Thursday, 23 July 2015

Nova Pilbeam R.I.P.

Nova Pilbeam, who appeared in such films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Tudor Rose (1936), and Young and Innocent (1937), died on July 17 2015 at the age of 95.

Nova Pilbeam was born in Wimbledon, London on November 15 1919. Her father,  Arnold Pilbeam, was a theatre manager and actor. It was quite natural, then, that Miss Pilbeam should begin acting while very young. She made her professional debut on stage when she was only twelve years old. It was not long before she made her film debut in Little Friend in 1934. That same year she appeared in her most famous role, that of young kidnap victim  Betty Lawrence in The Man Who Knew Too Much. In 1936 she starred as Lady Jane Grey in Tudor Rose. For the remainder of the Thirties she appeared in the films Young and Innocent (1936), Cheer Boys Cheer (1939), and Pastor Hall (1940).  She had been considered for the role of the Second Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca (1940), but the part ultimately went to Joan Fontaine.  She made her television debut in the production Prison Without Bars in 1939. Nova Pilbeam also appeared on stage. When she was sixteen years old she played Peter Pan at the London Palladium.

During the Forties Miss Pilbeam appeared in the films Spring Meeting (1941), Banana Ridge (1942), The Next of Kin (1942), Yellow Canary (1943), This Man Is Mine (1946), Green Fingers (1947), and Counterblast (1948).  In the Forties she continued to appear on stage, appearing at the Old Vic in such plays as The Seagull and Ah, Wilderness!.  Her final appearance on screen was in the 1951 television production The Shining Hour

In 1950 Miss Pilbeam married radio journalist Alexander Whyte. She retired from acting to concentrate on her family.

Although her career was brief, there can be no doubt that Nova Pilbeam was a talented actress. This was in evidence even when she was very young. She gave an fine performance as Jane Grey in Tudor Rose. She was also impressive in Young and Innocent. playing Erica Burgoyne, the daughter of a police officer who falls in love with a man falsely accused of murder. Even playing the kidnapped daughter in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Miss Pilbeam showed a great deal of talent. I rather suspect that if her career had been longer, Nova Pilbeam would be very well known today.

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