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Georgina Cookson

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Few actors manage to stop a Broadway production on its first night with a show-stealing performance, but Georgina Cookson’s fiery and funny display of the tango in Christopher Fry’s Ring Around the Moon at the Martin Beck Theatre in 1950 did just that.

After graduating from RADA, she found constant work in both the regions and the West End, notably appearing alongside Hermione Gingold in the wartime revue Rise Above It at the ‘Q’ (1940) and subsequently the Comedy Theatre (1941). That same decade saw her in Love Goes to Press, with Irene Worth, at the Embassy and Duchess theatres (1946) and briefly on Broadway the following year, School for Spinsters (Criterion, 1947), Portrait of Hickory (Embassy, Swiss Cottage, 1948), and opposite Jack Buchanan in Don’t Listen, Ladies! at the St James Theatre in 1949.

She was no less busy in the 50s, with notable appearances including Lionel Shapiro’s The Bridge for Bristol Old Vic (1952); 13 for Dinner (Duke of York’s, 1953); the world premiere of I Capture the Castle, with Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers and a young Roger Moore, which opened at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre before a run in the Aldwych in 1954; and Robert Morley’s Six Months’ Grace (Phoenix, 1957). Her last stage roles included a national tour of My Fair Lady in 1988 and, alongside Peggy Mount and Jack Douglas, A Breath of Spring in 1990.

Cookson made her film debut in the 1945 George Formby vehicle I Didn’t Do It, following it in 1948 with Woman Hater, starring alongside Stewart Granger, and the television drama Sarah Simple the following year. She showed a deft gift for comedy, playing the much put-upon wife of Terry Thomas in 1957’s The Naked Truth, and went on to make The Girl on the Boat with Norman Wisdom (1961) and The Punch and Judy Man with Tony Hancock in 1963. Other film appearances included Darling and Catacombs (both 1965), The Picasso Summer (1969), and Steptoe and Son (1972).

On television, she appeared in Frankie Howerd inÉ, Emma, Danger Man, The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling, the ITV Play of the Week, The Prisoner, UFO, and, her swansong on the small screen, Number 10, Terence Feely’s behind-closed-doors series on prime ministerial life in Downing Street, in 1983.

She spent her later years in Ibiza with her third (of four) husband, Derek Mitchell, one of many ex-pat stars, including Terry Thomas, Diana Rigg and Denholm Elliott, to be found at the celebrity haunt Sandy’s Bar.

Born in Cornwall on December 19, 1918 (her parents were the racing driver Roger Cookson and journalist and novelist Sybil Taylor, who wrote under the nom de plume Sydney Tremayne), she retired to Australia in 1996, and died in her sleep, aged 92, in Sydney on October 1. She is survived by a son and a daughter from her second marriage.

Michael Quinn

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