Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scream Queen Hazel Court Passes On

Actress Hazel Court passed on Tuesday at the age of 82 from a heart attack. She is perhaps best known for her roles in horror films from both Hammer Films and American International. She played opposite such greats as Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Boris Karloff.

Hazel Court was born in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham on February 10, 1926. Her father was a professional cricketer. She was only fourteen she studied drama at both the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Alexander Theatre in Birmingham. As a teenager she was already appearing in stage productions. She made her film debut in a bit part in the movie Champagne Charlie in 1944 Her first credited role was playing in the movie Dreaming in 1945. She won a British Critics Award for her role as the handicapped girl May Raeburn in the 1946 film Carnival.

Starting with the drama Root of All Evil in 1947, Court would make several movies for Gainsborough Pictures. Although she preferred comedy, she played in a variety of movies early in her career, appearing in the crime drama Dear Murderer, the thriller Forbidden, and the drama My Sister and I. From 1944 to 1948, she would make only two comedies--the swashbuckler adventure Meet Me at Dawn and Holiday Camp (her last film with Gainsborough).

Hazel Court was absent from the silver screen from 1948 to 1952, her last film having been My Sister and I in 1948. When she returned to the big screen in 1952, it would be in her first horror film. Ghost Ship (not to be confused with the Val Lewton movie) was written and directed by B-movie master Vernon Sewell. For the next few years she would appear in such varied films as Counterspy, Devil Girl from Mars, and Hour of Decision.

The year 1957 would mark a turning point in Hazel Court's career. It was the year that she made her television debut, guest starring on The Buccaneers and cast as a regular on the ATV series The Gentle Killers. More importantly, it was in 1957 that she appeared in Hammer Films' Curse of Frankenstein. The film established Hazel Court as an undisputed scream queen and a cult star. She would have her own TV series, Dick and the Duchess, from 1957 to 1958. She would guest star in TV shows such as Playhouse 90, The Invisible Man, Bonanza, Danger Man, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Thriller. She also appeared in such movies as The Shakedown, Model for Murder, and Breakout.

Of course, it would be for her horror movies for which she would become best known. She once more appeared with Christopher Lee in Hammer's The Man Who Could Cheat Death. She was also the lead actress in Dr. Blood's Coffin. That having been said, it would be for Roger Corman's American International that she would make the bulk of her horror movies. She starred in Premature Burial, The Raven, and The Masque of the Red Death.

Hazel Court semi-retired from acting in 1964 to concentrate on being a wife and mother. Thereafter she made only scattered appearances on such televsion shows as Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, Burke's Law, and The Wild Wild West. Her last appearance on film was a cameo in Omen III: The Final Conflict in 1981.

Sadly, it seems that more attention has been paid to Hazel Court's most noticeable assets and her ability to scream in fear than the considerable talent she actually possessed. While the movies she made often gave her little more to work with than looking beautiful and screaming profusely, she was often very impressive in her various guest shots on TV shows. Examples of such are her roles in the episode "Arthur" of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the episode "The Contessa" of Danger Man, the episode "The Mink Coat" of The Invisible Man. Although she was not sometimes given the opportunity to display it, Hazel Court was indeed an actress of considerable talent.

1 comment:

Bobby D. said...

I will have to look her up...and hope that TCM will play her films soon.