Susannah York (1939-2011) b. Chelsea, London, England.
Born Susannah Yolande Fletcher on January 9, 1939 in Chelsea, London, blue-eyed blonde Susannah York went on to be a quintessential 1960s actress. Born in Chelsea, when her parents divorced aged five, the family moved to a remote village in Scotland. She attended Marr College in Troon, Ayrshire and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
She performed in repertory theatre and brief appearances on television before making an impression the daughter of Alec Guinness in Tunes of Glory (1960). She quickly earned co-star roles in the sensitively handled coming-of age drama The Greengage Summer (1961), the brazenly seductive Sophie Western in the bawdy Tom Jones (1963), and was Thomas More’s daughter in A Man For All Seasons (1966). She courted mild tabloid controversy as the child-like Alice in scenes involving masturbation and lesbian lovemaking in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George (1968). Her performance as a delusional bleach-blonde loser in the gruelling Depression-era drama They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) won her the BFA award and an Oscar nomination. She was also memorably the WAAF officer yelling in Battle of Britain (1969).
York lost major ground in the 1970s as artistic ambition led her to pursue challengingly offbeat roles as opposed to popular mainstream work. She won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of Cathryn in Images (1972). The mordantly witty Happy Birthday, Wanda June (1971) opposite Rod Steiger and Jean Genet’s The Maids (1975) with Glenda Jackson were forgettable and not well-received. Other humdrum prime roles were opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Zee and Co (1972), Gold (1974), Conduct Unbecoming (1975) and The Shout (1978). As motherhood and domestic responsibilities continued to dominate her life, she found it increasingly difficult to land serious roles.
In The biggest box-office successes which she has been most recently associated with, Superman (1978) and sequel Superman II (1980), she had literally nothing to do as the mother of the eponymous superhero. In the late 1980s, as film and television offers dried up she revitalised her stage career but nothing helped recapture the glow of her star during the 1960s.