Acclaimed British classic actor Barbara Jefford, whose career spanned seven decades, has died at the age of 90. His death was announced on Saturday by United agents on behalf of his family. The statement called Jefford a warm and generous woman, a sensational actress and a dear friend who will be sadly missed.
The playwright Tanika Gupta, whose 2002 drama Sanctuary starred Jefford, was among those who paid tribute. Gupta called Jefford a brilliant actor who was also great with the new writing.
During her long career, Jefford, born in Devon, excelled in Shakespearean roles. Shortly after leaving Rada, she arrived at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she played Isabella in the 1950 Peter Brooks production of Measure for Measure. She played Othellos Desdemona, As You Like Its Rosalind and Kate in The Taming of the Shrew among other roles in the early 1950s before leaving Stratford. She went on to appear at the Old Vic, the National Theater, and in New York City as Ophelia and Lady Macbeth. In 1965, she received an OBE for theater service, the youngest recipient of this award. Decades later, she was Volumnia opposite Ralph Fienness Coriolanus in London and Queen Margaret opposite Kenneth Branagh in Richard III in Sheffield.
His rich film career has included Federico Fellinis And the Ship Sails On, Stephen Frearss Philomena, Roman Polanskis The Ninth Gate and Terence Davies’ adaptation of Terrence Rattigans The Deep Blue Sea. She dubbed the voice of the seductive Tatiana Romanova, played on screen by Daniela Bianchi, in the James Bond 1963 adventure From Russia, With Love. Her fascinating monologue as Molly Bloom, in the film Joseph Stricks of Ulysses, earned her a nomination to the Bafta in 1968.
In a tribute marking his 90th birthday earlier this year, Guardians Michael Billington wrote that he first became aware of the Jeffords range when, in 1960, he saw her playing Lady Macbeth, Saint Joan and a crisp Gwendolen tangy and very funny in The Importance of Getting Serious in One Week on an Old Vic Tour in Oxford. He concluded: It didn’t seem like anything Jefford couldn’t play.
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