1913-07-24

CORAL BROWNE was an Australian-American stage and screen actress born on this date (d: 1991); Her extensive theatre credits included Broadway productions of Macbeth (1956), The Rehearsal (1963) and The Right Honourable Gentlman (1965). She won the 1984 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for the BBC TV film An Englishman Abroad (1983). Her film appearances included Auntie Mame (1958), The Killing of Sister George (1968), The Ruling Class (1972) and Dreamchild (1985).

When told by the Royal Shakespear Company that there was no suitable role in their upcoming production of King Lear for her husband, Philip Pearman, she demanded a script and running through it she found the page she was looking for. “There you are”, she said, “the perfect part. A small camp near Dover.” Browne’s language was colorful, and an unauthorized biography of her, This Effing Lady, was published. She was a devout Catholic (by conversion). The two aspects came together in a story of her standing outside Brompton Oratory after Sunday mass when an actor came up to her with gossip about who was sleeping with someone else’s wife. She stopped him in his tracks with: “I don’t want to hear this filth. Not with me standing here in a state of fucking grace.”

Alan Bennett: “When I said to Coral that I’d thought [Cecil] Beaton was gay she remarked, ‘Not when he was with me, darling. Like a rat up a drainpipe.’”

The younger Australian performer Barry Humphries (aka “Dame Edna Everage”) paid tribute to Browne at her memorial service with an appropriate poem: “She left behind an emptiness/A gap, a void, a trough/The world is quite a good deal less/Since Coral Browne fucked off.

Her marriage to Vincent Price produced two offspring, including her lesbian daughter Victoria who has declared that while the marriage was a love match, it was also a cover for both her parents biseuality.