Wendy Hiller

Actress

Oscar winner Wendy Hiller, one of Britain’s most acclaimed actresses of the 20th century and George Bernard Shaw’s choice to play some of his most memorable characters, including Eliza Doolittle and Major Barbara, died Wednesday May 14 at her home in Beaconsfield, England. She was 90.

Although she only made a handful of films in her long career, she became beloved and an international star as spirited flower seller Eliza opposite Leslie Howard’s Henry Higgins in the 1938 film version of Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” and heiress-turned-Salvation Army worker opposite Rex Harrison and Robert Morley in the playwright’s “Major Barbara.” (1941).

Her unique, clipped voice and angular facial features also were showcased to great effect in 1945’s “I Know Where I’m Going!” and “Separate Tables” (1958), which earned her the Academy Award as best supporting actress.

Other famed pics include “Sons and Lovers” (1960), “Toys in the Attic” (1963), “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “Voyage of the Damned” (1976) , “The Cat and the Canary” (1979), “The Elephant Man” (1980) an “The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne” (1987). Additionally she was in “Outcast of the Islands” (1952) and “Something of Value” (1957) as well as TV’s “David Copperfield” (1969), “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1981) and 1983’s “Miss Morison’s Ghosts.” Her last film was 1992’s made-for “The Countess Alice.”

Shaw also chose her to star in his play “St. Joan” as well as and “Pygmalion” before selecting her to star in the films of “Pygmalion” and “Major Barbara.”

Born in Bramhall, Cheshire, to a cloth manufacturer, she joined the Manchester Repertory Theater, where she increasingly garnered important roles including “Love on the Dole,” which went on to London in 1935 and Broadway in 1936. (She even married one of its writers, Ronald Gow, and their union endured until his death in 1993.) On Broadway, she also appeared in “The Heiress” (1947), “A Moon for the Misbegotten” (1957), “Flowering Cherry” (1959) and “The Aspern Papers” (1962). In 1988, she appeared in the West End version of “Driving Miss Daisy.” During World War II, she toured British factories, appearing as Viola in “Twelfth Night.”

Queen Elizabeth II named her a Dame of the British Empire in 1975.

Her son and daughter survive.

Services are set for Tuesday May 27 at Amersham Crematorium.

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