Charming, delicate Muriel Pavlow (1921) was the quintessential English girl of many British films of the 1950’s. She was usually cast as an unselfish bride, wife or girlfriend in thrillers and war films. In several light comedies she provided a nice counterbalance to the hectic goings-on. And, despite her small build, she was also a dominant stage actress.
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 1067, 1959. Photo: Rank/Progress.
Sprightly Teen Roles
Muriel Lilian Pavlow was born in Leigh, England in 1921. She had a Russian-born father and French mother. She made her stage debut at age 15 with silent film star Lillian Gish in a production of The Old Maid (1936) by Zoe Aitkens. Other teen roles on stage included Oedipus Rex (1936) with John Gielgud, Dear Octopus (1938), and Dear Brutus (1940). At 13, Muriel had started out in the cinema with a bit role in the Gracie Fields musical comedy Sing As We Go (1934, Basil Dean), and in 1937 she appeared in Romance in Flanders (1937, Maurice Elvey), but she wouldn't come into her own for nearly two decades. She often played ingénue roles much younger than her actual age, as in Quiet Wedding (1941, Anthony Asquith) starring Margaret Lockwood and Derek Farr. She had a more prominent role in the war-time film Night Boat to Dublin (1946, Lawrence Huntington). She made a beguiling Ophelia on a live, early TV version of Hamlet (1947, Basil Adams), but for the most part she tried to build up her theatrical credits.
Dutch postcard, sent by mail in 1960, no. 115821. Photo: Rank. Publicity still for Rooney (1958, George Pollock).
Peaking in the Mid-1950's
In 1947 Muriel Pavlow married actor Derek Farr and went on to appear with him in such British-made films as The Shop at Sly Corner (1947, George King) and Doctor at Large (1957, Ralph Thomas). Peaking in mid-1950’s, she appeared as the Maltese girl Maria in Malta Story (1953, Brian Desmond Hurst) with Alec Guinness, as Joy, the girlfriend of Simon Sparrow (Dirk Bogarde) in the first of the popular British ‘Doctor’ comedy series, Doctor in the House (1954, Ralph Thomas), and as Thelma Bader, the wife of World War II fighter pilot Douglas Bader (Kenneth More) in Reach for the Sky (1956, Lewis Gilbert). She continued to perform in the theatre, notably in Shakespeare pieces, like A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, and Troilus and Cressida. In the early 1960’s she eased into character roles in films like the Agatha Christie adaptation Murder She Said (1961, George Pollock). She and her husband worked for the most part on stage and television. The couple appeared together in such plays as Wolf's Clothing (1959) and Mary, Mary (1963). Following Farr's death in 1986, she resumed her career and was spotted in the late 1980’s and 1990’s in a number of matronly roles, such as in the TV-series Final Cut (1995, Mike Vardy) starring Ian Richardson. One of her last roles was at age 83 in the TV-film Belonging (2004, Christopher Menaul) in the company of Brenda Blethyn, Rosemary Harris and Anna Massey. More recently she was interviewed by the BBC for the documentary series, British Film Forever and in 2007, she guest-starred in the audio play Sapphire and Steel: Cruel Immortality. In the cinema, she was last seen in Glorious 39 (2009, Stephen Poliakoff), in which she had a cameo.
Scenes from Malta Story (1953). Source: Malta Fly Videos (YouTube).
Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Ewan Jeffrey (Theatre Archive Project), Wikipedia, and IMDb.