Wendy Hiller (1912-2003) b. Bramhall, Cheshire, England.
A bright shining star of British cinema, Wendy Hiller has made only around twenty films since her debut in the 1937 quota quickie Lancashire Lass, and the particular affection which she seems to inspire can be laid at the door of only three of these twenty: Anthony Asquith’s Pygmalion (1938), Gabriel Pascal’s Major Barbara (1941), and I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. What inspires the affection is an unmannered directness, a shyness, an aloofness from seduction, and an economy of performance which makes restraint seem like a positive value rather than an absence of passion. Her alert intelligence in I Know Where I’m Going! may be blown a little off course by romance, but she falls in love with dignity and retains a sense of herself.
After 1945 much of her work was in theatre, and though she won an Oscar for her supporting role in Separate Tables (1958), and was memorable as Gertrude Morel opposite Trevor Howard in Sons and Lovers (1960), her appearances in film were intermittent and succumbed to the ‘British disease’ of anthology casting: Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Voyage of the Damned (1976). The Elephant Man (1980) and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987) offered her small but rewarding parts, and television gave her some excellent roles perhaps most notably as the steely matriarch of Trevor Griffiths’ Country (1981).