Claire Bloom

Active - 1948 - 2018  |   Born - Feb 15, 1931 in London, England  |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

While taking drama lessons at Badminton, Guildhall School, and the Central School of Speech and Drama, Claire Bloom began appearing on BBC radio, and made her stage debut at 15 with the Oxford Repertory. She made her London bow in 1947, and the following year was effusively praised for her performance as Ophelia in a Stratford-upon-Avon production of Hamlet. Also in 1948, she appeared in her first film, The Blind Goddess (1948).

While gainfully employed at the Old Vic in 1952, Bloom was selected by Charlie Chaplin to portray the suicidal ballerina Terry in Chaplin's Limelight. Though the film was inadequately distributed due to Chaplin's "questionable" political beliefs, Limelight made Bloom an overnight star -- after only nine years in the business. Her next major film assignment was Lady Anne in Olivier's Richard III (1955), which led to a steady stream of costume roles in films like Alexander the Great (1956), The Brothers Karamazov (1959), The Buccaneer (1959), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). Of her "contemporary" film roles, several are standouts: the sexually unstable housewife in The Chapman Report, the lesbian psychic in The Haunting (1963), the compassionate psychiatrist in Charly (1968), and Martin Landau's Jewish-suburbanite wife in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Her TV work has included Edith Galt Wilson in Backstairs at the White House (1979) and Lady Marchman in Brideshead Revisited (1982). Whenever her schedule has allowed, Bloom has returned to her first love, the theater; her favorite stage role is Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Married three times, Bloom's first husband was actor Rod Steiger, with whom she co-starred in 3 Into 2 Won't Go (1969) and The Illustrated Man (1969); her second was producer Hillard Elkins, who packaged Bloom's 1973 film version of The Doll's House; and her third was novelist Philip Roth. In 1982, Claire Bloom published her autobiography, Limelight and After: The Education of an Actress.

Bloom would remain active on screen in the decades to come, appearing most notably in movies like Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Age of Innocence, Mighty Aphrodite, and the King's Speech.

Movie Highlights

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  • Debuted on the London stage in 1947, and gave an acclaimed performance as Ophelia in a Stratford-upon-Avon production of Hamlet in 1948.
  • Made her film debut in 1948's The Blind Goddess and achieved stardom as a result of her role in Charlie Chaplin's Limelight (1952).
  • Costarred with lover Richard Burton in Alexander the Great (1956), Look Back in Anger (1959) and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965).
  • Appeared in two Woody Allen films: as Martin Landau's wife in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and in the chorus of Mighty Aphrodite (1995).
  • Her 1996 memoir, Leaving a Doll's House, recounts the unraveling of her marriage to author Philip Roth, whom she threatened with a lawsuit when he planned to give her name to an unsympathetic character in his novel Deception.