Susannah York (9 January 1939[1] – 15 January 2011) was an English film, stage and television actress. She was awarded a BAFTA as Best Supporting Actress for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)[2] and was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for the same film. She won best actress for Images at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. In 1991 she was appointed anOfficier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.[2] Her appearances in various hit films of the 1960s formed the basis of her international reputation,[3] and an obituary in The Telegraph characterised her as "the blue-eyed English rose with the china-white skin and cupid lips who epitomised the sensuality of the swinging Sixties".[4]


 [hide*1 Early life

Early life[edit]Edit

York was born Susannah Yolande Fletcher in Chelsea, London, in 1939, the younger daughter of Simon William Peel Vickers Fletcher (1910–2002), a merchant banker and steel magnate, and his first wife, the former Joan Nita Mary Bowring – they married in 1935 and divorced prior to 1943.[5][6][7][8][9][10] Her maternal grandfather was Walter Andrew Bowring, CBE, a British diplomat who served as Administrator of Dominica (1933–1935); she was a great-great-granddaughter of political economist Sir John Bowring.[4][6][11][12][13] York had an elder sister, as well as a half-brother, Eugene Xavier Charles William Peel Fletcher, from her father's second marriage to Pauline de Bearnez de Morton de La Chapelle.[5][14][15][16][17]

In early 1943, her mother married a Scottish businessman, Adam M. Hamilton, and moved, with her daughter, to Scotland.[18][19] At the age of 11 York entered Marr College in Troon,Ayrshire.[4][20] Later she became a boarder at Wispers School, a school housed in Wispers, a Norman Shaw-designed country house in the Sussex village of Stedham. At 13 she was removed – effectively expelled – from Wispers after owning up to a naked midnight swim in the school pool, and she transferred to East Haddon Hall in Northamptonshire.[4][20]

Enthused by her experiences of acting at school (she had played an Ugly Sister in Cinderella at the age of nine), York first decided to apply to the Glasgow College of Dramatic Art; but after her mother had separated from her stepfather and moved to London, she instead auditioned for RADA.[2][4][20][21] There she won the Ronson award for most promising student[22] before graduating in 1958.[23]



Her film career began with Tunes of Glory (1960), co-starring with Alec Guinness and John Mills. In 1961, she played the leading role in The Greengage Summer, which co-starred Kenneth More and Danielle Darrieux. In 1962, she performed in Freud: The Secret Passion with Montgomery Clift in the title role.

York played Sophie Western opposite Albert Finney in the Oscar winning Best Film Tom Jones (1963) and also appeared in A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Killing of Sister George (1968) and Battle of Britain (1969). She co-starred with George C. Scott (as Edward Rochester) playing the title role in an American television movie of Jane Eyre (1970).

York was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). She snubbed the Academy when, regarding her nomination, she declared it offended her to be nominated without being asked. She was highly praised for her performance, though she said "I don't think much of the film, or of myself in it." She did attend the ceremony but lost toGoldie Hawn for her role in Cactus Flower.[24]

In 1972, she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in Images.[25] She played Superman's mother Lara on the doomed planet Krypton in Superman (film) (1978) and its sequels, Superman II (1980) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). York made extensive appearances in British television series, including Prince Regent (1979), as Maria Fitzherbert, the clandestine wife of the future George IV, and We'll Meet Again (1982).

In 1984, York starred as Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol (1984), based on the novel by Charles Dickens. She again co-starred with George C. Scott (as Ebenezer Scrooge), David Warner (Bob Cratchit), Frank Finlay (Jacob Marley),Angela Pleasence (The Ghost of Christmas Past) and Anthony Walters (Tiny Tim).

In 1992, she was a member of the jury at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival.[26]

In 2003, York had a recurring role as hospital manager Helen Grant in the BBC1 television drama series Holby City. She reprised this role in two episodes of Holby City's sister series Casualty (TV series) in May 2004. Her last film was The Calling, released in 2010 in the UK.


In 1978, York appeared on stage at the New End Theatre in London in The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs with Lucinda Childs, directed by French director Simone Benmussa. The following year, she appeared in Paris, speaking French in a play by Henry JamesAppearances, with Sami Frey. The play was again directed by Benmussa.[citation needed]

In the 1980s, again with Benmussa, York played in For No Good Reason, an adaptation of George Moore's short story, with Susan Hampshire. In 2007, she appeared in the UK tour of The Wings of the Dove, and continued performing her internationally well received solo show, The Loves of Shakespeare's Women. Also in 2007, she guest starred in the Doctor Who audio play Valhalla. In 2008, she played the part of Nelly in an adaptation by April De Angelis ofWuthering Heights.[citation needed]

According to the website of Italian symphonic metal band Rhapsody of Fire (previously known as Rhapsody), York had been recruited for a narrated part on the band's next full-length album Triumph or Agony. In 2009, she starred alongside Jos Vantyler in the Tennessee Williams season at the New End Theatre, London for which she received critical acclaim.[27]

York's last stage performance was as Jean in Ronald Harwood's Quartet, at the Oxford Playhouse in August 2010.[28]

Writing and personal appearances[edit]Edit

In the 1970s, she wrote two children's fantasy novels, In Search of Unicorns (1973), revised (1984) which was excerpted in the film Images, and Lark's Castle (1976, revised 1986).[29]

She was a guest, along with David Puttnam on the BBC Radio 4 documentary I Had The Misery Thursday, a tribute programme to film actor Montgomery Clift, which was aired in 1986, on the twentieth anniversary of Clift's death.[citation needed] York had co-starred with him in FreudJohn Huston's 1962 film biography of the psychoanalyst.[29]

Personal life[edit]Edit

In 1960, York married Michael Wells, with whom she had two children, daughter Sasha (born May 1972) and son Orlando (born June 1973). They divorced in 1976. In the 1984 TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol, she played Mrs. Cratchit and both of her children co-starred as Cratchit offspring. Orlando gave York her first grandchild, Rafferty, in 2007.[30]

Politically, she was left-wing and publicly supported Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli dissident who revealed Israel's nuclear weapons programme.[31] While performing The Loves of Shakespeare's Women at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Avivin June 2007, York dedicated the performance to Vanunu, evoking both cheers and jeers from the audience.[32]


York died at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London[33] from advanced bone marrow cancer on 15 January 2011, six days after her 72nd birthday.[34][35]


Year Film Role Notes
1960 There Was a Crooked Man Ellen
Tunes of Glory Morag Sinclair
The Richest Man in the World (TV movie) Martine Herrault
1961 ITV Television Playhouse Eva Sinding

Abigail Williams

episode: Midnight Sun

episode: The Crucible

The Greengage Summer Joss Grey
The First Gentleman (TV movie) Princess Charlotte
1962 Freud: The Secret Passion Cecily Koertner Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
The Slaughter of St. Teresa's Day (TV movie) Thelma Maguire
1963 Tom Jones Sophie Western
1964 The 7th Dawn Candace Trumpey
Scene Nun, Take One The Actress
1965 Sands of the Kalahari Grace Munkton
Scruggs Susan
Thursday Theatre Milly Theale episode: The Wings of the Dove
1966 The Fall of the House of Usher Madeleine Usher
Kaleidoscope Angel McGinnis Laurel Award for Favorite Female Comedy Performance (5th place)
A Man for All Seasons Margaret More
Jackanory Storyteller episode: The Children of Green Knowe
1966-1967 Theatre 625 Bronwen


episode: The Winner

episode: Kiss on a Grass Green Pillow

1968 Sebastian Rebecca Howard
Duffy Segolene
The Killing of Sister George Alice 'Childie' McNaught
ITV Playhouse Grace episode: The Photographer
1969 Oh! What a Lovely War Eleanor
Battle of Britain Section Officer Maggie Harvey
Lock Up Your Daughters Hilaret
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Alice BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture

1970 Jane Eyre Jane Eyre Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Country Dance Hilary Dow
1971 Happy Birthday, Wanda June Penelope Ryan
1972 Zee and Co. Stella
Images Cathryn Best Actress Award (Cannes Film Festival)
1959-1972 Armchair Theatre Tekla

Mandy Hope Cecily Cardew Kathleen Caroline

7 episodes
1973 Great Mysteries Countess Josephine episode: La Grande Breteche
1974 Gold (1974 film) Terry Steyner
Fallen Angels Julia Sterroll
1975 The Maids Claire
Conduct Unbecoming Mrs. Marjorie Scarlett
That Lucky Touch Julia Richardson
1976 Sky Riders Ellen Bracken
Eliza Fraser Eliza Fraser
1978 The Shout Rachel Fielding
A Month in the Country (TV movie) Natalia
The Silent Partner Julie Carver
Long Shot (1978 film) An Actress
Superman (film) Lara
1979 Prince Regent (TV series) Maria Fitzherbert
The Golden Gate Murders (TV movie) Sister Benecia
1980 The Awakening Jane Turner
Superman II Lara
Falling in Love Again Sue Lewis
1981 Second Chance (TV series) Kate Hurst episode: April II
Loophole (1981 film) Dinah Booker
1982 We'll Meet Again (TV series) Dr. Helen Dereham 13 episodes
Alicja Queenie
1983 Yellowbeard Lady Churchill
Nelly's Version (TV movie) Narrator (voice)
1984 A Christmas Carol Mrs. Cratchit
1985 Star Quality (TV movie) Lorraine Barry
The Love Boat Kay Webber episode: Girl of the Midnight Sun/There'll Be Some Changes Made/Too Many Isaacs/Mr. Smith Goes to Stockholm
Daemon (TV movie) Rachel
1986 The Two Ronnies My Lady episode: Episode #12.2
1987 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace Lara (voice)
Mio min Mio Seamstress
Tomorrow's a Killer Toni
1988 A Summer Story Mrs. Narracombe
Just Ask for Diamond Lauren Bacardi
1989 Melancholia Catherine Lanham Franck
After the War (TV miniseries) Irene Jameson episode: Yesterday and Tomorrow

episode: Partners

A Handful of Time Susanne Walker
The Ray Bradbury Theater Nora episode: The Haunting of the New
1990 Screen Two Amy Wallace episode: The Man from the Pru
Boon (TV series) Lady Tessa Bolton episode: Daddy's Girl
1991 Devices and Desires (TV miniseries) Meg Dennison 6 episodes
1991-1992 Trainer (TV series) Rachel Ware 23 episodes
1992 Illusions (TV movie) Dr. Sinclair
1993 Piccolo Grande Amore Queen Christina
1997 Loop Olivia
The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Liz episode: A Dark Blue Perfume
So This Is Romance? Mike's Mum
2000 St. Patrick: The Irish Legend Concessa
2002 The Book of Eve May
2003 Visitors Carolyn Perry
Holby City Helen Grant 9 episodes
2004 Casualty (TV series) Helen Grant episode: Don't Go There

episode: Breaking Point

2006 The Gigolos Tessa
The Stoning Jean Fielding
2008 Franklyn Margaret
2009 The Calling (2009 film) The Prioress
2010 Missing (UK TV series) Marjorie Claye episode: Episode #2.9
[[Doctors (soap opera) Lorna Robson episode: Gibberish
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