Eleanor Bron (1938-) b. Stanmore, Middlesex, England.
Eleanor Bron was born Eleanor Bronstein in Stanmore, London on 14th March 1938, of Eastern European Jewish descent. Her father, Sydney, a renowned music publisher, abbreviated the family name to Bron. She was educated at the North London Collegiate School and Newnham College, Cambridge.
Eleanor’s career got off to a comedic start, when she appeared with Peter Cook in a Cambridge Footlights revue entitled The Last Laugh in 1959. As a result, she was inundated with offers of other comedy work and began writing and performing her own satirical material for both radio and TV. Over the years, she has contributed to many shows including Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, World in Ferment, Where Was Spring, My Father Knew Lloyd George, Beyond a Joke and Making Faces with Michael Frayn and After That, This, where she worked with John Fortune and John Bird.
She was also starting to appear in dramatic roles on television, (having, in 1961, famously turned down the role of Emma Peel in The Avengers) and she finally made her film debut as the High Priestess Ahme in the Beatles’ second feature film Help! in 1965. It is rumoured that Paul McCartney was so taken with her that he wrote Eleanor Rigby with her as his inspiration. She followed this up with an appearance as a doctor in the 1966 film Alfie and then played opposite Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn in Two for the Road (1967). Later that year, she re-visited her partnership with comedian Peter Cook, who by now was working successfully with Dudley Moore, as they appeared in Bedazzled and she ended the decade in the films A Touch of Love and as Alan Bates’ wife in Women in Love.
For most of the 70s, she put her big screen career on hold, concentrating instead on writing and performing for TV and appearing on stage, in both classical and contemporary roles in plays such as A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1970), Hedda Gabler (1970), Luv (1971), the West End musical The Card (1973), Two for the Seesaw (1974), The Merchant of Venice (1975), Private Lives (1976), Uncle Vanya (1977) and The Cherry Orchard (1978).”
Throughout the 1980s she frequently supported Amnesty International by writing for and appearing in The Secret Policeman’s Ball live benefit shows, where, once again, she teamed up with her old friend Peter Cook. In 1982 she appeared in the BBC comedy Yes, Minister and roles followed in made-for TV films such as the Virgin Mary in The Day Christ Died (1980) and her touching and sensitive portrayal of Edith Frank in The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank in 1988. Once again she appeared alongside Peter Cook as the arrogant Lady Wexmire in Black Beauty (1994) and the witch-like Miss Minchin in A Little Princess (1995). She unforgettably played Joanna Lumley’s dreadful mother in the 90s series Absolutely Fabulous.
More recently she appeared in the musical Twopence to Cross the Mersey (2005) and the plays The Clean House (2006), In Extremis, performed at The Globe in 2007 and All About My Mother at The Old Vic, also in 2007. She has also written and performed her own one-woman shows On My Own and Desdemona: If You Had Only Spoken.
She also spends her time writing, being the author of several books. One, Life and Other Punctures is an account of her experiences of cycling in France and Holland and another, The Pillow Book of Eleanor Bron, or An Actress Despairs is a memoir of notes and memories. She also published the romantic novel Double Take in 1996.
She was married to the architect Cedric Price until his death on 10th August 2003. They had no children.
Compiled by Clive Saunders.