.”

Trailer for The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979). Source: Film&Clips (YouTube).

Hercules’ mother

During the next decades, the bulk of Samantha Eggar's screen work would be on television in series like Murder, She Wrote (1984) with Angela Lansbury, Magnum, P.I. (1984), Tales of the Unexpected (1985), Matlock (1990), and as the wife of Captain Jean-Luc Picard's brother Robert in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1990).

She also appeared as Maggie Gioberti in The Vintage Years (1981), the unaired pilot for the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest, but was replaced by Susan Sullivan when the series went into production.

Her later films include the Canadian cult horror film Curtains (Richard Ciupka, 1983) about a group of actresses targeted by a masked killer at a prestigious director's (John Vernon) remote mansion where they are auditioning for a film role, and the American superhero film The Phantom (Simon Wincer, 1996) featuring Billy Zane.

In 1997, she provided the voice of Hera, Hercules’ mother, in Disney's animated musical fantasy Hercules (Ton Clements, John Musker, 1997). Eggar also had a role in the American science fiction thriller The Astronaut's Wife (Rand Ravich, 1999), which starred Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron.

On TV, she appeared as Sarah Templeton, the wife of Speaker of the House Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland), on the short-lived television series Commander in Chief, which starred Geena Davis.

In 2000, she had a brief run in the American soap opera All My Children. Later she did guest-appearances in the TV series Cold Case (2003) and Mental (2009).

Samantha Eggar was married to actor-director Tom Stern from 1964 till 1971. They have two children, Nicholas Stern, and Jenna Stern. Nicolas works in film production, and Jenna-Louise is an actress. Samantha Eggar has appeared in over 90 films and television series. She continues to work these days, as a member of California Artists Radio Theatre, as well as voicework and television appearances.

Trailer for The Collector (William Wyler, 1965). Source: W. David Lindholm (YouTube).

Trailer The Light At The Edge Of The World Trailer (Kevin Billington, 1971). Source: Video Detective (YouTube).

Sources: SamanthaEggar.net, Brian McFarlane (Encyclopedia of British Film), Brendon Hanley (AllMovie), Brian J. Dillard (AllMovie), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), The Terror Trap, Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

I remember her in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, an underrated and imaginative 70s adventure film.