Phyllis Hannah Bickle
18 February 1915
Chelsea, London, England
|Died||8 October 2002 87) (aged|
Cheam, London, England
(m. 1941;died 1957)
Phyllis Hannah Murray-Hill (née Bickle; 18 February 1915 – 8 October 2002), known professionally as Phyllis Calvert, was an English film, stage and television actress.  She was one of the leading stars of the Gainsborough melodramas of the 1940s such as The Man in Grey (1943) and was one of the most popular movie stars in Britain in the 1940s.  She continued her acting career for another 50 years. 
In the words of an article by Michael Brooke for the BFI's Screenonline website: "Most of the time she drew what looked like the short straw, playing the 'good girl' in films that revelled in the exploits of her wicked opposite number, and it says much for her talent and charisma that she was able to hold attention in what must have seemed thankless parts – she herself acknowledged that 'I do think it is much more difficult to establish a really charming, nice person than a wicked one – and make it real'." 
Born in Chelsea, London, she trained at the Margaret Morris School of Dancing, and performed from the age of ten, performing with Ellen Terry in Crossings.  She gained her first film role at the age of 12, in The Arcadians (1927), also known as The Land of Heart's Desire. 
Calvert performed in repertory theatre in Malvern and Coventry. She made her London stage debut in A Woman's Privilege in 1939.  Her early films include Two Days to Live (1939). 
Calvert was spotted in a play Punch without Judy, and was signed to a contract by Gainsborough Pictures which gave her the lead in They Came by Night (1940), opposite Will Fyffe.  She was George Formby's love interest in Let George Do It! (1940) and had a support part in Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt (1940), starring Arthur Askey.  
Calvert was in a war movie, Neutral Port (1940), then had a good role as Michael Redgrave's love interest in Kipps (1941), directed by Carol Reed.   After a detective film Inspector Hornleigh Goes To It (1941) she had the co-lead in Uncensored (1942), a war movie with Eric Portman.   Reed used her again in The Young Mr. Pitt (1942), playing Eleanor Eden. 
In 1942, she had the lead role as Patricia Graham in the West End production of Terence Rattigan's play Flare Path .  
Calvert was by now well established in British films. She did not become a star, however, until given one of the four leading roles in the Gainsborough melodrama The Man in Grey (1943).  The movie was a huge success, making her and her three co-stars – Stewart Granger, James Mason and Margaret Lockwood – genuine box office stars in Britain. 
Calvert followed it with Fanny by Gaslight (1944), co-starring Granger and Mason, which was another big hit.  Also popular was Two Thousand Women (1944), made by Launder and Gilliat, about British women interned in occupied France.  It co-starred Patricia Roc, who appeared with Calvert and Granger in Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945), another Gainsborough melodrama, and another hit.  Calvert's successful run at the box office continued when she and Mason were reunited in They Were Sisters (1945), a more contemporary-set Gainsborough melodrama.  Exhibitors voted her the fifth-most popular star of 1945 in Britain. 
She was one of Stewart Granger's loves in The Magic Bow (1946) and had the female lead in a drama about colonialism in Africa Men of Two Worlds (1946), made a few years before being released.  It was a success, though not profitable because of its high cost.  The Root of All Evil (1947) was one of the last of the Gainsborough melodramas.  She was voted the sixth most popular British star at the box office in 1946. 
Calvert's success had been noticed in the US, although her films had not been as popular there. Universal-International signed her to star in Time Out of Mind (1947), which was a box office disappointment.    She received several offers from studios and eventually decided to sign a six-picture deal with Paramount.  
She returned to Britain to make Broken Journey (1948) playing a role written especially for her, but the film failed at the box-office. 
Calvert went to Hollywood to make two films, both for Paramount: My Own True Love (1949), with Melvyn Douglas, and Appointment with Danger (1951 but made two years earlier) with Alan Ladd, in which she played a nun.   She did Peter Pan on stage in Britain. 
Back in Britain she made two films with director Ladislao Vajda, neither particularly successful: Golden Madonna (1950), shot in Italy, and The Woman with No Name (1950).  She invested her own money in the latter.  She wanted to produce other films: Eastward Ho, about an Englishwoman who romances a cowboy, and Equilibrium, about a trapeze artist, as well as star in a third film for Paramount but none of these were made.  
Calvert was in a thriller Mr. Denning Drives North (1951) with John Mills and a BBC TV production The Holly and the Ivy (1951).   She had her first big hit in a while, Mandy (1952). 
Calvert was a wife in The Net (1953), then was off screen for a while.  She acted on stage in It's Never Too Late (1956), then appeared in the film version.  She followed it with Child in the House (1956). 
On TV she was in Strindberg's The Father for ITV's Television Playhouse , and played the lead in Tatiana, the Czar's Daughter.   She also played Mrs March in a six-part BBC adaptation of Little Women . 
Calvert had a support part in the Hollywood-financed Indiscreet (1958), then played a concerned mother in The Young and the Guilty (1958) and a wacky spinster in A Lady Mislaid (1959).    On TV she was in "The Break" for Armchair Theatre (1959) and played Katherine O'Shea in Parnell for Play of the Week (1959), then reprised her role as Mrs March for the BBC in Good Wives (1959).   She was Constance Wilde in Oscar Wilde (1960) with Robert Morley and A Righteous Woman on Play of the Week (1962). 
The only time people recall Calvert risking loss of sympathy for an apparent lapse of taste, grace or charm was during her stage career at the Lyric in 1963, and at the Duke of York's in 1964. In the first, as the wife in Ronald Duncan's Ménage à Trois, she condoned his misconduct - as long as it took place off the premises, herself departing as a lesbian with his mistress as the curtain fell. Then, as the cold, insensitive stepmother in James Saunders's A Scent Of Flowers, she left no trace of "the rose that sings". Phyllis Calvert
She acted in over 40 films, her later films including The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1965), Twisted Nerve (1968), Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) and The Walking Stick (1970). 
From 1970 to 1972, she starred in her own TV series, Kate , playing the part of an agony aunt with problems of her own.[ citation needed ]
She made TV appearances in programmes such as Crown Court , Ladykillers, Tales of the Unexpected , Boon , After Henry , Victoria Wood and Limelight: The Film Years – The Lime Grove Story.   She also played D.I. Barnaby's Aunt Alice (Alice Bly) in a Midsomer Murders episode "Blue Herrings" in 2000.   She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1972 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews.[ citation needed ]
She was married to the actor and antiquarian bookseller Peter Murray-Hill  until his sudden death in 1957.  The couple had two children, Ann Murray-Hill (born 1943) and Piers Murray-Hill (born 1954). Calvert never remarried. She died in her sleep in London in 2002 from natural causes,  aged 87. 
For a number of years, British film exhibitors voted her among the top ten British stars at the box office via an annual poll in the Motion Picture Herald.
Margaret Mary Day Lockwood, CBE, was an English actress. One of Britain's most popular film stars of the 1930s and 1940s, her film appearances included The Lady Vanishes (1938), Night Train to Munich (1940), The Man in Grey (1943), and The Wicked Lady (1945). She was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress for the 1955 film Cast a Dark Shadow. She also starred in the television series Justice (1971–74).
The Wicked Lady is a 1945 British costume drama film directed by Leslie Arliss and starring Margaret Lockwood in the title role as a nobleman's wife who becomes a highwayman for the excitement. The film had one of the top audiences for a film of its period, 18.4 million.
Jean Kent was an English film and television actress.
The Man in Grey is a 1943 British film melodrama made by Gainsborough Pictures; it is considered to be the first of a series of period costume dramas now known as the "Gainsborough melodramas". It was directed by Leslie Arliss and produced by Edward Black from a screenplay by Arliss and Margaret Kennedy that was adapted by Doreen Montgomery from the 1941 novel The Man in Grey by Eleanor Smith. The film's sets were designed by Walter Murton.
Arthur Crabtree was a British cinematographer and film director. He directed films with comedians such as Will Hay, the Crazy Gang and Arthur Askey and several of the Gainsborough Melodramas.
Leslie Arliss was an English screenwriter and director. He is best known for his work on the Gainsborough melodramas directing films such as The Man in Grey and The Wicked Lady during the 1940s.
Madonna of the Seven Moons is a 1945 British drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree for Gainsborough Pictures and starring Phyllis Calvert, Stewart Granger and Patricia Roc. The film was produced by Rubeigh James Minney, with cinematography from Jack Cox and screenplay by Roland Pertwee. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas.
Fanny by Gaslight is a 1944 British drama film, directed by Anthony Asquith and produced by Gainsborough Pictures, set in the 1870s and adapted from a 1940 novel by Michael Sadleir.
Edward Black was a British film producer, best known for being head of production at Gainsborough Studios in the late 1930s and early 1940s, during which time he oversaw production of the Gainsborough melodramas. He also produced such classic films as The Lady Vanishes (1938). Black has been called "one of the unsung heroes of the British film industry" and "one of the greatest figures in British film history, the maker of stars like Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, John Mills and Stewart Granger. He was also one of the very few producers whose films, over a considerable period, made money." In 1946 Mason called Black "the one good production executive" that J. Arthur Rank had. Frank Launder called Black "a great showman and yet he had a great feeling for scripts and spent more time on them than anyone I have ever known. His experimental films used to come off as successful as his others."
Patricia Roc 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).
Jassy is a 1947 British colour film historical melodrama set in the early 19th century, based on a novel by Norah Lofts. It is a Gainsborough melodrama, the only one to be made in Technicolor. It was the last "official" Gainsborough melodrama.
Caravan is a 1946 British black-and-white drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas and is based on the 1942 novel Caravan by Eleanor Smith.
The Gainsborough melodramas were a sequence of films produced by the British film studio Gainsborough Pictures between 1943 and 1947 which conformed to a melodramatic style. The melodramas were not a film series but an unrelated sequence of films which had similar themes that were usually developed by the same film crew and frequently recurring actors who played similar characters in each. They were mostly based on popular books by female novelists and they encompassed costume dramas, such as The Man in Grey (1943) and The Wicked Lady (1945), and modern-dress dramas, such as Love Story (1944) and They Were Sisters (1945). The popularity of the films with audiences peaked mid-1940s when cinema audiences consisted primarily of women. The influence of the films led to other British producers releasing similarly themed works, such as The Seventh Veil (1945), Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945), Hungry Hill (1947), The White Unicorn (1947), Idol of Paris (1948), and The Reluctant Widow (1950) and often with the talent that made Gainsborough melodramas successful.
Broken Journey is a 1948 British drama film directed by Ken Annakin and featuring Phyllis Calvert, James Donald, Margot Grahame, Raymond Huntley and Guy Rolfe. Broken Journey deals with people struggling to survive after their airliner crashes on top of a mountain, and is based on a true-life accident in the Swiss Alps.
The White Unicorn is a 1947 British drama film directed by Bernard Knowles and starring Margaret Lockwood, Joan Greenwood, Ian Hunter and Dennis Price. Kyra Vayne appeared as the singer. It was made at Walton Studios by the independent producer John Corfield, and released by General Film Distributors. The film's sets were designed by Norman G. Arnold. It was also known as Milkwhite Unicorn and Bad Sister.
The Magic Bow is a 1946 British musical film based on the life and loves of the Italian violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini. It was directed by Bernard Knowles. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.
Harold Huth was a British actor, film director and producer.
The Calendar is a black and white 1948 British drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree and starring Greta Gynt, John McCallum, Raymond Lovell and Leslie Dwyer. It is based on the 1929 play The Calendar and subsequent novel by Edgar Wallace. A previous version had been released in 1931.
They Were Sisters is a 1945 British melodrama film directed by Arthur Crabtree for Gainsborough Pictures and starring James Mason and Phyllis Calvert. The film was produced by Harold Huth, with cinematography from Jack Cox and screenplay by Roland Pertwee. They Were Sisters is noted for its frank, unsparing depiction of marital abuse at a time when the subject was rarely discussed openly. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas.
The Root of All Evil is a 1947 British drama film, directed by Brock Williams for Gainsborough Pictures and starring Phyllis Calvert and Michael Rennie. The film was the first directorial assignment for Williams, who was better known as a screenwriter, and also produced the screenplay based on the 1921 novel by J. S. Fletcher.
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