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Movie Legends: Ann Todd

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Somewhat overlooked these days when it comes to British Cinema of the 1940’s but thanks to a starring role in the hugely successful The Seventh Veil (1945) Ann Todd was one of the biggest stars of the decade.

Born in Hertford on 24 January 1909 Todd began her adult life training to be a drama teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama but in classic understudy style got a break to take over a role in West End show “Land of Heart’s Desire” when the original actress fell ill.

After drawing strong reviews from the critics Ann stayed in the West End for most of the 1930’s as well as taking on several telling character parts in British films of the decade, most notably Things to Come in 1936 and most memorably South Riding in 1938 where she played the less than balanced wife of Ralph Richardson and in one key scene rode her horse up the staircase of their ancestral home.

By the mid-forties Todd was still playing character roles and appeared opposite Robert Donat in Perfect Strangers (1945). Her sensitive performance as a nurse led to Muriel and Sydney Box offering her the lead in their next film The Seventh Veil, which was about a concert pianist.

Despite problems finding a male lead, James Mason eventually took the role and trouble finding a distributor (Rank’s General Film Distributors took it on) The Seventh Veil was a massive commercial success.

Ann was quickly taken under contract by Rank and was one of their key stars even going to Hollywood in Hitchcock’s 1947 film The Paradine Case. Marriage to film director David Lean curtailed her career in front of the camera and by 1964 she was directing a series of travelogue shorts for Rank.

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