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Jill Bennett (British actress)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jill Bennett
Jill Bennett in trailer for The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
Nora Noel Jill Bennett

(1931-12-24)24 December 1931
Died4 October 1990(1990-10-04) (aged 58)
Kensington, London, England
Years active1949–1990
(m. 1962⁠–⁠1965)

(m. 1968⁠–⁠1978)

Nora Noel Jill Bennett (24 December 1931 – 4 October 1990) was a British actress, and the fourth wife of playwright John Osborne.

Early life

Bennett was born in Penang, the Straits Settlements, to British parents, educated at Prior's Field School, an independent girls boarding school in Godalming, and trained at RADA. She made her stage début in the 1949 season at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, and her film début in The Long Dark Hall (1951) with Rex Harrison.


Bennett made many appearances in British films including Lust for Life (1956), The Criminal (1960), The Nanny (1965), The Skull (1965), Inadmissible Evidence (1968), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), Julius Caesar (1970), I Want What I Want (1972), Mister Quilp (1975), Full Circle (1977) and Britannia Hospital (1982). She also appeared in the Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981), Lady Jane (1986) and Hawks (1988). Her final film performance was in The Sheltering Sky (1990).

She made forays into television, such as roles in Play for Today (Country, 1981), with Wendy Hiller, and as the colourful Lady Grace Fanner in John Mortimer's adaptation of his own novel, Paradise Postponed (1985). In 1984 she co-wrote and starred in the sitcom Poor Little Rich Girls alongside Maria Aitken. Among several roles, Osborne wrote the character of Annie in his play The Hotel in Amsterdam (1968) for her. But Bennett's busy schedule prevented her from playing the role until it was screened on television in 1971.[1]

She co-starred with Rachel Roberts in the Alan Bennett television play The Old Crowd (1979), directed by Lindsay Anderson.

Personal life

She was the live-in companion of actor Godfrey Tearle in the late 1940s and early 1950s. She was married to screenwriter Willis Hall and later to John Osborne. She and Osborne divorced acrimoniously in 1978. She had no children.


She died by suicide in October 1990, aged 58, having long suffered from depression and the brutalising effects of her marriage to Osborne (according to Osborne's biographer).[2] She did this by taking an overdose[3] of Quinalbarbitone. Osborne, who was subject during her life to a restraining order regarding written comments about her, immediately wrote a vituperative chapter about her to be added to the second volume of his autobiography. The chapter, in which he rejoiced at her death, caused great controversy.[4]

In 1992, Bennett's ashes, along with those of her friend, the actress Rachel Roberts (who also died by suicide, in 1980), were scattered by their friend Lindsay Anderson on the waters of the River Thames in London. Anderson, with several of the two actresses' professional colleagues and friends, took a boat trip down the Thames, and the ashes were scattered while musician Alan Price sang the song "Is That All There Is?" The event was included in Anderson's autobiographical BBC documentary Is That All There Is? (1992).[citation needed]



Year Title Role Notes
1951 The Long Dark Hall First Murdered Girl
1952 Moulin Rouge Sarah
1953 The Nine Days' Wonder Miss Smith TV film
The Pleasure Garden Miss Kellerman Short
1954 Hell Below Zero Gerda Petersen
Aunt Clara Julie Mason
1955 Murder Anonymous Mrs. Sheldon Short
1956 The Anatomist Mary Belle TV film
The Extra Day Susan
Lust for Life Willemien
1957 Peace and Quiet Josephine Elliott TV film
1959 A Glimpse of the Sea Penelope Belford TV film
1960 Return to the Sea TV film
The Criminal Maggie
1965 The Skull Jane Maitland
The Nanny Aunt Pen
1968 The Charge of the Light Brigade Mrs. Duberly
Inadmissible Evidence Liz Eaves
1969 Rembrandt Geertje TV film
1970 Julius Caesar Calpurnia
1971 Speaking of Murder Annabelle Logan TV film
1972 I Want What I Want Margaret Stevenson
1974 Intent to Murder Janet Preston TV film
1975 Mister Quilp Sally Brass
1976 Almost a Vision Isobel TV film
1977 Full Circle Lily Lofting
1979 The Old Crowd Stella TV film
1981 For Your Eyes Only Brink
1982 Britannia Hospital Dr. MacMillan
1983 The Aerodrome Eustasia TV film
1986 Lady Jane Mrs. Ellen
1988 Hawks Vivian Bancroft
1989 A Day in Summer Miss Prosser TV film
1990 The Sheltering Sky Mrs. Lyle


Year Title Role Notes
1954 BBC Sunday-Night Theatre Polly Eccles Episode: "Caste"
Lady Ariadne Crofield Episode: "Job for the Boy"
1955 Valerie Fergusson Episode: "A Dream of Treason"
Sally Raynor Episode: "Night Was Our Friend"
1956 ITV Play of the Week Mary Belle Episode: "The Anatomist"
Masha Episode: "The Seagull"
Armchair Theatre Isa Episode: "Ring Out the Old"
1957 BBC Sunday-Night Theatre Grette Brinson Episode: "Do It Yourself"
Villette Lucy Snowe Mini-series
Do it Yourself Assistant
1958 Armchair Theatre Agnes Madinier Episode: "The Web of Lace"
BBC Sunday-Night Theatre Barbara Shearer Episode: "Statue of David"
Catherine Sloper Episode: "The Heiress"
1959 Anne-Marie Episode: "Figure of Fun"
Saturday Playhouse Trilby O'Ferral Episode: "Trilby"
Armchair Theatre Lily Episode: "Hand in Glove"
1960 Stella Episode: "Thunder on the Snowy"
ITV Playhouse Rena Episode: "Other People's House"
Emily Forsyth Episode: "Independent Means"
Somerset Maugham Hour Annette Episode: "The Unconquered"
Millicent Episode: "Before the Party"
1961 ITV Play of the Week Emma Gore Episode: "Ring of Truth"
Harriet Episode: "Harriet"
1962 Somerset Maugham Hour Olive Hardy Episode: "The Book Bag"
The Cheaters Ferba Martinez Episode: "Time to Kill"
BBC Sunday-Night Play Victoria Thomson Episode: "Storm in Teacup"
1963 Hilary Episode: "The Sponge Room"
Maupassant Episode: "Foolish Wives"
ITV Play of the Week Lizzie Episode: "The Rainmaker"
Masha Episode: "Three Sisters"
1964 Espionage Mistress Patience Wright Episode: "The Frantick Rebel"
First Night Libby Beeston Episode: "How Many Angels"
ITV Play of the Week Helena Episode: "A Midsummer's Night Dream"
Gilda Episode: "A Choice of Coward #4: Design for Living"
1965 Marjorie Wilton Episode: "We Thought You'd Like to Be Caesar"
1966 ABC Stage 67 Frida Holmeier Episode: "Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn?"
Thirty-Minute Theatre Mary Hass Episode: "Brainscrew"
1968 BBC Play of the Month Anna Episode: "The Parachute"
Half Hour Story Penelope Episode: "Its Only Us"
1971 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Episode: "The Hotel in Amsterdam"
1974 Late Night Drama Jill Episode: "Ms or Jill and Jack"
1975 Aquarius Maria Episode: "The Three Marias"
1976 Murder Lola Episode: "Hello Lola"
1980 Orient-Express Jane Episode: "Jane"
1981 Play for Today Alice Carlion Episode: "Country"
1984 Poor Little Rich Girls Daisy Troop Series regular
1985 Time for Murder Sonia Barrington Episode: "The Murders at Lynch Cross"
1986 Paradise Postponed Lady Grace Fanner Series regular
1987 Worlds Beyond Elizabeth Berrington Episode: "The Barrington Case"

Theatre career

  • Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, 1949 season
  • Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, St Martin's Theatre, December 1949
  • Anni in Captain Carvallo, St. James' Theatre, August 1950
  • Iras in Caesar and Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra, St. James' Theatre, May 1951 (opposite Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh)
  • Helen Eliot in The Night of the Ball, New Theatre, January 1955
  • Masha in The Seagull, Saville Theatre, August 1956
  • Mrs. Martin in The Bald Prima Donna, Arts Theatre, November 1956
  • Sarah Stanham in The Touch of Fear, Aldwych Theatre, December 1956
  • Isabelle in Dinner With the Family, New Theatre, December 1957
  • Penelope in Last Day in Dreamland and A Glimpse of the Sea, Lyric Hammersmith, November 1959
  • Susan Roper in Breakfast for One, Arts Theatre, April 1961
  • Feemy Evans in The Showing Up of Blanco Posnet, and Lavinia in Androcles and the Lion, Mermaid Theatre, October 1961
  • Estelle in In Camera (Huis Clos), Oxford Playhouse, February 1962
  • Ophelia in Castle in Sweden, Piccadilly Theatre, May 1962
  • Hilary in The Sponge Room, and Elizabeth Mintey in Squat Betty, Royal Court, December 1962
  • Isabelle in The Love Game, New Arts Theatre, October 1964
  • Countess Sophia Delyanoff in A Patriot for Me, Royal Court, June 1965
  • Anna Bowers in A Lily in Little India, Hampstead Theatre Club, November 1965
  • Imogen Parrott in Trelawney of the Wells, National Theatre at the Old Vic, August 1966
  • Katerina in The Storm, National Theatre at the Old Vic, October 1966
  • Pamela in Time Present, Royal Court, May 1968 at the Duke of York’s Theatre, July 1968 (for which she won the Variety Club and Evening Standard Awards for Best Actress)
  • Anna Bowers in Three Months Gone at the Royal Court in January 1970; at the Duchess Theatre in March 1970,
  • Frederica in West of Suez, Royal Court, August 1971; Cambridge Theatre, October 1971
  • Hedda in Hedda Gabler, Royal Court, June 1972
  • Amanda in Private Lives (briefly taking over for Maggie Smith), Queen's Theatre, June 1973
  • Leslie Crosbie in The Letter, Palace Theatre, Watford, July 1973
  • Isobel Sands in The End of Me Old Cigar, Greenwich Theatre, January 1975
  • Fay in Loot, Royal Court, June 1975
  • Sally Prosser in Watch It Come Down, National Theatre at the Old Vic, February 1976 at the National Theatre at the Old Vic; March 1976 at the Lyttelton Theatre
  • Mrs. Shankland and Miss Railton-Bell in Separate Tables, Apollo Theatre, January 1977
  • Mrs. Tina in The Aspern Papers (1978); The Queen in The Eagle Has Two Heads (1979); and Maggie Cutler in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1979); all at the Chichester Festival Theatre
  • Gertrude in Hamlet, Royal Court, April 1980
  • Alice in The Dance of Death, Royal Exchange Manchester, October 1983
  • Janine in Infidelities, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 1985; at the Donmar Warehouse in October 1985; and revived at the Boulevard Theatre in June 1986
  • Queen Elizabeth I in Mary Stuart, Edinburgh Festival, August 1987
  • Miss Singer in Exceptions, New End Theatre, Hampstead, July 1988
  • Anne in Poor Nanny, King's Head Theatre, March 1989

Radio theatre

Nora in A Doll's House, BBC Third Programme 1959. Directed by Frederick Bradnum. Cast included Jack May and John Gabriel.

Masha in The Three Sisters/TRI SESTRY, BBC Home Service Radio 1965. Directed by John Tydeman. Cast included Paul Scofield, Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave and Wilfrid Lawson.


  1. ^ Heilpern, John (2006). John Osborne: a patriot for us. Chatto & Windus / Internet Archive. p. 357. ISBN 0701167807.
  2. ^ Heilpern, pp. 412–3, 443–4
  3. ^ Upton, Julian (2004). Fallen Stars: Tragic Lives and Lost Careers. Headpress/Critical Vision. p. 117. ISBN 978-1900486385.
  4. ^ Heilpern, p. 444

Theatre sources

  • Who’s Who in the Theatre, 17th Edition, Vol. 1. (Gale Research, 1981.)
  • 25 Years of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court, Richard Findlater, ed. (Amber Lane Press, 1981.)
  • Theatre Record (periodical indexes)

External links

This page was last edited on 21 May 2022, at 12:38
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