WENDY HILLER

Reading that the Criterion Channel is streaming seven films starring Wendy Hiller (1912 – 2003) reminded me how much I liked Wendy in Pygmalion and I Know Where I’m Going.

 

Wendy Hiller could be described as the actress who got away from the movies.
She  only made 15 films and yet managed to get a Best Supporting  Oscar for her performance as the hotel manager  in Separate Tables in 1958.

With Roger Livesey in I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING. (1945)

Filmed on the Scottish island of Mull, the Powell/Pressburger film I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING provided Wendy with a starring role as the head strung woman who is travelling from Manchester to the  Hebrides to marry a rich industrialist she hardly knows.
Stranded on Mull, she meets ‘Torquil MacNeil’, the laird of Kiloran (Roger Livesey.)

It’s a beautiful film, typical of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

 

As Eliza Doolittle.

Wendy had played in PYGMALION on stage and George Bernard Shaw recommended her for the film version. She was delightful as Eliza, opposite Leslie Howard  as Professor Higgins.

Despite an Oscar nomination for Pygmalion  in 1938 and offers from Hollywood, Wendy returned to the stage full time with only a few visits to a film set in the decades that followed. And generally in films which didn’t do her acting talents justice.

 

With Ralph Richardson. OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS.As the wife of Robert Morley in David Lean’s OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS (1952)

 

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With Michael Rennie in Sailor of the King (aka Single handed) (1953).

A small part for Wendy in this film starring Jeffrey Hunter set  during WW2.

 

I caught this 1957 comedy, HOW TO MURDER A RICH UNCLE on You  Tube. With Charles Coburn as the  uncle who returns to England from America. Wendy is the wife of Nigel Patrick (who also directed).

 

Reunited with Rex Harrison ,almost 50 years after Pygmalion,  for THE KINGFISHER (1985) , a television version of the play Rex Harrison had done on Broadway with Claudette Colbert.

I watched it on YouTube and enjoyed it. The story of two people who meet after  50 years apart. Wendy and Rex worked well together and are joined by Cyril Cusack who is very good in his role as Rex’s manservant.

Wendy also starred with Rex Harrison in MAJOR BARBARA(1941), in which she played a young socialite who joins the Salvation Army.

 

 

Basil Rathbone, Wendy Hiller. THE HEIRESS

in the roles they originated on Broadway in 1947,  Basil Rathbone and Wendy Hiller were replaced by Ralph Richardson and Olivia de Havilland in the film version of The Heiress. If only the Hiller/Rathbone play had been preserved.

 

 

With Ingrid Bergman in Waters Of The Moon in 1978.

 

 

 

SEPARATE TABLES.

 

Wendy advertising Lux soap while appearing in THE HEIRESS.

 

In MURDER ON THE ORIENT  EXPRESS (1974), Wendy was memorable as Princess Dragomiroff .

 

Wendy was married to playwright Ronald Gow from 1937 to his death in 1993. Ronald Gow wrote Love On the Dole  in 1934 and Wendy starred in it in London and Broadway.
When  it was filmed in 1941, Deborah Kerr  got the part.

 

As far as I am aware, the subscription channel, Criterion, is only available in America and Canada. It launched in 2019 and has over 2000 titles for streaming.

4 responses »

  1. I’m sure that Rathbone and Hiller must have been terrific in “The Heiress,” but I think that Richardson and de Havilland were as well. “The Heiress” and “The Snake Pit” are my favorites of de Havilland’s non-comic performances.

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