Once tipped to be the next Vivien Leigh, Maureen Swanson was seen in two plays at the Cambridge in London, The Happiest Millionaire (1957-58) and the short-lived Denis Cannan comedy, Who’s Your Father? (1958). But she was better known as a Rank starlet, a term she loathed. Her first love was ballet and she was chosen to be a student dancer with Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company. But Ninette de Valois saw her as “a personality dancer” and advised her to take up acting instead.
A talent scout recommended her to director John Huston, who was then casting the 1952 Rank movie Moulin Rouge. In her cinema debut, she played opposite Jose Ferrer’s Toulouse-Lautrec. There followed A Town Like Alice (1956), The Spanish Dancer (1956, with Dirk Bogarde) and Robbery Under Arms (1957, with Peter Finch).
She left showbusiness four years later to marry the second Lord Ednam, a union that his father, the Earl of Dudley, refused to accept, preferring to play bridge at his club rather than attend the wedding. When he died in 1969, Lord Ednam succeeded to the earldom and Swanson became the Countess of Dudley.
During her cinema days, she had an affair with Stephen Ward, who was commissioned to draw her portrait. Ten years later, Ward became a central figure in the Profumo affair, the scandal surrounding war secretary John Profumo, who had an affair with call-girl Christine Keeler, said to be the mistress of a Russian spy. In later years, Lady Dudley twice won substantial damages against the publishers of books that suggested she was involved in circumstances connected with the scandal.
Maureen Swanson, the Countess of Dudley, who was born on November 25, 1932, died on November 16, aged 78.
Richard Anthony Baker