Ethel Griffies

Active - 1930 - 1965  |   Born - Apr 26, 1878   |   Died - Sep 9, 1975   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Musical

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The daughter of actor-manager Samuel Rupert Woods and actress Lillie Roberts, Ethel Griffies began her own stage career at the age of 3. Griffies was 21 when she finally made her London debut in 1899, and 46 when she made her first Broadway appearance in Havoc (1924). Discounting a tentative stab at filmmaking in 1917, she made her movie bow in 1930, repeating her stage role in Old English (1930). Habitually cast as a crotchety old lady with the proverbial golden heart, she alternated between bits and prominently featured roles for the next 35 years. Her larger parts included Grace Poole in both the 1935 and 1944 versions of Jane Eyre, and the vituperous matron who accuses Tippi Hedren of being a harbinger of doom in Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Every so often, she'd take a sabbatical from film work to concentrate on the stage; she made her last Broadway appearance in 1967, at which time she was England's oldest working actress. Presumably at the invitation of fellow Briton Arthur Treacher, Ethel Griffies was a frequent guest on TV's Merv Griffin Show in the late 1960s, never failing to bring down the house with her wickedly witty comments on her 80 years in show business.

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