British thesp appeared in Hitchcock's 'Lady Vanishes'
British actress Googie Withers, best known for her appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes,” died Friday, July 15, at her home in Sydney, Australia. She was 94, and the cause of death was not disclosed.Withers appeared in dozens of films in the 1930s and ’40s. In “The Lady Vanishes” she played Blanche alongside Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. The actress made an impression in the 1942 Powell and Pressburger WWII film “One of Our Aircraft Is Missing,” in which she played a member of the Resistance who helps RAF pilots escape from behind enemy lines. She also had a notable role in the Jules Dassin’s London-shot film noir “Night and the City” (1950), starring Richard Widmark, in which she played the greedy, ambitious wife of a casino owner. The actress played the wife jealous of a mermaid her husband has discovered in the 1948 British fantasy “Miranda.” According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “She was dubbed ‘the best bad girl in British films’ thanks to her ability to portray women of a haughty sexuality.” Born Georgette Lizette Withers in what was then British India, she received her lifetime nickname by her Indian nanny. (“Googie” means “pigeon” in Hindi.) Her family moved back to Britain where she began acting at age 12. She was a dancer in a West End production in London when she was offered work in 1935 as a film extra in “The Girl in the Crowd.” Soon after starting work, director Michael Powell fired one of the female leads and she stepped into the role. She also appeared in a number of other early Powell films. She appeared in a couple of American productions shot in England, including 1940’s “Haunted Honeymoon,” starring Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings. By the late 1940s she had gone from supporting to lead player. In 1947 she starred in what was an unusual British film of the period, the ahead-of-its-time “It Always Rains on Sunday,” in which she played a bored wife who shelters an ex-lover, who’s now a murderer on the run, played by Australian actor John McCallum. She later married McCallum and moved with him to Australia in 1958. The couple co-starred in 10 popular films together. In 1961 Withers appeared on Broadway in “The Complaisant Lover.” In the early ’70s she was a series regular on U.K. prison drama “Within These Walls” as Princess Governess Faye Boswell, and she appeared in “Hotel du Lac” and “Northanger Abbey” for the BBC in the ’80s. Her last two film roles were in 1994’s “Country Life,” an adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” set in Australia, and the 1996 Australian movie “Shine,” for which Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar. In 2002, when she was 85, Withers appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan” in the West End. McCallum died last year at age 91. Withers is survived by three children, including actress Joanna McCallum and production designer Nicholas McCallum. (Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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