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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 00:14 GMT
Plowright steals the limelight
Joan Plowright
Plowright is a star of stage and screen
Joan Plowright, one of the UK's most esteemed actressess, has been made a dame in the New Year's Honours List.

Joan Ann Plowright was born in Brigg, North Lincolnshire, in 1929, the daughter of a local newspaper editor and an amateur actress.

She was educated in Scunthorpe and trained at London's Old Vic, making her stage debut in Croydon in 1948.

Plowright made her name at the Royal Court theatre in productions such as John Osbourne's The Entertainer.

She made her screen debut in Moby Dick in 1956 but it was the film version of The Entertainer which brought her attention, starring as the daughter of Laurence Olivier in 1960.

Plowright married unknown actor Roger Gage in the 1950s but it was Lord Olivier who was the love of her life - she married him in 1961 after he divorced Gone with the Wind actress Vivien Leigh.


She remained married to the legendary actor until his death in 1989. The couple had three children.

She went on to appear in The Three Sisters (1970) with her husband, who also directed the film.

Plowright managed to combine a stage and film career during the 1960s, often appearing at London's National Theatre where Olivier was the first artistic director.

She won a Tony Award for her Broadway appearance in A Taste of Honey in 1961.

The actress took a break from the stage during the late 1960s to raise her children, director Richard Olivier and actress daughters Tamsin and Julie-Kate.


Her film career became more prolific in the 1980s, appearing in Brimstone and Treacle, Britannia Hospital (both 1982), Wagner (1983), Revolution (1985), Drowning by Numbers (1987) and The Dressmaker (1988).

In 1990 she starred in I Love You to Death with Tracey Ullman and Avalon with Aidan Quinn.

Her role in Mike Newell's film Enchanted April in 1992 won her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in 1993. Although she failed to win the award, she picked up a Golden Globe for the role in the same year.

Joan Plowright
Her talents were sometimes overshadowed by her husband's

She also won a Golden Globe for 1992's US television film, Stalin.

Plowright's most recent films include The Last Action Hero, where she played a school teacher who tried to interest her class with a clip from Olivier's Hamlet (1948).

She also starred in Franco Zeffirelli's Tea with Mussolini and this year's comedy, Bringing Down the House, with Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.

She continues to appear on the stage - her last major role was in Zefferelli's Absolutely! (Perhaps) at London's Wyndham's theatre in the summer of 2003.

Her autobiography, And That's Not All: The Memoirs of Joan Plowright, was published in 2001 and revealed what it was like living with legend Olivier.

She nursed her husband through a series of illnesses in the last years of his life.

Plowright has been honoured by the Queen once before, when she was appointed a CBE in 1970.



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