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Saturday, September 11, 1999 Published at 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK


British screen siren dies

Chili Bouchier, a screen legend from the silent film era, has died at the age of 89.

The actress was found dead by police in her ground floor flat in Marylebone, central London, late on Thursday night.

The BBC's Alva McNicol: "She starred on the West End stage in The Mousetrap for three years"
The glamorous brunette rose to fame in the 1920s and became Britain's first international screen sex symbol in the 1930s.

She also achieved notoriety for reportedly turning down a marriage proposal, accompanied by a $1m settlement, from the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

'The Brunette Bombshell'

Born Dorothy Irene Boucher in Fulham, west London on 12 September 1909, she went to work at Harrods as a model at the age of 15.

After being fired for being seduced by one of the store's floorwalkers, she responded to a newspaper advertisement offering help getting into movies.

[ image: JP Getty II: Champagne every birthday]
JP Getty II: Champagne every birthday
She shot to fame in the 1927 film Shooting Star, where she was billed as "The Brunette Bombshell".

She became an international star in 1931 with the lead role in Herbert Wilcox's talkie, Carnival.

She appeared in The Blue Danube and Ebb Tide in 1932, and had a starring role as an exotic dancer in Gypsy, in 1936.

Murder in Reverse followed in 1945, in which she played the mother of the 12-year-old Petula Clark.

Bouchier continued being successful on the screen and stage for coming decades, appearing on the West End stage in 1990, at the age of 80, for the production A Little Night Music at the National Theatre.

Welcomed back to Harrods

After she turned down Howard Hughes' proposal she married actor Harry Milton, who left her for an affair with rival star Jessie Matthews. They divorced in 1936.

[ image: Harrods: Fired after seduction]
Harrods: Fired after seduction
She married twice more - to actor Peter De Greef and Australian film director Bluey Hill, who died in 1986. She had no children.

At the age of 80 Mohammed Al Fayed welcomed her back to Harrods, the store which had fired her 55 years earlier, with a champagne birthday party.

In 1996, with the help of a 5,000 cheque from Sir John Paul Getty, whose father was among her lovers, she published her autobiography Shooting Star, and was the subject of television's This is Your Life.

'Fabulous trouper'

Her agent, Vincent Shaw, 74, said on Friday: "She was one of the last of the great pre-war beauties - a fabulous trouper and a lovely lady."

The author Michael Thornton, a close friend, said: "Her life was a rollercoaster. She had known great wealth and acclaim, but sadly died alone in virtual poverty in a tiny council flat supported financially by theatrical charities.

"John Paul Getty was marvellous to her, and always had a crate of champagne delivered to her flat on every birthday. He will be sad to hear of her death."

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