Anna Massey (1937-2011) b. Thakeham, West Sussex, England.
Anna Raymond Massey was born in West Sussex on August 11 1937, the daughter of the Canadian actor Raymond Massey and his English wife Adrianne Allen, herself an actress. She was brought up in London but saw little of her father after her parents divorced when she was a one-year old. She was evacuated to Wales early during WWII and spent some time at her father’s house in New York. She attended private schools in London and Surrey and spent an unhappy term in Lausanne.
Massey skipped drama school and joined a repertory company. In 1955 she made her stage debut aged 17 in The Reluctant Debutante, which opened in the West End after a successful provincial tour. The play later transferred to New York, where she encountered the charismatic actor Jeremy Brett. They met later again in London, where he urged her to move out of the family home to escape her mother’s dominance; they married in 1958.
She made her film debut age 21 in 1958 in Gideon’s Day (1958), a London crime drama directed by her godfather John Ford. Next came Michael Powell‘s vivid Peeping Tom (1960), Massey gave a wonderfully sympathetic performance as the naive downstairs neighbour of a psychotic film focus puller. In 1965 she starred as a nervous teacher with Laurence Olivier in Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965). In Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film, Frenzy (1972), Massey was a barmaid strangled by the “Neck-Tie Murderer”, bundled into a sack full of potatoes and thrown on to a moving truck. The following year she appeared in a segment of the Amicus portmanteau The Vault of Horror (1973), she was murdered by her brother for her an inheritance, although she turns out to be a vampire.
Although she made her first film aged 21, she was better known as a television actress, appearing in such classic BBC dramas as The Pallisers (1974) and the creepy Mrs Danvers in the 1979 adaptation of Rebecca, in which she starred alongside her former husband, Jeremy Brett. Massey won many awards during her acting career, including a Bafta for her portrayal of a lonely crime writer on holiday in Switzerland in a 1986 TV adaptation of Hotel du Lac.
She was awarded a CBE for services to acting in 2005. Her most recent television period dramas included the BBC’s version of Anthony Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right in 2004, Oliver Twist in 2007 and Tess of the D’Urbervilles in 2008. Most recently, she appeared in one of Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On dramas on BBC One, credited as her last screen appearance.