Anna Lee

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Anna Lee
Anna Lee pg241036.jpg
Anna Lee on the cover of Picturegoer in 1936
Joan Boniface Winnifrith

(1913-01-02)2 January 1913
Ightham, Kent, England, UK
Died14 May 2004(2004-05-14) (aged 91)
Resting place Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Other namesJoanna Boniface Stafford
Years active1932–2003
Robert Stevenson (m. 19341944)
(divorced) (2 children)
George Stafford(m. 19441964)
(divorced) (3 children)
Robert Nathan
(m. 1970;died 1985)
Children Venetia Stevenson
Jeffrey Byron
Steve Stafford
Caroline Stevenson
Timothy Stafford
Awards1983 Soapy Awards for Favorite Woman in a Mature Role in General Hospital
1998 Soap Opera Digest Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role in General Hospital

Anna Lee, MBE (born Joan Boniface Winnifrith; 2 January 1913 – 14 May 2004) [1] [2] was a British-born American actress. [3] [4]

Order of the British Empire order of chivalry of British constitutional monarchy

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.




Lee trained at the Royal Albert Hall, [5] then made her debut with a bit part in His Lordship (1932), when she was 19. [3] She played a number of minor, often uncredited, roles in films during the early 1930s. She gradually began to get more prominent roles in quota quickies, particularly those made for Paramount British. [6] She became known for her roles in films set amongst the wealthy particularly in Chelsea Life (1933), in which she starred with Louis Hayward. The film was set in the artistic community of Chelsea. [7]

Royal Albert Hall concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London

The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London, and is one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings. The Hall is a registered charity held in trust for the nation, and receives no public or government funding. It can seat 5,267.

<i>His Lordship</i> 1932 film by Michael Powell

His Lordship is a 1932 British musical comedy film directed by Michael Powell. It was made as a Quota quickie.

Chelsea Life is a 1933 British drama film directed by Sidney Morgan and starring Louis Hayward, Molly Johnson and Anna Lee.

On the strength of her performances in quota films, in 1934 Lee signed a contract with Gainsborough Pictures, which was the biggest British production company of the era. She played leading lady roles in a variety of different genres at Gainsborough including a comedy-thriller The Camels Are Coming , a drama The Passing of the Third Floor Back , a horror film The Man Who Changed His Mind and a war film OHMS . She appeared in the 1935 Jessie Matthews musical First a Girl as the aristocratic other woman. In 1937 she starred in one of the studio's large-budget productions, King Solomon's Mines . [8]

Gainsborough Pictures former British film studio

Gainsborough Pictures was a British film studio based on the south bank of the Regent's Canal, in Poole Street, Hoxton in the former Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, north London. Gainsborough Studios was active between 1924 and 1951. The company was initially based at Islington Studios which were built as a power station for the Great Northern & City Railway and was later converted to studios.

Leading lady female lead in a film or play or female love interest or renowned actress

Leading lady is a term often applied to the leading actress in the performance if her character is the protagonist. It is also an informal term for the actress who plays a secondary lead, usually a love interest, to the leading actor in a film or play.

<i>The Passing of the Third Floor Back</i> 1935 film by Berthold Viertel

The Passing of the Third Floor Back is a 1935 British drama film directed by Berthold Viertel and starring Conrad Veidt, Anna Lee, Rene Ray and Frank Cellier. The film is based on a 1908 play and short story by Jerome K. Jerome and depicts the various small-minded inhabitants of a building and the arrival of a stranger who works to redeem them. The work had previously been adapted into a 1918 film version by Herbert Brenon.

She had met her first husband, the director Robert Stevenson while shooting The Camels are Coming on location in Egypt. [9] During 1938 she took time off from acting to give birth to her first child. [10] In 1939 she and her husband switched to Ealing Studios which was now being run by Michael Balcon the former head of Gainsborough. She played a nineteenth century Irish music hall performer who falls in love with an aristocrat in the comedy Young Man's Fancy (1939) and a journalist who helps the heroes thwart a foreign enemy's plot against Britain in The Four Just Men (1939). [3]

Robert Edward Stevenson was an English film writer and director.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Ealing Studios

Ealing Studios is a television and film production company and facilities provider at Ealing Green in west London. Will Barker bought the White Lodge on Ealing Green in 1902 as a base for film making, and films have been made on the site ever since. It is the oldest continuously working studio facility for film production in the world, and the current stages were opened for the use of sound in 1931.

Her final film in Britain was Return to Yesterday about a young repertory theatre actress who falls in love with a Hollywood star she meets while touring in a small seaside town. [11] With the Second World War imminent, she and Stevenson then went to the United States. [1] She remained supportive of the British war effort and in 1943 appeared alongside other British actors in Forever and a Day , which was made to raise money for British charities. [12] [13]

<i>Return to Yesterday</i> 1940 film by Robert Stevenson

Return to Yesterday is a 1940 British comedy-drama film directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Clive Brook and Anna Lee. It was based on Robert Morley's play Goodness, How Sad. The film was made at Ealing Studios.

A repertory theatre can be a Western theatre or opera production in which a resident company presents works from a specified repertoire, usually in alternation or rotation. In the British system, however, it used to be that even quite small towns would support a rep, and the resident company would present a different play every week, either a revival from the full range of classics or, if given the chance, a new play, once the rights had been released after a West End or Broadway run. However, the companies were not known for trying out untried new work. The methods, now seldom seen, would also be used in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

<i>Forever and a Day</i> (1943 film) 1943 drama film

Forever and a Day is a 1943 American drama film, a collaborative effort employing seven directors/producers and 22 writers, including an uncredited Alfred Hitchcock, with an enormous cast of well-known stars.

United States

When she and her husband moved to Hollywood she became associated with John Ford, appearing in several of his films, notably How Green Was My Valley , Two Rode Together and Fort Apache . [14] She co-starred with John Wayne and John Carroll in Flying Tigers (1942). [15]

John Ford American film director

John Ford was an American film director. He is renowned both for Westerns such as Stagecoach (1939), The Searchers (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), as well as adaptations of classic 20th-century American novels such as the film The Grapes of Wrath (1940). His four Academy Awards for Best Director remain a record. One of the films for which he won the award, How Green Was My Valley, also won Best Picture.

<i>How Green Was My Valley</i> (film) 1941 film by John Ford

How Green Was My Valley is a 1941 drama film directed by John Ford. The film, based on the 1939 novel of the same name by Richard Llewellyn, was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and scripted by Philip Dunne. The movie features Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and Roddy McDowall. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, famously beating Citizen Kane for Best Picture along with winning Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor.

<i>Two Rode Together</i> 1961 film by John Ford

Two Rode Together is a 1961 Western film directed by John Ford and starring James Stewart, Richard Widmark and Shirley Jones. The supporting cast includes Linda Cristal, Andy Devine and John McIntire. The film was based upon the novel Comanche Captives by Will Cook.

She worked for producer Val Lewton in the horror/thriller Bedlam (1946) and had a lead role opposite Brian Donlevy and Walter Brennan in Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die! (1943), a wartime thriller about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. [16] [17] Lee made frequent appearances on television anthology series in the 1940s and 1950s, including Robert Montgomery Presents , The Ford Theatre Hour , Kraft Television Theatre , Armstrong Circle Theatre and Wagon Train . She made a guest appearance on Perry Mason as Crystal Durham in "The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle" (1962). [18]

In 1958 she returned to Britain to appear in John Ford's Gideon's Day , in which she played the detective's wife. [19] She had a small, but memorable, role as Sister Margaretta in The Sound of Music , one of the two nuns who thwarted the Nazis by removing car engine parts, allowing the Von Trapps to escape. [20] Lee appeared in the 1962 classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in a small role as Mrs. Bates, a neighbour of the sisters played by Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. [19] In 1994, Lee took the leading role in the feature film What Can I Do?, directed by Wheeler Winston Dixon. [21] [22]

In later years, she became known to a new generation as matriarch Lila Quartermaine on General Hospital and Port Charles until being removed from contract and dropped to recurring status in 2003 by Jill Farren-Phelps, which was widely protested in the soap world and among General Hospital actors. [23] According to fellow GH actress Leslie Charleson, Lee had been promised a job for life by former GH executive producer Wendy Riche. Charleson said in 2007, "The woman was in her 90s. And then when the new powers-that-be took over they fired her, and it broke her heart. It was not necessary." [23]

Personal life

Anna Lee was born Joan Boniface Winnifrith in Ightham, Kent, the daughter of Bertram Thomas Winnifrith, a headmaster and Anglican rector who supported his daughter in her desire to become an actress, and his second wife, Edith Maude Digby-Roper. [1] Her middle name "Boniface" derives from the saint from whom the Winnifrith family was descended. Her father came from a long line of clergy. As far back as A.D. 680, there was a Benedictine monk named Winifried or Winfrith from Devonshire who was consecrated Archbishop of Mainz in A.D. 711. Lee's grandfather, the Reverend Alfred Winnifrith, was Rector of Mariansleigh. During WWI he provided for Belgian refugees and was awarded the Medaille du Roi Albert. Lee's brother Sir John Winnifrith, was a senior British civil servant who became permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture. She was the goddaughter of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and lifelong friend of his daughter, Dame Jean Conan Doyle. [24]

She married her first husband, the director Robert Stevenson, in 1934 and moved to Hollywood in 1939. They had two daughters, Venetia and Caroline. Venetia Stevenson, an actress as well, was married to Don Everly of the Everly Brothers and has three children, Edan, Erin, and Stacy. Lee and Stevenson divorced in March 1944, with Venetia and Caroline electing to live with their father. She met her second husband, George Stafford, as the pilot of the plane on her USO tour during the Second World War. They married on 8 June 1944, and had three sons, John, Stephen and Tim Stafford. [25]

Tim Stafford is an actor under the stage name of Jeffrey Byron. Lee and Stafford divorced in 1964. Her final marriage, to novelist Robert Nathan ( The Bishop's Wife , Portrait of Jennie ), on 5 April 1970, ended at his death in 1985. Lee became a naturalized US citizen under the name Joanna Boniface Stafford (#123624) on 6 April 1945; certificate issued 8 June 1945 (#6183889, Los Angeles, California).

In the 1930s, Lee occupied a house at 49 Bankside in London; she was later interviewed by writer Gillian Tindall for a book written about the address, The House by the Thames, released in 2006. Since first built in 1710, the house had served as a home for coal merchants, an office, a boarding house, a hangout for derelicts and finally once again a private residence in the 1900s. The house is listed in tour guides as a famous residence and has been variously claimed as possibly being home to Christopher Wren during the construction of St. Paul's Cathedral, and previously claimed residents included Catherine of Aragon and William Shakespeare. [26]

Lee was a staunch Conservative and stated that her views coincided with those of Sir Winston Churchill. [27] [28] [29]

Awards and honours

On 21 May 2004, she was posthumously awarded a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award; she was scheduled for months to receive the award, but died from pneumonia at age 91 before she could receive it. [30] Her son, Jeffrey Byron, accepted the award on her behalf. On 16 July 2004, General Hospital aired a tribute to Lee by holding a memorial service for Lila Quartermaine.


1932 Ebb Tide Uncredited
Say It with Music
His Lordship Scrub Girl ChorineUncredited
1933 The King's Cup Minor RoleUncredited
Yes, Mr. Brown Uncredited
Mayfair Girl Bit RoleUncredited
The Bermondsey Kid
Chelsea Life Muriel Maxton
Mannequin Babette
1934 Faces Madeleine Pelham
Rolling in Money Lady Eggleby
Lucky Loser Ursula Hamilton
The Camels are Coming Anita Rodgers
1935 Heat Wave Jane Allison
The Passing of the Third Floor Back Vivian
First a Girl Princess Miranoff
1936 The Man Who Changed His Mind Dr Wyatt
1937 OHMS Sally Briggs
King Solomon's Mines Kathleen O'Brien
Non-Stop New York Jennie Carr
1939 The Four Just Men Ann Lodge
Young Man's Fancy Miss Ada
1940 Return to Yesterday Carol Sands
Seven Sinners Dorothy
1941 My Life with Caroline Caroline
How Green Was My Valley Bronwyn
1942 Flying Tigers Brooke Elliott
Commandos Strike at Dawn Judith Bowen
1943 Forever and a Day Cornelia Trimble-Pomfret
Flesh and Fantasy Rowena(Episode #2)
Hangmen Also Die! Masha Novotny
1944 Summer Storm Nadena Kalenin
1946 Bedlam Nell Bowen
G.I. War Brides Linda Powell
1947 The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Mrs Miles Fairley
High Conquest Marie Correl
1948 Fort Apache Mrs Emily Collingwood
Best Man Wins Nancy Smiley
1949Prison WardenElisa Pennington Burnell
1958 Gideon's Day Mrs Kate Gideon
The Last Hurrah Gert Minihan
1959 The Horse Soldiers Mrs Buford
This Earth Is Mine Charlotte Rambeau
The Crimson Kimono Mac
Jet Over the Atlantic Ursula Leverett
1960 The Big Night Mrs Turner
1961 Two Rode Together Mrs Malaprop
1962 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance Mrs. PrescottUncredited
Jack the Giant Killer Lady Constance
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Mrs Bates
Mutiny on the Bounty Uncredited
1964 For Those Who Think Young Laura Pruitt
The Unsinkable Molly Brown Titanic Passenger in LifeboatUncredited
1965 The Sound of Music Sister Margaretta
1966 7 Women Mrs Russell
Picture Mommy Dead Elsie Kornwald
1967 In Like Flint Elisabeth
1968 Star! HostessUncredited
1978Legend of the Northwest
1979The Night RiderLady Earl
1987Right Hand ManWorn Woman
Beyond the Next MountainGovernor's Wife
1989 Listen to Me Garson's Grandmother
Beverly Hills Brats Gertie
1994What Can I DoElderly Woman
1950 Robert Montgomery Presents Frances Lawrence1 episode
1951 Studio One Anita Derr1 episode
1952 Robert Montgomery Presents Ann Hammond2 episodes
1958 Peter Gunn Sister Thomas Aquina1 episode
1960 The Barbara Stanwyck Show 1 episode
1963 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Roberta Saunders1 episode
1964The Movie MakerTV movie
1965 Combat! Sister Lescaut(episode: "The Enemy")
1966 My Three Sons Louise Allen1 episode
1967 Gunsmoke Amy Bassett1 episode
1973My Darling Daughters' AnniversaryJudge Barbara HanlineTV Movie
1977 Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years Laura DelanoTV Movie
1978 The Beasts Are on the Streets Mrs JacksonTV movie
1979–2003 General Hospital Lila Quartermaine77 episodes, (final appearance)
1980 Scruples Aunt Wilhelmina3 episodes
1997 Port Charles Lila Quartermaine

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  1. 1 2 3 Bergan, Ronald (18 May 2004). "Anna Lee". The Guardian . Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  2. Leslie Halliwell (November 1988). Halliwell's filmgoer's companion: incorporating The filmgoer's book of quotes and Halliwell's movie quiz. Grafton. p. 421. ISBN   978-0-246-13322-9.
  3. 1 2 3 "Anna Lee".
  4. "Anna Lee – Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  5. "Anna Lee".
  6. Chibnall, pp.40–41
  7. Chibnall, pp. 117–18
  8. "King Solomon's Mines (1937) – Robert Stevenson – Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  9. The Unknown 1930s p. 163
  10. The Unknown 1930s, p. 173
  11. The Unknown 1930s p.174-76
  12. "Forever and a Day (1943) – René Clair, Edmund Goulding, Cedric Hardwicke, Frank Lloyd, Victor Saville, Kent Smith, Robert Stevenson, Herbert Wilcox – Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  13. "Forever and a Day (1943) – René Clair, Edmund Goulding, Cedric Hardwicke, Frank Lloyd, Victor Saville, Kent Smith, Robert Stevenson, Herbert Wilcox – Cast and Crew – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  14. "Anna Lee – Movies and Filmography – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  15. "Flying Tigers (1942)".
  16. "Bedlam (1946)".
  17. "Hangmen Also Die! (1943) – Fritz Lang – Cast and Crew – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  18. "Perry Mason: The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle (1962) – Francis D. Lyon – Cast and Crew – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  19. 1 2 "Gideon's Day (1958)".
  20. "The Sound of Music (1965) – Robert Wise – Cast and Crew – AllMovie". AllMovie.
  21. "What Can I Do? (1994)".
  22. "Wheeler Winston Dixon – MoMA". The Museum of Modern Art.
  23. 1 2 Soap Opera Weekly, 13 February 2007, p. 2
  24. Lee, Anna; Roisman Cooper, Barbara (2007). Anna Lee: Memoir of a Career on General Hospital and in Film. McFarland & Company (Jefferson, North Carolina/London). ISBN   978-0-7864-3161-8.
  25. Star Diary, 10 October 1954.
  26. "The city's other shore". The Economist . 23 March 2006. Retrieved 23 December 2016. Things pick up in the 1930s, when the house was briefly occupied by Anna Lee, a starlet. The author tracked her down in 2003; she was living in Beverly Hills, having built a second career on the marathon American soap opera General Hospital. She remembered the house fondly; her sister recalled being escorted home by policemen, as the neighbourhood was thought to be dangerous.
  27. Obituary,; accessed 22 September 2015.
  28. Obituary,; accessed 22 September 2015.
  29. Interview,; accessed 22 September 2015.
  30. "Anna Lee, 91: General Hospital Actress".