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Peggy Ashcroft 1907-1991

Country : Croydon, Surrey, England
Profession : Actress
Date of birth : 1907-12-22
Date of death : 1991-06-14
Cause of Death : Stroke

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Early years

Born Edith Margaret Emily Ashcroft in Croydon, Ashcroft attended the Woodford School, Croydon and the Central School of Speech and Drama. A prolific stage actress from a young age, she first gained notoriety playing Naemi in Jew Suss in 1929, and Desdemona opposite Paul Robeson's Othello two years later.


True stardom came to Ashcroft in 1934 when she played Juliet in a legendary production of Romeo and Juliet, at the New Theatre, in which Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud alternated in the roles of Romeo and Mercutio. She stayed at the top of the British theatrical profession for the remainder of her career, with some of the highlights Three Sisters (1937), The Heiress (1949), Antony and Cleopatra (1953), As You Like It and Cymbeline (as Imogen) (1957), The Taming of the Shrew (1960), and The War of the Roses, the Royal Shakespeare Company's massive landmark compendium of the three Henry VI plays and Richard III, directed by Peter Hall for the RSC in 1963.

Ashcroft's film and television appearances were rare but memorable. One of her earliest film roles was the minor part of the crofter's wife in the Robert Donat version of The Thirty-Nine Steps.

In 1937, she appeared in a 30 minute excerpt of Twelfth Night on the BBC Television Service, alongside Greer Garson, the first known instance of a Shakespeare play being performed on television.

Possibly her best known celluloid role was that of Mrs Moore in the 1984 film A Passage to India — a role for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. To this day, Ashcroft remains the oldest person ever to win this award; she was 77 at the time. Although Ashcroft did not appear in person at the telecast to accept the Oscar, Angela Lansbury accepted it on her behalf.

In television, Ashcroft appeared in the role of Barbie Batchelor on the internationally acclaimed British mini-series The Jewel in the Crown (1984), for which she won a BAFTA Best Television Actress award.

Her likeness was painted by Walter Sickert.

Personal life

Ashcroft was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1951, and raised to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1956.

She was married three times, first to Rupert Hart-Davis (from 1929-33), and then to Theodore Komisarjevsky (1934). She had two children with her last husband, Jeremy Hutchinson, whom she married in 1940 and divorced in 1965.

Ashcroft reportedly had an affair with American actor and activist, Paul Robeson, during a production of Othello, and with William Buchan (son of The Thirty-Nine Steps author and Governor General of Canada John Buchan) while performing in High Tor on Broadway.[2] Ashcroft died in London of a stroke in June 1991, aged 83.

She was commemorated with memorial plaque in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey (just above the grave of fellow Central School of Speech and Drama pupil and friend Laurence Olivier and 18th Century actor David Garrick).

Her granddaughter is the French singer Emily Loizeau.



  • The Wandering Jew (1933) — Olalla Quintana
  • The 39 Steps (1935) — Margaret, the crofter's wife
  • The Nun's Story (1959) — Mother Mathilde
  • Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971) — Mrs Greville
  • The Pedestrian (German: Der Fußgänger) - Lady Gray
  • A Passage to India (1984) — Mrs Moore
  • When the Wind Blows (1986) - Hilda Bloggs (voice)
  • Madame Sousatzka (1988) — Lady Emily


  • Twelfth Night (1937)
  • The Wednesday Play: Days in the Trees (1967)
  • Play of the Month: The Cherry Orchard (1971)
  • Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1978)
  • Edward and Mrs Simpson (1978) — Queen Mary
  • Caught on a Train (1980) — Frau Messner
  • Play of the Month: Little Eyolf (1982) - The Rat Wife
  • The Jewel in the Crown (1984) — Barbie Batchelor
  • She's Been Away (1991) - Lillian Huckle


  • The Duchess of Malfi (John Webster); 1946; 1960.


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