Cicely Paget-Bowman, the actress who died on May 23 aged 97, enjoyed a career that spanned five decades; she was mainly a stage actress - one of theatreland's brightest - but was probably best known for her film role as Lady Queensberry in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960).
Cicely Paget-Bowman was born at Bedford Park, London, on December 13 1907 and educated at Roland House Girls' School, where she hated academic subjects but loved performing in school plays. After leaving school, she embarked on her stage career with small bit parts at Wyndham's Theatre, before playing in To What Red Hell (1926) at the Gaiety and winning acclaim as Kitty Verdun in Charley's Aunt (1928), in which she played opposite Rex Harrison and Joan Marion. She was Ursula in A Girl's Best Friend (1929) and Mildred, the maid, in Marriage à la Mode (1930).
In February 1935, she joined the repertory company at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, playing leading roles opposite Cary Ellison. In 1938, she joined Frank Napier, Anthony Cope, Hugh Burden and Queenie Leonard in Light Relief, a sketch show for BBC television which was popular with early viewers.
Cicely Paget-Bowman made her film debut in I Give My Heart (1935), a light-hearted operetta with Della Lind, and had a small cameo part in Invitation to the Waltz (1935), a love story set in the time of Napoleon. She played a courtier in Tudor Rose (1936) opposite Nova Pilbeam in the role of Lady Jane Grey, and appeared in Bill Takes a Holiday with Renée Ray.
When, in 1940, the news broke that France had fallen to the Germans, she signed up for the British Voluntary Ambulance Corps and was sent to a field hospital in Chester where she became an ambulance driver. In July 1941, she joined the First Parachute Battalion, serving as the nurse for X Troop 11 SAS, the original airborne commando regiment of the British Army, based at Tatton Park. There she spent the rest of the war, working under conditions of strict secrecy. "They were lovely boys," she recalled. "Everything from lords to villains. The latter were sweet to me; the lords, on the other hand, were the sort who'd pinch my cigarettes in the pub where we used to play darts."
After the war, Cicely Paget-Bowman continued her stage career. She won enthusiastic reviews for her Portia (1945) and for her portrayal of Edith de Berg in Eagle Has Two Heads (1946). She was Eve Blayne in The White Cliffs (1949). During the 1930s she had taken small film parts and after the war she took several grande dame character roles. She was Mrs Hammerbrook in Conspirator (1949), and had small parts in The Miniver Story (1950), Harold French's Isn't Life Wonderful? (1953) and The Man Who Never Was (1956). Her role as Lady Queensberry in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) cast her alongside Peter Finch and James Mason.
During the 1960s she moved into television, taking parts in such series as Z Cars, Dixon of Dock Green, Danger Man, The Troubleshooters and Father, Dear Father. She played opposite Gerald Harper in Hadleigh and was Hatty, the housekeeper, in The Forsyte Saga (1967).
Cicely Paget-Bowman never married.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Daily Telegraph.Read More