Diana Wynyard

Active - 1932 - 1957  |   Born - Jan 16, 1906 in London, England, UK  |   Died - Mar 13, 1964 in London, England, UK  |   Genres - Drama

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Elegant and aristocratic British actress Diana Wynyard was on-stage from 1927, but made no films until she was brought "over the pond" to Hollywood in 1932. As Natasha in Rasputin and the Empress (1932), Wynyard managed to make an excellent impression despite the overshadowing presence of three Barrymores -- John, Lionel, and Ethel -- in the cast. It was the (offscreen) rape of Wynyard's character by Rasputin (Lionel) that led an expatriate Russian princess to sue MGM, claiming that Natasha was based on the princess -- which is why all subsequent American films carried the "any resemblance to any persons living or dead" disclaimer. In no danger of assault in her next film, the Oscar-winning Cavalcade, Wynyard played the gentle but strong-willed lady of a proper British household; required to age 30 years in the film, Wynyard was far more convincing in this endeavor than her much-older co-star, Clive Brook, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. Cavalcade locked Diana Wynyard into Greer Garson-type roles for the rest of her Hollywood career, though she carried such subsequent films as Reunion in Vienna (1933) and One More River (1934) with class and dignity. Returning to England for good in the mid-'30s, Wynyard devoted most of her energies to stage work, with only intermittent film activity. One of her best performances was almost lost to the ages by legal decree: As the beleaguered wife in Gaslight (1940), Ms. Wynyard was superb, but the film was targeted for destruction by MGM when it remade Gaslight (with Ingrid Bergman in Wynyard's role) in 1944; fortunately, a few prints were illegally smuggled out of England and the film is still in existence. Wynyard continued her stage work into the late '50s, playing Gertrude to Paul Scofield's Hamlet and starring in the London productions of such Broadway hits as The Bad Seed and Toys in the Attic. She also made films on a sporadic basis until her final appearance in Island in the Sun (1957). Strangely enough, Diana Wynyard appeared in only one of the films directed by her husband, Carol Reed: Kipps (1941).

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