Margaret Leighton

Margaret Leighton

Leighton in 1959.
Born (1922-02-26)26 February 1922
Barnt Green, Worcestershire, England, UK
Died 13 January 1976(1976-01-13) (aged 53)
Chichester, Sussex, England, UK
Cause of death Multiple sclerosis
Years active 1938-1976
Spouse(s) Max Reinhardt (1947-1955)
Laurence Harvey (1957-1961)
Michael Wilding (1964-1976) (her death)

Margaret Leighton, CBE (26 February 1922 13 January 1976) was an English actress.[1] She was known for her exquisite sense of grandeur and refinement. She began her career on stage in 1938, and went on to twice win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play; for the original Broadway productions of Separate Tables (1956-57) and The Night of the Iguana (1961-62).

Leighton's film appearances included Under Capricorn (1949), Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951), Carrington V.C. (1955) and The Best Man (1964). She won an Emmy Award in 1971 for a television version of Hamlet. She was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the 1971 film The Go-Between.

Life and career

Born in Barnt Green, Worcestershire, Leighton made her stage debut as Dorothy in Laugh With Me (1938), which was also performed that year for BBC Television. She became a star of the Old Vic. Her Broadway debut was as the Queen in Henry IV (1946) starring Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson during a visit to America of the Old Vic company, which performed a total of five plays from its repertoire before returning to London.

After appearing in two British films, including the starring role of Flora MacDonald opposite David Niven in Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948) and in the popular The Winslow Boy (also 1948), the tall willowy actress played second female lead in Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949) starring Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Michael Wilding. She starred with Walter Pidgeon in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer crime/mystery Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951).

Leighton won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Separate Tables (1956); she won another Tony in that category for The Night of the Iguana (1962), playing the luminous Hannah Jelkes (a role played by Deborah Kerr on film) opposite Bette Davis's Maxine Faulk. Leighton was nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Much Ado About Nothing (1959) opposite John Gielgud and for Tchin-Tchin (1962) opposite Anthony Quinn. She portrayed the wife of an American presidential candidate (Henry Fonda) in the 1964 film The Best Man, written by Gore Vidal.

She had a noteworthy list of TV appearances, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey and Burke's Law. She won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama for Hamlet (1970) and she was nominated for an Emmy in 1966 for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama for four episodes of Dr. Kildare. Her last appearance on Broadway was as Birdie Hubbard in a revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1967) starring Anne Bancroft as Regina Giddens.

For her film role as Mrs. Maudsley in The Go-Between (1970) Leighton won the British BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress. She received a BAFTA nomination for Best British Actress for her role as Valerie Carrington in Carrington V.C. (1955). She received a Hollywood Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for The Go-Between.

Leighton had three husbands: publisher Max Reinhardt (1947–55); actor Laurence Harvey (1957–61); and actor Michael Wilding (1964–76), her death). She had no children. She was awarded the CBE in 1974. Leighton died of multiple sclerosis in 1976, aged 53, in Chichester, Sussex.





  1. Obituary Variety, January 21, 1976, page 111.
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