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Anna Lee

Updated on August 10, 2016
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I'm a fan of classic TV shows and films. My articles focus on the character actors and actress who usually played supporting roles.

Bio Stats

Born: 2 January 1913 (Ightham, Kent, England)

Death: 14 May 2004 (Beverly Hills, California, USA)

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

Film and TV Appearances: 123+

Years Active: 1932 - 2003

Award Nominations: 5 (5 Wins)

How Green was My Valley (1941)

as Bronwyn
as Bronwyn

Early Life

Joan Boniface Winnifrith was born in 1913. A daughter of a clergyman, she was encouraged by her father to pursue a performing career. She attended the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

After changing her name to Anna Lee, she made her stage debut in 1932 and toured with the London Repertory Theatre in such plays as Jane Eyre and The Constant Nymph. She also appeared in minor roles in a number of films, signing with Gaumont British in 1935. At one point, early in her career, she was known as the "British Bombshell" and later on as the "Queen of the Quota Quickies".

In 1934, she married director Robert Stevenson and moved with him to the United States of America in 1939. They remained married until 1944 and had two children.

During the Second World War, she visited military bases on goodwill tours, performing with Jack Benny and others. General George Patton gave her a special medal for her efforts and made her an honorary private in the Sixth Army.

The Sound of Music (1965)

as Sister Margaretta
as Sister Margaretta

Film

After making her film debut in 1932, she made numerous appearances in British films before heading to Hollywood. Some of the British films she appeared in were Say It with Music (1932); Chelsea Life (1933); Rolling in Money (1934); The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935); The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936); King Solomon's Mines (1937); The Four Just Men (1939); and Return to Yesterday (1940).

Other films she appeared included My Life with Caroline (1941); Flying Tigers (1942); Forever and a Day (1943); Summer Storm (1944); Bedlam (1946); The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947); Fort Apache (1948); Prison Warden (1949); Gideon's Day (1958); The Horse Soldiers (1959); The Big Night (1960); Two Rode Together (1961); Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962); For Those Who Think Young (1964); 7 Women (1966); In Like Flint (1967); Bearheart of the Great Northwest (1978); The Right Hand Man (1987); Listen to Me (1989); and What Can I Do? (1994).

She became one of the members of John Ford's informal acting company after appearing in How Green Was My Valley (1941), eventually appearing in about eight of his films.

Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

as Maria Maylik in the episode "The Martyr" (season 4)
as Maria Maylik in the episode "The Martyr" (season 4)

Television

Lee made her television debut in an episode of the TV series The Clock in 1950. Some of the other TV shows she guest-starred on were The Ford Theatre Hour; The Web; Robert Montgomery Presents; Kraft Theatre; Studio One in Hollywood; The Loretta Young Show; Hawaiian Eye; Lock Up; The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Daniel Boone; Family Affair; The Streets of San Francisco; The F.B.I.; Mannix; B.J. and the Bear; and Glitter.

TV Movies and mini-series she appeared in were The Movie Maker (1963); My Darling Daughters' Anniversary (1973); Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977); The Beasts are on the Streets (1978); The Night Rider (1979); and Scruples (1980).

She also had a short-lived role in the TV series The Charles Farrell Show (1956) as Doris Mayfield.

In 1978, she began her 25-year association with the daytime TV series General Hospital (including its spin-off Port Charles) where she played the role of Lila Quartermaine. Late in 2003, the producers of General Hospital decided to take her off contract which angered many fans.

Awards and Honors

For her role in General Hospital, Lee received a number of awards...

  • Soapy Awards (1983): Favorite Woman in a Mature Role
  • Soapy Awards (1984): Favorite Woman in a Mature Role
  • Soap Opera Digest Awards (1988): Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role: Daytime
  • Daytime Emmy Awards (2004): Lifetime Achievement Award (awarded one week after her death).

In 1982, she received a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to drama.

She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993 for her services to film. It is located at the North side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard.

Remember even though the outside world might be raining, if you keep on smiling the sun will soon show its face and smile back at you.

— Anna Lee

Following her divorce from her first husband, Robert Stevenson, she married George Stafford and had 3 children. This marriage ended in divorce in 1964. Her third marriage was to author Robert Nathan from 1970 until his death in 1985.

During the 1950s, her name was confused with another actress who had communist sympathies. As a result, she was blacklisted and unable to work. For a time, she wrote TV scripts under an assumed before she convinced director John Ford to let her act in one of his movies.

In 1982, she injured her spine in a car accident, Paralyzed from the waist down, she continued to act in a wheelchair until the end of her career.

Anna Lee died on 14 May 2004 and was buried in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles.

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