Siân Phillips

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Siân Phillips
Siân Phillips in "Crossing Borders".jpg
"Crossing Borders", London, January 2011
BornJane Elizabeth Ailwên Phillips
(1933-05-14) 14 May 1933 (age 80)
Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, West Glamorgan, Wales
OccupationActress, Author, Singer
Years active1944–present
Spouse(s)Don Roy (1956–1959)
Peter O'Toole (1959–1979; 2 daughters)
Robin Sachs (1979–1991)
 
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Siân Phillips
Siân Phillips in "Crossing Borders".jpg
"Crossing Borders", London, January 2011
BornJane Elizabeth Ailwên Phillips
(1933-05-14) 14 May 1933 (age 80)
Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, West Glamorgan, Wales
OccupationActress, Author, Singer
Years active1944–present
Spouse(s)Don Roy (1956–1959)
Peter O'Toole (1959–1979; 2 daughters)
Robin Sachs (1979–1991)

Siân Phillips, CBE, (/ˈʃɑːn/; born Jane Elizabeth Ailwên Phillips; 14 May 1933)[1] is a Welsh actress.

Early life[edit]

Phillips was born in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, West Glamorgan, Wales, the daughter of Sally (née Thomas), a teacher, and David Phillips, a steelworker-turned-policeman.[2][3] She is a Welsh-speaker: in the first volume of her autobiography (Private Faces) she notes that she spoke only Welsh for much of her childhood, learning English by listening to the radio.[4][5]

She attended Pontardawe Grammar School and was originally known there as Jane. But her Welsh teacher, Eic Davies, called her Siân, the Welsh form of Jane.[6][7] Later she took up English and Philosophy at University College Cardiff. At RADA she won the Bancroft Gold Medal.

Phillips graduated from the University of Wales in 1955. She entered RADA, with a scholarship, in September 1955, the same year as Diana Rigg and Glenda Jackson.[8][9][10] She went on to win the prestigious Bancroft Gold Medal for Hedda Gabler and was offered a Hollywood contract when she left.[11] She was offered three film contracts, entailing her to work for an extended period of time in the United States, while she was still at RADA. But she declined, preferring to work on stage instead.[12]

Career[edit]

Early radio, television and stage[edit]

Phillips began acting professionally at the age of 11 with BBC Radio Wales. Her first role was a ginger tom cat.[13][14] Also at the age of 11 she won the National Eisteddfod for the first name (acting the part of an old woman). She made her first British television appearance at 17 and won a Welsh acting award at 18. In 1953, while still a student at Cardiff University, she worked as a newsreader and announcer for the BBC in Wales and toured Wales in Welsh-language productions of the Welsh Arts Council.[15][16][17]

From 1953 to 1955 she was a member of the BBC Repertory Company and the National Theatre Company and toured Wales performing Welsh and English plays for the Welsh Arts Council. For the Nottingham Playhouse in 1958, she was Masha in Three Sisters. Performed as Princess Siwan in Saunders Lewis' The King's Daughter at the Hampstead Theatre Club in 1959 and as Katherine in Taming of the Shrew for the Oxford Playhouse in 1960. She was Princess Siwan again in the BBC's production of Siwan: The King's Daughter alongside Peter O'Toole with Emyr Humphrys as producer. It was broadcast on BBC One (Wales only) on 1 March 1960.[18][19] From October 1958 to April 1959, she was compere of the Land of Song (Gwlad y Gân) monthly programme at TWW (Television Wales and the West) Channel 10 with baritone Ivor Emmanuel.[20]

She made her first appearance on the London stage in 1957 when she appeared in Hermann Sudermann's Magda for RADA.[21] Magda, about an opera diva, was her first real success in London. The play did well and benefited her career greatly. Although she was only a student at the time, she played a part that had not been played since Sarah Bernhardt had played it.[22]

In 1957 (some sources say 1959) Phillips performed the title role in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler.[23][24][25] Many sources consider this as her London stage debut but she actually did Magda before Hedda Gabler.[26] In September 1958 she was performing as Margaret Muir in John Hall's The Holiday at Oxford New Theatre.[27] In 1958 she played the title role in Saint Joan in Covington.[28]

In May 1958 Phillips performed as St.Joan in G. B. Shaw's Saint Joan, at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, which had opened just six weeks before, produced by Bryan Bailey. An observer described her performance: "Sian Phillips' portrayal of Joan defies the law of averages, since, after seeing Siobhan McKenna in the 1955 Arts Theatre production, I reckoned it impossible to equal within half a century. Like the Irish girl, the Welsh girl is perfect . . . 'This girl doesn't act Joan - she is Joan.' In short, perfection."[29]

She was Julia in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1960-1961 version of The Duchess of Malfi.[30] Her Royal Shakespeare Company performances are:

Later film and television[edit]

Her long career has included many films and television programmes, but she is probably best known for starring as Livia in the popular BBC adaptation of Robert Graves's novel, I, Claudius (BBC2, 1976), for which she won the 1977 BAFTA Television Award for Best Actress, and for many appearances on the original run of Call My Bluff. She also appeared opposite then-husband Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton in Becket (1964); as Ursula Mossbank in the musical film Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), again starring O'Toole; once more opposite O'Toole in Murphy's War (1971); as Emmeline Pankhurst in the TV mini-series Shoulder to Shoulder (1974); as Lady Ann, the unfaithful wife of Alec Guinness's character George Smiley, in the BBC1 espionage dramas Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982), adapted from John le Carré's novels of the same names; in Nijinsky (1980); and as the queen Cassiopeia in Clash of the Titans (1981). Another popular role was that of the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in David Lynch's Dune (1984) and Charal from Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985). She also appeared in seasons 2 and 4 (1998 and 2000) of the Canadian TV series La Femme Nikita as Adrian, the renegade founder of the powerful Section One anti-terrorist organisation. In 2001, she appeared in Ballykissangel as faith healer Consuela Dunphy in Episode 7 ('One Born Every Minute' or 'Getting Better All the Time'). Her most recent film is The Gigolos (2006) by Richard Bracewell, in which she plays Lady James. In 2011 she appeared in the episode Wild Justice from the 5th season of the television series Lewis.

Phillips's West End credits include Pal Joey, Gigi, A Little Night Music, and Marlene, in which she portrayed Marlene Dietrich. She has also appeared on the American stage in Marlene.

Other work[edit]

Her National Theatre performances have included:

She played a leading role in the BBC Radio 4 comedy The Leopard in Autumn between 2001 and 2002.

She provided spoken word backing to a track on Rufus Wainwright's 2007 album Release the Stars, and appeared live with him at the Old Vic Theatre in London on 31 May/1 June 2007. Phillips starred in London's West End production of Calendar Girls. Phillips played Juliet opposite Michael Byrne's Romeo in Juliet and her Romeo at the Bristol Old Vic from 10 March until 24 April 2010.[33]

Phillips is also a leading light in Social, Welsh and Sexy (SWS), the London-based organisation for Welsh socialites.

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAwardCategoryNominated workResultRef
1976BAFTA TV AwardBest ActressI, Claudius & How Green Was My ValleyWon
1980Olivier AwardBest Actress in a MusicalPal JoeyNominated[34]
1996Olivier AwardBest Supporting Performance in a MusicalA Little Night MusicNominated
1998Olivier AwardBest Actress in a MusicalMarleneNominated
1999Tony AwardBest Actress in a MusicalMarleneNominated[35]
2013Olivier AwardBest Supporting Performance in a MusicalCabaretNominated

In June 2000, Phillips was awarded a CBE in the Queens Birthday Honours list.

Personal life[edit]

Phillips' first husband was Don Roy, a post-graduate student at the University of Wales. They were married in 1956 and divorced in 1959. In 2001 he was made an emeritus professor of drama in an English university.[36][37]

Already pregnant with their first child, Phillips married Peter O'Toole in December 1959. They had two daughters: Kate, born 1960 and Patricia, born 1963.[38] Patricia is a theatre practitioner,[39] and Kate is an actress. The couple divorced in 1979, and Phillips wrote about this tempestuous period of her life in the second volume of her autobiography, Public Places.

Her third husband was actor Robin Sachs, who was 17 years her junior. Their relationship began in 1975. They were married on Christmas Eve 1979, very shortly after the divorce with O'Toole. They divorced in 1991.[40]

She is a patron of the Bird College of Dance, Music & Theatre Performance, based in Sidcup, Greater London.

Her two volume autobiography - Private Faces and Public Places - were published in 1999 and 2001, respectively.[41]

Others[edit]

Since 2005, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Cymru (BAFTA in Wales) has presented the Tlws Sian Phillips Award to a Welshman or woman who has made a significant contribution in either a major feature film or network television programme.[42][43][44]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: JUN 1933 11a 1644 LLANDILOFAWR - Jane E. A. Phillips, mmn = Thomas
  2. ^ BBC - South West Wales - Hall of Fame
  3. ^ Siân Phillips Biography
  4. ^ Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008
  5. ^ "Sian Phillips" BBC:Wales Arts at www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 12 December 2011
  6. ^ "Sian Phillips: Stage and Screen Actress" at www.terrynorm.ic24.net. Retrieved 12 December 2011
  7. ^ Dr Myron Evans. "The Actress Siân Phillips". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Jenny Gilbert, "How We Met: Diana Rigg and Valerie Solti" The Independent (6 September 1998). Retrieved at www.independent.co.uk, 13 December 2011
  9. ^ "Sian Phillips Biography" at www.filmreference.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011
  10. ^ "Sian Phillips" in Turner Classic Movies at www.tcm.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011
  11. ^ "Phillips, Siân (1933-)" in BFI Screenonline at www.screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  12. ^ "Wales Video Gallery: Sian Phillips" (video interview) at walesvideogallery.org. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  13. ^ CynbytheSea Interview with Sian Phillips (Adrian) at www.cynbythesea.com. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  14. ^ Terri Paddock, "20 Questions With . . . Sian Phillips" in Whats On Stage (15 March 2004) at www.whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  15. ^ "Sian Phillips" in Turner Classic Movies at www.tcm.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011
  16. ^ "Siân Phillips: Stage and Screen Actress" at www.terrynorm.ic24.net. Retrieved 13 December 2011
  17. ^ "Phillips, Siân (1933-)" in BFI Screenonline at www.screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  18. ^ Sian Phillips Biography in www.filmreference.com. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  19. ^ "Siwan: The King's Daughter" in BBC One at www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  20. ^ "TWW (Television Wales and the West) Channel 10" at www.78rpm.co.uk. Retrieved 24 December 2011
  21. ^ "University of Kent: Special Collections Theatre Collections" at www.kent.ac.uk. Retrieved 12 December 2011
  22. ^ Terri Paddock, "20 Questions With . . . Sian Phillips" in Whats On Stage (15 March 2004) at www.whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  23. ^ "V&A Search the Collections: Sian Phillips in The Holiday" at collections.vam.co.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  24. ^ "BBC Wales Arts: Siân Phillips" at www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  25. ^ "Sian Phillips: Milestones" in Turner Classic Movies in www.tcm.com. Retrieved 18 December 2011
  26. ^ "Wales Video Gallery: Sian Phillips" (video interview) at walesvideogallery.org. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  27. ^ "V&A Search the Collections: Sian Phillips in The Holiday" at collections.vam.co.uk. Retrieved 12 December 2011
  28. ^ "Sian Phillips" in Turner Classic Movies at www.tcm.com. Retrieved 12 December 2011
  29. ^ Mervyn Jones, "Socialist Coventry Scores Another Triumph" Tribune Magazine (23 May 1958). Retrieved from archive.tribunemagazine.co.uk, 13 December 2011
  30. ^ "Sian Phillips" BBC: Wales Arts in www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 12 December 2011
  31. ^ Royal Shakespeare Company Archive Catalogue at calm.shakespeare.org..uk. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  32. ^ National Theatre: Archive Catalogue at worthing.nationaltheatre.org.uk. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  33. ^ Siân Phillips to star as Shakespeare's Juliet at bbc.co.uk
  34. ^ http://www.olivierawards.com/about/previous-winners/?portal:componentld=4232&portal:type=action&portal:isSecure=false&portal
  35. ^ http://www.tonyawards.com/p/tonys_search
  36. ^ "Sian Phillips Biography" in www.filmreference.com. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  37. ^ The Observer, "When the magic wore off" The Guardian (Sunday, 29 July 2001). Retrieved at www.guardian.co.uk, 24 December 2011
  38. ^ "Peter O'Toole" in www.superiorpics.com. Retrieved 16 December 2011
  39. ^ Pat O'Toole web site
  40. ^ The Observer, "When the magic wore off" The Guardian (Sunday, 29 July 2001). Retrieved at www.guardian.co.uk, 24 December 2011
  41. ^ The Observer, "When the magic wore off" The Guardian (Sunday, 29 July 2001). Retrieved at www.guardian.co.uk, 24 December 2011
  42. ^ "British Academy of Film and Television Arts Cymru" at www.bafta.org. Retrieved 13 December 2011
  43. ^ "BBC News Wales: Welsh Bafta honour for actor Matthew Rhys" (25 May 2011) at www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011
  44. ^ "BAFTA Awards, Wales" at www.imdb.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011

External links[edit]