Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Billie Whitelaw

I first noticed Billie Whitelaw on TV in the 1959 production Alun Owen's play. I suppose it was natural to cast as a judy an actress born in Coventry and brought up in Yorkshire, because all the Liverpudlian actresses would have learned to talk posh and moved down south at that time. (Julie Walters - born Birmingham - later talked scouse for Alan Bleasdale.)  Perhaps I was at an impressionable age, but she certainly made an impact. None of the obituaries I have seen or heard mentioned her rôle in Lime Street, but I found from the rest of her c.v. on IMDb to discover that she had been around for some time - including a spell as Jack Warner's daughter in Dixon of Dock Green before Jeanette Hutchinson took over.

There was one other thing the obits. did not reveal: the reason for her unusual first name. I assume it came from the admiration on the part of one or both of her parents for Billie Dove, a Hollywood superstar before the talkies took over.

I thought she would go on for ever. She will be missed not only for her screen and stage presence but also for her directness and frankness in interviews, qualities all too rare in today's PR-coached generation.

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