Ms. de Banzie starred in only 17 films, but—like a few others honored here—the quality of her work far exceeded the quantity. She gave a brilliant performance in one of David Lean’s finest films and, in her second most famous role, she reprised a performance that earned her a Tony nomination. But before we get too far, some biographical information is required.
Brenda de Banzie was born in Manchester, England, in 1915 (some sources say 1909, but I’ll go with the reliable Film Encyclopedia). She made her British stage debut in 1935 and honed her acting skills in the theatre throughout the late 1930s and 1940s. She made her first film appearance in 1952 in a supporting role opposite Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer in the murder mystery The Long Dark Hall.
In 1952, she returned to the West End in London and played a wealthy hotel proprietress whose husband plots to kill her in Murder Mistaken. For her performance, she won the prestigious Clarence Derwent Award (given by Equity, the performers’ union) for Best Supporting Actress.
Though film acting honors eluded her, the stage showed its appreciation in 1958 by giving her a Tony nomination as the long-suffering wife of Laurence Olivier’s bitter, middle-aged music hall performer in The Entertainer. She reprised the role for the 1960 film version with Olivier, Roger Livesey, Joan Plowright, and Alan Bates.
With the exceptions of Hobson’s Choice and The Entertainer, Brenda de Banzie didn’t get a lot of good parts, though she was fine in entertaining films such as Doctor at Sea (with Dirk Bogarde), A Matter of Innocence (with Hayley Mills), The Pink Panther, and the 1959 remake of The 39 Steps. Alfred Hitchcock gave her a brief—but very memorable—part as one of the kidnappers in the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Brenda de Banzie died in 1981, at age 65, following surgery on a brain tumor. Her son Antony Marsh became an actor.