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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Forsyte Saga actress dies
Nyree Dawn Porter and Kenneth More
Nyree Dawn Porter in The Forsyte Saga
Actress Nyree Dawn Porter, best known for her role in The Forsyte Saga, has died at her London home aged 61.

Ms Porter enjoyed a long and successful career on stage and screen.

Her performances gripped a generation of viewers

Alan Yentob, BBC
The cause of her death was not immediately known.

A spokesman for her agent said she had not been suffering from a long illness and her death had come as a great shock to her friends and family.

Nyree Dawn Porter
The actress' death has shocked her friends
He said: "She was a talented and well-respected actress who will be sadly missed by the acting fraternity."

Alan Yentob, BBC Director of Drama, Entertainment and Children's Television, described Ms Porter as one of the earliest stars of television drama.

"Although she had a considerable career in the theatre, she was among the first generation of actors to make their name on television" he said.

"Her performances gripped a generation of viewers."

Stage and screen

Ms Porter, whose first name means little flower in Maori, was born in New Zealand, the daughter of a butcher.

Nyree Dawn Porter in The Forsyte Saga
The character of Irene captured the hearts of millions
At 14, she began to show promise as a performer and at 20 won an acting scholarship to London.

Her first TV job was in the title role of BBC2's serial Madame Bovary.

She won a host of admirers for her role as Irene Forsyte in The 1967 series The Forsyte Saga.

More than 160 million viewers world-wide in 26 countries followed the series, based around the ups and downs of a well-to-do Victorian family.

Based on the novels of John Galsworthy, it is one of the most celebrated British period dramas ever made.

In 1991 she re-created the role for a stage revival of the epic.

Ms Porter turned down the lead role in the cult TV series The Avengers, taking a part of Contessa Caroline di Contini in the less popular series The Protectors.

Honour

She was awarded an OBE in 1971 for services to television and starred in a number of other well-remembered programmes such as the 1980 drama For Maddie With Love.

She played the part of Dame Margot Fonteyn in the 1998 film Hilary and Jackie.

She had one daughter Talya, who was born in 1975 from her second marriage to actor Robin Halstead. They divorced in 1987.

Her first husband Bryon O'Leary died of a drugs overdose in 1970.

Recently, the actress was one of a group of high-profile women who came forward to tell police about a series of allegedly obscene letters they had received over the course of many years.

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The BBC's Rebecca Jones
"It was television that made her famous"
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