Adorned by a cascading halo of rich red, ringletted hair, Angharad Rees was one of the most recognisable faces on television in the second half of the 1970s, becoming a household name as the feisty servant Demelza in the BBC’s popular Sunday night drama Poldark.
Adapted from the novels by Winston Graham, Poldark was a racy tale of love, lust, feuding neighbours and overriding ambition set against the backdrop of a 19th-century Cornish tin mine. Running for 29 episodes between 1975-77, at its peak it attracted 15 million British viewers and was sold to more than 40 countries worldwide.
The greatest indication of her popularity at the time came in 1977, when she appeared as a guest on that year’s The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show.
The daughter of the noted psychiatrist Linford Rees, she was born in London on July 16, 1949, raised in Cardiff and after studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, won a scholarship to train at Rose Bruford. Postgraduate studies in Madrid followed, where she also briefly taught English before returning to the UK to work as an assistant stage manager and actor at the West Cliff Theatre in Clacton-on-Sea.
She made her television debut as a parlour maid in a 1968 adaptation of Shaw’s Man and Superman, appearing alongside Eric Porter and Maggie Smith. Appearances in various television drama and comedy staples quickly followed, including The Avengers, The Wednesday Play, Doctor in the House, Crown Court and Within These Walls.
Her more notable small-screen roles included the daughter of Winston Churchill (played by Richard Burton) in The Gathering Storm (1974), Celia in As You Like It opposite Helen Mirren (1978), the sitcom Close to Home (1989-90) and the sporting drama Trainer (1992).
The few films she made included the 1971 Hammer horror Hands of the Ripper, the following year’s star-studded version of Under Milk Wood (headlined by Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Elizabeth Taylor), and most recently, The Wolves of Kromer, a 1998 British-made fantasy narrated by Boy George.
On stage, she appeared in It’s a Two Foot Six Inches Above The Ground World (Wyndham’s Theatre, 1970), The Millionairess (Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1978-79), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1975) and A Handful of Dust (1982, both at the Lyric, Hammersmith) and as Perdita in A Winter’s Tale (Young Vic, 1981). Her other Shakespearean roles included Ophelia (Welsh Theatre Company, 1969) and Hermione (Sherman Theatre Cardiff, 1985).
She also toured in Peter Hall’s 1993 production of An Ideal Husband with Michael Dennison and Dulcie Gray, and appeared regularly with John Mortimer in his self-devised anthology of poetry and prose, Mortimer’s Miscellany.
She went into semi-retirement in the early 1980s to concentrate on designing jewellery – some of which featured in the 2007 film Elizabeth: The Golden Age – and opened a shop in Knightsbridge, London.
In 1973, she married the actor Christopher Cazenove, with whom she had two sons, the eldest of which was killed in a car accident in 1999. After her divorce in 1994, she had a relationship with Alan Bates that ended in 2002. In 2005, she married the construction magnate, Sir David McAlpine, who survives her, along with her youngest son.
She died, aged 63, from pancreatic cancer, on July 21.
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