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Susan Shentall – My Wonderful Year as Juliet

Susan Shentall made only the one film ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in 1954 after being ‘spotted’ dining in London and cast as Juliet in a film made in Italy mainly during the summer of 1953.

In this magazine she describes the making of the film as ‘My Wonderful Year as Juliet’

Susan Shantell looking very happy 2

This is an astonishing story – and here it is in her own words :-

We walked into the cinema, took our seats and the lights went down. The two hours that followed are the only proff I have that last year was not the dream that it seems to be now. As I watched the story of star-crossed lovers unfolding on the screen,. I let my mind drift back to9 that Italian summer. The heat, the noise, the colours, the tears, the laughter, the weariness, in endless procession through Rome, Venice, Verona, Siena ….  It seemd incredible that something had been created from all that confusion. But to go back to the beginning …..

One Friday night last year ( 1953) my parents and I were dining at the Caprice, a restaurant we often went to in London. During the meal, Mario, the proprietor, came over to talk to us. Suddentl he said: ‘How would you like to play Juliet?’. I was completely taken aback. Mario explained: An Italian Film Director, Renato Castellani, was looking for someone to play Juliet in his film ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Apparently he often came to the Caprice and had asked Mario to keep a look-out for any potential Juliets. Now, Mario thought. I might be the type Castellani was searching for. Could he give him my telephone number ?

Susan Shentall outside Caprice

Highly amused. we agreed, and went back to our hotel not expecting to hear no more. However, next morning, I found a message waiting for me. Would I phone Mr. Janni ? I think I was more intrigued than anything else. Who were all these people ? Where would it all lead ? The sequel to that telephone call was the most embarrassing half-hour of my life.

Mr. Janni had arranged to meet my father and myself that evening at our hotel. He sadid that he would bring Signor Ghenzi, the Italian Producer with him. They arrived, and for a full ten minutes not a word was spoken. They just sat and looked at me as though I was something in the Zoo. Then, suddenly, the three men went into a long and rapid discussion in Italian.

Eventually they asked if I would do two tests. I was amazed that they even considered me for the part. I had thought they would take one look at me and try to leave as tactfully as possible. I suppose I was flattered so I agreed. I remember little of my first test, at the house of Bob Krasker, the cameraman.  I seemed to be surrounded by at least thirty people, all staring; someone doing things with my hair,  someone else daubing  my face.  Later, I came to know and love these people – the hair-dresser, the make-up man and the others – but then they were just part of the general confusion. I was put in the center of an arc of impossibly bright lights, unable to see beyond them, but knowing that all those people were still there. I did as they requested;  I lokked this way and that, smiled, repeated some lines. Somehow I got through.

Then followed a week’s intensive rehearsing with Castellani. WE had decided to do the balcony scene, so I wherefore-art-thou-Romeoed through the week and set out for Pinewood Film Studios for a full test. This time the lights did not bother me.

At Pinewood I met Laurence Harvey, who was to play Romeo. I remember feeling very sorry for him, having to waste his time in this way. But he was very kind to me, and we swore undying love for each other for the best part of a day. People said afterwards how amazed they were at my calmness, but I was fascinated by all that was going on around me, and as I had not the slightest expectation of getting the part anyway, I didn’t see that there was anything to worry about. When it was all over Larry said: ‘very pleased to have met you, Miss Shentall,’ and steamed off in his white sports car. I went home to Derbyshire.

About a fortnight later, when I thought that by this time they would be at least half-way through the film, Castellani phoned to say that I had the part. Everybody took it calmly. My Mother went around looking as though she had lost a near relative. I don’t quite know what she thought was going to happen to me. The others, far from being vastly impressed and thinking they had a second Helen Terry in their midst, treated the whole thing as an enormous joke.  I felt it would be a wonderful experience.  I had nothing to lose.   The fact that I would spend six months in Italy really clinched the matter; my parents had said that I must make my own  decision.

Of course, in a way the whole thing was preposterous. Unlike many of my friends in our schooldays, I had never imagined myself reclining on a leopard-skin in the heart of Hollywood; nor had I any ambition to see my name in lights.  At the very mention of any play or entertainment being organised, I would make myself as scarce as possible in the hope of being exempted from even the smallest part. I was once induced to play and Angel in a Nativity play, and it took me many weeks to recover from the ordeal.

I passed the two months in a complete daze. There was the whirl of preparation – make-up tests, a three day visit to Florence for costume fittings, and final packing and farewells. Then the first day’s shooting with Flora Robson, cast as the nurse, and Lydia Sherwood, who played Lady Capulet. The thing I found most difficult at first was trying to forget all the people on the set, and the great unwinking eye of the camera, and to concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing.  I would return to my hotel at night with abrely enough strength to have a meal, and the alarm clock would rouse me again all too soon.

Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall on set

I remember walking on to the set one day, as though suddenly emerging from a great fog. I found that these people, who had worried me so much to start with, I now knew individually. I discovered that I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

People often ask me if I found it difficult to play the role of Juliet. I must admit I never thought of it in that sense. I merely tried my best to do what Castellani asked of me. He is a wonderful person – small volcanic, with a typical Latin temperament, one minute crying and tearing his hair, the next laughing like a schoolboy at some joke. We were all under his spell. He never lost patience with me, though he must have often felt like doing so.

Before shooting a scene, he would spend hours explaining the significance of it to me. He would say: ‘It is what you feel that metters. Never think too much about what about what you are doing. If you have it here – pointing to his heart – it will be alright. You will see’.  He was tireless and a perfectionist. He would rehearse until every detail was perfect, so that when we came to shoot I could forget the technicalities and concentrate on my heart !  This must have been extremely frustrating for all the others taking part, but they were wonderful to me, especially Flora Robson.

Castellani directs Susan Shentall in a scene

I shall ever be grateful for Flora’s kindness and sympathy, and the advice she gave me. She was always ready with a word of encouragement. I remember I found it extremely difficult to cry – really cry. Castellani did not approve of using glycerine or fake tears, and he was quite sure I must have plenty to cry about anyway ! Then Flora explained to me the ‘technicalities of crying’ and told me the story of the origin of the beautiful song ‘Loch Lomond’, which has always brought  tears to my eyes. So, after that,  I was able to weep on request.

I had been told about Venice, but when the time came to go there from Rome, I was hardly prepared for that magical city. It completely took my breath away. I found it absolutely fascinating to travel everywhere by gondola or walk the narrow streets. We started shooting in the Ca d’oro, a famous old museum  on the Grand Canal.

The weather was appalling, and in one particular bad storm the canal water came up several feet and came flooding on to the set. All the lights went out and to add to the confusion, a crate of pigeons was knocked over and the pigeons escaped. The uproar was unbelievable. The Italian Unit blamed the English Unit and vice versa.  At last, when things looked like getting out of hand, Castellani decided to call it a day.

As we were all working so hard, no-one felt like much more than a meal and bed at the end of a day’s shooting. That is why the party given for my Birthday was such a wonderful surprise.  Norman Wooland suggested that I should stroll along to the set with him, as he ‘wished to see someone’. Unsuspecting, I went – to find the entire unit in the courtyard of the Cap d’Ora. On  a table was the most enormous cake I’ve ever seen with Birthdau Greetings in Italian and bottles of local wine called Guilietta.

It was a wonderful party. Larry and I cut the cake with the dagger ( the one with which later we were both to meet our ‘deaths’ ) and handed pieces round to everyone. I was so deeply moved I nearly cried.  This was my reward for all the despair, the tears, the long hours, the exhaustion. To know that all these people were my friends, that they acres enough to arran ge this, made it all seem worth while. I realised what people had told me; that the film business gets into your blood – and heart.

From Venice we moved to Verona, the home, according to legend, of Romeo and Juliet.  It was here that I first saw some of the rushes of the film. I remember being terrified at the thought of seeing myself on the screen. However, when I did, I found it quite impossible to associate myself  with the girl I saw; she seemed so remote and utterly unlike myself.. After that, I lost all fear of seeing the film. I found it as impersonal as watching someone else.

We all found working in the heat very trying. The temperature was around 112 degrees, on top of which we had the lights and heavy costumes. Castellani would produce two hot-water bottles which he filled with ice, and at every available opportunity would lay on our foreheads.  I think this really only increased our discomfort, but we could hardly tell him so.

Gradually, the shooting of the film was completed. One be one, people finished their parts and went home. At last it was my turn. There was the last day’s work in a little mountain village near Siena; then the farewells, the mad dash to catch the train to Rome,  and the arrival at London Airport one cold October day. It seemed unbelievable that the whole wonderful experience had not been a dream. But I have my proof that it was not, and I know I shall always have happy memories of that Italian Summer.

The future ?  I am always being asked if I will make more films. The answer is ‘No’.  Without a dierector of Castellani’s calibre, I don’t think I would be capable of doing so.  My ambitions now centred solely on my marriage and new home.

Susan Shantell Marriage

Now, after the London premiere of Romeo and Juliet – when, for the last time, I shall see all those well-known faces – my wonderful year will be all over. But what a story to tell my Grandchildren.

I have to say that writing this article as above, has proved one of the most interesting tasks I had had doing this Blog. From finding a scene from this film in one of my old Film Annuals with a picture of Susan Shentall – who I had never heard of up to that point – to then finding out her astonishing story and then delving further into any information I could glean – to finishing with this article  actually  In Her Own Words.

She is sadly no longer with us so the question I would have liked to ask her can never be answered – I wonder if, for a brief moment, she maybe regretted  leaving this film career behind after such success AND the ‘the wonderful year’ she had or maybe she was quite happy with her one year in film land. I hope she had a happy life though.


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Cinema Advertisement – Whats on in town Summer 1958

What an interesting item from an old Local Newspaper which gives us a great insight into what was showing a SIX different cinemas in the Summer of 1958 Some of these films I have to admit I am not familiar with.

Cinema Showings 1958

At the Essoldo was Down Payment with Joanne Woodward and Cameron Mitchell supported by Body Beautiful with Susan Morrow and Robert Clark from 1953.

The Pavilion showed ‘Drums of Tahiti’ which was made in 3 D and gets some good reviews. Typical South Sea Island type film – which I love – A 3-D Production from producer Sam Katzman which is  quite good  as B-movie’s go, with Dennis O’Keefe involved in smuggling guns into Tahiti to fight the French, and finding romance along the way. Some nice scenery – filmed in Technicolor. Also at the Pavilion was The Golden Mistress which starred John Agar and Rosemarie Bowe who later married Robert Stack and was happily married to him for 47 years until his death. She gets very good reviews for this one but did not pursue her film career after she married in 1956. Co-starring was John Agar who was also in the film showing at The Royal ‘ Gog’  a Sci-Fi Film made in 3D. I do not think though that these were shown in 3D at that time.

On to the Majestic Cinema which was showing a new film Orders to Kill with Paul Massie and Eddie Albert and a cast of good quality British Actors. I have read this review :-

This World War II movie has a realistic well written script, good acting. I saw this movie 40 years ago and have never forgotten it. The tragedy is that it apparently did not have big promotional dollars behind it so has never reappeared. Nine stars out of ten.

Also at The Majestic – The Narrowing Circle with Paul Carpenter and Hazel Court made in 1956. This sounds like one that would be shown on Talking Pictures – that wonderful TV channel in Britain.

At the ABC formerly The Ritz was Dale Robertson in Top of the World – a spy adventure film set close to the North Pole – With the tag line ‘Trapped on a Crumbling Island of Ice – 500 Mile from Nowhere’

To of the World - Dale Robertson 1955

Also at the ABCChicago Syndicate with Dennis O Keefe and Abbe Lane. A film about Chicago Gangsters.

Here again as with John Agar,  Dennis O Keefe was appearing in TWO different films at different Cinemas in the town.

Saddle The Wind with Robert Taylor was billed for the following week – this is a good and well remembered film from MGM  that had all the publicity on release.

Then at The Roxy – which had been called The Globe’ – was a well known one ‘Where The River Bends’ originally released in 1952 with James Stewart. With is was Headline Hunters - from Republic Pictures  with Rod Cameron - and for a change for Rod Cameron - not a Western.

Going through this list has reminded me of certain films and introduced me to others – and other films stars too like Rosemarie Bowe ( Stack) – who in truth I knew little about.


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Romeo and Juliet 1954 – Susan Shentall again

This film has only just come to my notice, and seems to have grabbed my interest mainly because of the fact that the film Director Renato Castellani chose a young British girl, Susan Shentall to play Juliet mainly because her looks were such that she fitted the character PERFECTLY.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 6

A big film with  Laurence Harvey and filmed mainly in Italy – and beautifully filmed at that in  glorious Technicolor.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 7

Romeo and Juliet 1954 8

This version has Laurence Harvey as Romeo opposite  Susan Shentall’s Juliet. They seem to generate a soft glow between them that gradually picks up heat.  Juliet’s death scene is rather stark and complete as it should be and Susan Shentall’s acting was so good  that she gave Juliet’s death a type of dignity rarely seen on screen.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 9

Some of the location filming in Italy comes beautifully to the screen – again in  glorious Technicolor.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 10


Below: This is one particular comment from someone who loved this film – some of the words slightly changed though.

Never have the personalities of the two lovers been so intensely portrayed in the screen. Susan Shentall conveys all the fire of  first love and the impending tragedy that will follow it. Laurence Harvey, manages to convey Romeo’s brash, passionate  nature. The great Robert Krasker’s photography is the work of a  master: each picture frame reflects a Renaisssance painting, as well as the sets (all original ones in Venice, Padova, Verona and Siena), costumes and the décor. The best names then available in those fields in Europe were recruited to recreate what Romeo and Juliet’s Verona should have been.

The result is a joy to watch.  The ball scene alone could receive all the prizes this film was awarded in the 1954 Venice Film Festival. Roman Vlad’s  musical comment is a lesson in itself. When compared to Castellani’s masterpiece, all other versions seem like pale, unfocused, poor readings of Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy.
Castellani “Romeo and Juliet” is one of the greatest films of all time. Castellani was surely not a Visconti nor a Rosselini, but his “Romeo and Juliet” is absolute perfection.

After Reading this, the Trailer to the film ABOVE – will really whet your appetite and show the scale and beauty of this classic film – PLEASE just take a few minutes to watch it.

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Movie Memories Magazine – Just out Summer 2018

It is always a Red Letter Day, when the Post arrives and that large white Envelope appears – it contains the latest edition of the wonderful Movie Memories Magazine produced by Chris Roberts  who has done this for quite a few years now and has attained a large following.

Movie Memories - Summer 2018

The TV Channel Talking Pictures to my mind, is helped very much by Chris who really promotes the film era that is their core business. The other afternoon on Radio 5 Mark Kermode was reviewing films – mainly New ones – but a reference was made to Talking Pictures and Mark said that through all his Social Media and emails, the TV Channel most often mentioned nowadays, is Talking Pictures.

Movie Memories - Summer 2018 2

Anyway back to Chris and Movie Memories Magazine – I really recommend anyone with an interest in the Films of the Fifties and Earlier of course to subscribe to this magazine.

Visit and reserve your regular copy

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Susan Shentall

 Susan Shentall and Laurence Harvey in Romeo and Juliet in 1954

Susan Shentall and Laurence Harvey

Susan Shentall left acting straight after this film and never appeared on screen again. She married  married Philip Worthington

What became of actress Susan Shentall, who played Juliet opposite Laurence Harvey’s Romeo in the 1954 film?  She never trained as an actress and appeared in only that one film.

The story of her ‘discovery’ is that the film’s producer had been unable to find an established actress who matched his ideal of an ‘English rose’ to play the part.

Then, in a hotel restaurant, he spotted Susan, just 17, while she was on holiday with her parents in Paris. He asked permission for Susan to audition for the part, and promptly offered it to her.

What a story this is for a young girl to be cast in such a big film at the time – and then to turn her back on a potential film career. She obviously found great happiness with her husband and three children – so all worked out well

The film received three BAFTA nominations and won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice film festival.

Susan Shentall

However, Susan never acted again, choosing instead, at the age of 19, to marry her fiancé, Philip Worthington, ( pictured with her above) with whom she raised three children.

She died ten years ago, following a long illness.

Romeo and Juliet 1954

Above: Director Renato Castellani demonstrating what he requires for the scene.


Susan Shentall and Sebastian Cabot


Above:  Susan Shentall and Sebastian Cabot - having a bit of fun on the set of Romeo and Juliet

Here are some reviews :-

Laurence Harvey is perfect as the young Romeo. He brings genuine love and pathos to his character that is heart-rending.

Susan Shentall’s gives the most intelligent and moving execution of this challenging role I’ve ever witnessed. She, like Harvey, overcome minor matters of age to make these characters their own.

Who could be a better nurse than the great Flora Robson, or Norman Wooland a finer Paris?

Roman Vlad’s original score is wonderful, and he’s composed a Gallilard that becomes a haunting motif as it’s reprised throughout in different variations.

Susan Shentell brings a lovely gentle quality to Juliet and looks ravishing.

Romeo and Juliet 1954 2

Romeo and Juliet 1954 3

Romeo and Juliet 1954 4

Romeo and Juliet 1954 5

Susan Shentall 3

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Someone who met and enjoyed a drink with Marilyn

The Daily Mail in Britain run a regular column each week where people – often close relatives –  write a tribute to ‘unsung heroes and heroines who deserve recognition’.   This week a man wrote in paying tribute to his ‘wonderful father-in-law’ who had died in July t6his year.

This was a gentleman called Derek Bishop and the story is as follows :-

Many of us have a story about the day we happened to rub shoulders with  someone famous but Derek had a story that could top them all.

Derek was with the RAF in Hong Kong in 1952 – although we think this must have been 1954 when Marilyn went to the Far East when he was on duty at the old Kai Tak Airport.

When his shift came to an end at 9pm, Derek and another solider were asked if they would stay on because a delayed flight was expected and there was a ‘celebrity’ on board.

They agreed and when the plane landed at 11pm, the famous passenger who stepped out was none other than the woman who would become the ultimate screen goddess Marilyn Monroe.

Derek said she was dressed in ‘everyday’ clothes and wore very little make-up. She insisted on thanking him and his pal personally for working late and took them for a drink in the Nissen Hut that served as the mess.

He had half a lager and enjoyed a few minutes - along with his colleague –  chatting to Marilyn.

Marilyn Monroe in the Far East

Marilyn Left and Derek Bishop on the Right in Hong Kong

(Although the story is dated as from 1952, Marilyn didn’t travel to the Far East until 1954. And I haven’t heard of her visiting Hong Kong before, but it’s possible she passed through while returning to husband Joe DiMaggio in Japan after entertaining US troops in Korea.)

On another occasion Derek – this time later in his RAF career – met Conan Doyle’s Daughter Jean when she came over to him in the Office he was working at the time, and read extracts of what he had been typing – he had been hoping to be a crime writer and had written quite a lot of the story and she asked to read it when it was completed – and gave it her vote of approval.

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Filming on location – The Admirable Crichton 1957

I love these Behind the Scenes pictures whenever I come across one – and this is one such photograph when the cast and crew were on location.

The film was shot from September to December 1956 in Bermuda and at London Film Studios in Shepperton, England – and was released in  London on 11 June 1957. It did not premiere in USA until 16 December 1957 and in fact Britain seemed to have this film on general release virtually 6 months before the rest of the World – Well I suppose it was a British made picture. 

Flming The Admirable Crichton

Above: In Bermuda for The Admirable Crichton with Kenneth More and Sally Ann Howes  plus of course Diane Cilento – who at that time had really made her mark in British Films.


Below Scenes from the finished film – scenes that we see actually being filmed above  :  The Admirable Crichton 1957

On Location The Admirable Crichton

The Above filmed at Jobson’s Bay in Bermuda

On Location The Admirable Crichton 2

On Location The Admirable Crichton 3

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Archie Duncan – Well Known Stage, Television and Film Actor

Sword of Lancelot Archie DuncanWritten by Archie Duncan’s Great Niece

Archie Duncan was my great uncle (my grandmothers brother) and I have some lovely memories of times spent in his company as a child. He lived in a flat which was on the top floor of a large victorian property and would often recieve his guests while in bed wearing a burgandy velvet smoking jacket. He was a kind and generous man and always made me feel special, taking me backstage at the London Palladium for example and obtaining autographs of various actors and actresses for myself and my friends. Archie never married or had children though I think he had a long term relationship with an actress called Betty Cardinew (I’m not sure if that’s the correct spelling).

Theatre Play with Archie DuncanTheatre Play with Archie Duncan 2Theatre Play with Archie Duncan 3
After his death I inhereted what I consider to be a unique piece of television history. It comes in the form of a get well message sent to him by cast and crew of the 1950′s series The Adventures Of Robin Hood following his accident on set when he prevented a horse from bolting into a crowd of onlookers. For this act of bravery he was awarded the Queens Medal for Gallantry. The message is on parchment paper and contains signatures of about 30 people including Richard Greene . There is a poem too, describing with humour the events which took place on that day and the subsequent chaos as shooting schedules were disrupted.

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Roy Rogers in England – at Walsall and Scotland – Edinburgh and Glasgow 1954

Roy Rogers In England

March 1, 1954 none other than Roy Rogers and Trigger appeared at the Savoy Walsall ABC Minors – and what a draw that would have been.

He apparently stayed at the Queens Hotel in Birmingham – and Trigger at the stables of  the Mitchells and Butler Brewery

With Roy of course was his wife Dale Evans who he had met a decade before on the set of The Cowboy and the Senorita.

Distinctive in his white stetson with its silver hatband and his hand-tooled boots, the Wild West hero’s tour was a smash hit

Roy Rogers in Edinburgh 1954


Roy Rogers and Trigger, Edinburgh 1954

This is singing cowboy Roy Rogers and wife Dale Evans taking their golden palomino horse Trigger up the stairs at the Caledonian Hotel in the capital in February, 1954. Roy had appeared in many TV shows and films with Trigger who really was an exceptional horse. To drum up publicity on their British tour they would often book into their hotel with Trigger much to the delight of fans.

The crowd are genuinely happy to see Roy and Trigger, although there must be a nervous hotel manager lurking in the background somewhere fretting about his carpets.

The story goes that the couple visited an orphanage in Edinburgh where a 13-year-old girl, Marion Fleming, sang Won’t You Buy My Pretty Flowers? and the couple promptly adopted her and took her back to America. Think it’s maybe a little more complicated to do these days.

Roy Rogers and Marion

Above: Roy Rogers and Marion Fleming singing together.

Also this snippet from one of the forums :-
Roy Rogers did visit Glasgow, he and Dale Evans did have a room in The Central Hotel and he booked one for trigger who preferred the stables in Parliamentary Road (or was it the southside) He did ride Trigger down the hotel staircase.He also visited Edinburgh. While entertaining at Dunforth Orphanage they met 13 year old Marion Fleming who became their fourth foster child.

Another very sad report on the tragic deaths of two of their children :

Off the well-documented happy trails of their on-screen magnetism, Dale and Roy blazed a trail of compassion, caring for their Down-Syndrome baby Robin, who died before her second birthday. Dale’s best-selling book ‘Angel Unaware’, a tribute to Robin, affected millions of special needs children and their families. Also during this period, Dale penned with Robin in mind the trademark chorus “Happy Trails to you until we meet again.”

Then, in 1964, their 12-year-old daughter Debbie was killed in a bus accident during a mission trip to Mexico. And, less than one year later, their son Sandy had a freak accident and choked to death while stationed with the military in Germany.

“You are not supposed to bury your children,” said their eldest son Roy Rogers Jr., choking back tears in the film. “People realised their faith was real the way they dealt with tragedy.”

“Mom and dad knew something good had to come from whatever was bad,” said Marion Fleming Swift, a foster daughter Rogers and Evans adopted from Scotland. Out of the tragedies came more books, the proceeds of which were donated to humanitarian organisations like World Vision and Campus Crusade for Christ.





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Anthony Quayle’s London Home

I have just come across this letter that Anthony Quayle wrote to one of his fans in January of 1965 – and from the Letter Heading we can see that his address was in Pelham Crescent, London SW7

Anthony Quayle


The letter was written in 1965, so at that time he had been married to Dorothy Hyson for quite a few years and their Three Children would have been teenagers. His career in the Theatre and Films was pretty much at its peak then  – his first love was the theatre but financially films provided a very lucrative acting experience no doubt.

This home was in a very sought after part of London both then  and now – particularly now because this house in Pelham Crescent was sold very recently in fact, in February 0f 2018 for £ 10,750,000 – a princely sum by any standards.

Pelham Crescent London SW7

I am not sure that the family would have kept the house on after his death – indeed I would rather doubt it.

Pelham Crescent London SW7 2

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