Sonia Dresdel

Active - 1945 - 1972  |   Born - Jan 1, 1908   |   Died - Jan 1, 1976   |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Mystery

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Sonia Dresdel was primarily known as a stage actress during her 25-year career, but managed to carve out a niche for herself in movies and television as well. Born Lois Obee in 1908, she aspired to a theater career and spent years in repertory -- in 1943, at age 34, she appeared in a production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler at the Westminster Theatre in London that turned her into a star. She went on to light up various comedies and dramas, in everything from Mourning Becomes Electra to Oedipus the King (both with the Old Vic Company), and for a decade was regarded as one of England's top stage actresses. During the second half of the 1940s, Dresdel became closely associated with manic, destructive characters, both on-stage in plays such as The Same Garden, and onscreen in its film adaptation, While I Love (1947). She enjoyed a two-year run in the play This Was a Woman in the starring role, of a wife and mother whose personal demons drive her to destroy her family, and then brought the part to the screen in 1949, and it was in this same period that she got her most memorable screen part, in Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol (1948). Portraying the hostile, near-manic wife to Ralph Richardson's Baines, a role right up there with Lady Macbeth and Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca for sheer cruelty, she cut an inimitable screen figure -- between her performance and Reed's direction, and the exceptional editing by Oswald Hafenrichter, she was impossible to forget in the part. Her other movies of the era included the brilliant thriller The Clouded Yellow (1950), and her later film work included performances in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) and Lady Caroline Lamb (1972).

By the 1950s, Dresdel had begun working in television as well, but her overall career declined along with her stage roles, as she began appearing in too many melodramas and thrillers that did her no credit -- with her intense, angular features, she was suited to such roles, though she also took on parts on occasion that seemed to fit her poorly in their sympathetic nature, in plays such as Doctor Jo. But she found it difficult to get back to better work, and Dresdel's fiercely independent nature forced her to decline offers of career assistance from sympathetic colleagues. As the parts ceased to interest her as much, Dresdel went into management, during the 1950s, becoming a company director and also a stage director late in the decade, under the aegis of the New White Rose Players, on works such as the thriller Night of the Shoot. As with many leading lights of the 1940s and '50s British theater, Dresdel found little available to her in film in the 1960s. She passed away in 1976, best remembered by theatergoers and those who'd seen her in The Fallen Idol.

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