Patricia Roc

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Patricia Roc
Felicia Miriam Ursula Herold

(1915-06-07)7 June 1915
Died30 December 2003(2003-12-30) (aged 88)
Locarno, Switzerland
Other namesFelicia Riese
Years active1938 1962
Dr. Murray Laing
(m. 1939;div. 1944)

André Thomas
(m. 1949;died 1954)

Walter Reif
(m. 1964;died 1986)

Patricia Roc (born Felicia Miriam Ursula Herold; [1] 7 June 1915 – 30 December 2003) was an English film actress, popular in the Gainsborough melodramas such as Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945), though she only made one film in Hollywood, Canyon Passage (1946). She also appeared in Millions Like Us (1943), Jassy (1945), The Brothers (1947) and When the Bough Breaks (1947).


She was employed by the studio of J. Arthur Rank, who called her "the archetypal British beauty". [2] She achieved her greatest level of popularity in British films during the Second World War in escapist melodramas for Gainsborough Studios. [3] She did little acting work after the death of her second husband in 1954, making only a few television appearances including the first episode of The Saint .

Early life

Born in Hampstead, London, to Felix Herold, a paper merchant, and his wife (or possibly mistress), Miriam (née Angell). [1] In 1922, her half-French mother Miriam married Dutch-Belgian stockbroker, André Magnus Riese, who legally adopted young Felicia and her sister Barbara (1919 - 2016, later the wife of Fred Perry). She became known as Felicia Riese and did not discover her adoption until 1949. [1] She was educated at private schools in London and Paris, then was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1937. [3]

West End theatre producer Sydney Carroll discovered her and cast her in The Mask of Virtue at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. When Carroll thought Felicia Riese sounded "too foreign" and without character, he suggested she change her name to something short and memorable. As there was then a Rock Film Studios Carroll suggested "Rock" as a surname. She agreed but she suggested dropping the "k" to make the surname more memorable and shorter and "Patricia" was the nearest name to "Felicia". [4]

Film career

Roc began her career as a stage actress, debuting in the 1938 London production of Nuts in May, [5] in which she was seen by Alexander Korda, who gave her an uncredited bit in The Divorce of Lady X (1938) and then a leading role as a Polish princess in The Rebel Son . [3]

She had roles in The Gaunt Stranger (1939), The Mind of Mr. Reeder (1939), and The Missing People (1940). She had a bigger part in A Window in London (1940), the comedy Pack Up Your Troubles (1940), Dr. O'Dowd (1940), Three Silent Men (1940), It Happened to One Man (1940), and The Farmer's Wife (1941). [6]

Her parts grew bigger: My Wife's Family (1941), Suspected Person (1942), Let the People Sing (1942), and We'll Meet Again (1943) with Vera Lynn.


Roc was top-billed in Millions Like Us (1943) from Gainsborough Studios. It was a success, and Gainsborough gave her another lead, as a nun interned by the Germans in Two Thousand Women (1944). According to one writer these movies "established her as a symbol of war's transformative effect upon the status of women." [7]

She appeared alongside two of Gainsborough's biggest stars, Margaret Lockwood and Stewart Granger, in Love Story (1944), a big hit. Roc played the jealous rival of Margaret Lockwood. She later commented that although they were required to slap each other's faces, she and Lockwood were always the best of friends. [3] Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945), with Granger and Phyllis Calvert, was another success. [3]

Neither of them, however, did as well as The Wicked Lady (1945), where Roc played Lockwood's best friend. It was the most successful movie at the British box office in 1946. Roc's more overt bisexuality in such films as The Wicked Lady was downplayed for the American market (even her décolletage led US censors to call for retakes to de-emphasise it [8] ) and "the Goddess of Odeons", whilst Noël Coward said she was "a phenomenon" and "an unspoiled film star who can act". [2]

She was also in Johnny Frenchman (1945). Co-starring in that film was Ralph Michael, who soon after divorced his wife Fay Compton; Roc was named in proceedings. [9]

Her brief move to Hollywood to film Canyon Passage (1946), a Western in Technicolor, was a lend-lease agreement between Rank Pictures and Universal Studios of British in return for American film actors. [3] [10] During filming, Roc was romantically linked with Ronald Reagan, while her US co-star Susan Hayward stated "that Limey glamour girl is a helluva dame."[ citation needed ] Despite good reviews and a remarked likeness to Deanna Durbin, she didn’t click with the American filmgoing public. [11]

Roc returned to Britain to make The Brothers (1947), a melodrama that was a commercial disappointment. [12] She was in an expensive British-US co production So Well Remembered (1947), which was a hit in Britain but failed to recoup its cost. Jassy (1947), a melodrama with Lockwood, was a big hit. When the Bough Breaks (1947), another melodrama, performed reasonably well.

In 1947 British exhibitors voted Roc the sixth-most-popular British star in the country. [13] The following year she was 9th. [14]

She walked out of London Belongs to Me claiming she was miscast. [15]

After making a cameo as herself in Holiday Camp (1947), Roc was in One Night with You (1948), a musical comedy with Nino Martini.


She made two films in France, Return to Life (1949) and The Man on the Eiffel Tower . She returned to Britain to appear in a comedy The Perfect Woman (1949) then walked out on her contract with Rank in March 1949. [16] [17]

In August 1949 she married French cameraman André Thomas. [18]

In Paris she made Black Jack (1950). She also appeared in Fugitive from Montreal (1951), a French-Canadian co production.

Roc returned to Britain for the first time in 18 months to make Circle of Danger (1951) with Ray Milland. She then returned for Something Money Can't Buy (1952).

Later films

Roc's later films included The Widow (1955) and The Hypnotist (1957).

Roc returned to Britain later in the decade following the death of husband, André Thomas. She produced only 3 more films and made a few television appearances (including the first episode of The Saint , her final acting role).

Later life and death

In 1964 she married businessman Walter Reif and retired from acting. She was all but forgotten until 1975 when she made the headlines for being fined £25 for shoplifting from Marks & Spencer in Oxford Street. It is thought that this was a means of regaining attention from the public. Soon after, she and her husband retreated to Switzerland, Reif died in 1986, Roc died 17 years later in 2003. [19]


1938 The Divorce of Lady X Minor roleUncredited
The Gaunt Stranger Mary Lenley
The Barbarian and the LadyMarina
1939 The Mysterious Mr. Reeder Doris Bevan
The Missing People
1940 Pack Up Your Troubles Sally Brown
A Window in London PatReleased as Lady in Distress in USA
Dr. O'Dowd Rosemary
Three Silent Men Pat Quentin
It Happened to One Man Betty Quair
1941 The Farmer's Wife Sibley
My Wife's Family Peggy Gay
1942 Suspected Person Joan Raynor
Let the People Sing Hope Ollerton
1943 We'll Meet Again Ruth
Millions Like Us Celia Crowson
1944 Love Story Judy
Two Thousand Women Rosemary Brown / Mary Maugham
1945 Madonna of the Seven Moons Angela Labardi
Johnny Frenchman Sue Pomeroy
The Wicked Lady Caroline
1946 Canyon Passage Caroline Marsh
1947 The Brothers Mary
So Well Remembered Julie Morgan
Jassy Dilys Helmar
When the Bough Breaks Lily Bates
Holiday Camp Herself
1948 One Night with You Mary Santell
1949 The Perfect Woman Penelope Belman
Return to Life Lieutenant Evelyne(segment 2 : "Le retour d'Antoine")
The Man on the Eiffel Tower Helen Kirby
1950 Fugitive from Montreal Helen Bering
Black Jack Ingrid Dekker
1951 Circle of Danger Elspeth Graham
1952 Something Money Can't Buy Anne Wilding
1953La mia vita è tuaLaura
1955CartoucheDonna Violante
The Widow Diana
1956 The Errol Flynn Theatre Episode : "Farewell Performance"
1957The HypnotistMary Foster
The House in the WoodsCarol Carter
1958White HunterMarge WilsonEpisode: "Pegasus"
1959 No Hiding Place Mrs. OttloneEpisode: "Who Is Gustav Varnia?"
1960 Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons Mme. Vivienne Dureaux
SkyportIris West1 episode
1961 Dixon of Dock Green BrendaEpisode: "A Kiss for the Constable"
1962 The Saint Madge ClarronEpisode: "The Talented Husband", (final appearance)

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  1. 1 2 3 "Roc, Patricia [née Felicia Miriam Ursula Herold] (1915–2003)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/93027.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. 1 2 "Actress Patricia Roc dies, aged 88". Daily Telegraph. London. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 9 March 2008.[ dead link ]
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bergan, Ronald (31 December 2003). "Actress Patricia Roc, Rank starlet seen as the epitome of the English rose". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 31 December 2008.
  4. p. 27 Hodgson, Michael Patricia Roc Author House, 2013
  5. "PATRICIA ROC". The Forbes Advocate . Vol. 38, no. 2. New South Wales, Australia. 7 January 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  6. "Patricia Roc A new favourite". Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder . New South Wales, Australia. 2 October 1947. p. 4. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  7. Sweet, Matthew (2005). Shepperton Babylon : the lost worlds of British cinema. Faber and Faber. p. 201.
  8. "Obituary". Daily Telegraph. London. 30 December 2003. Retrieved 8 March 2008.[ dead link ]
  9. "New romance for Patricia Roc". The Mail . Vol. 37, no. 1, 902. Adelaide. 13 November 1948. p. 3 (SUNDAY MAGAZINE). Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "Patricia Roc's First Hollywood Film". The Farmer & Settler . Vol. XLI, no. 46. New South Wales. 13 December 1946. p. 19. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  11. Eduardo Moreno, The Films of Susan Hayward, Citadel Press, Secaucus, NJ, 1979, p. 111.
  12. "PATRICIA ROC IS HOME AGAIN". The Sydney Morning Herald . No. 34, 228. 4 September 1947. p. 10. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  13. 'Bing's Lucky Number: Pa Crosby Dons 4th B.O. Crown', The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 3 January 1948: 12.
  14. 'Britten's Rape of Licretia: New York Divided', The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) [Manchester (UK)] 31 December 1948: 8.
  15. "PATRICIA ROC QUITS PICTURE". The News . Vol. 49, no. 7, 595. Adelaide. 6 December 1947. p. 1. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  16. "England". The Sun . No. 2472. Sydney. 3 September 1950. p. 54. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  17. "Margaret Aylwards". The Sun . No. 2397. Sydney. 20 March 1949. p. 12. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  18. "PATRICIA ROC IS MARRIED". The Barrier Miner . Vol. LXII, no. 17, 933. New South Wales. 17 August 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 30 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  19. Bergan, Ronald (2003). "Obituary: Patricia Roc | Rank starlet seen as the epitome of the English roes". The Guardian.