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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shelagh Fraser

Our first Robin Annual author for a while...

Shelagh Fraser is probably the most famous of all contributors to Robin and Robin Annual, although she may be better known to most as Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru in Star Wars than under her own name. Fraser was a prolific actress, appearing in dozens of films ranging from Welcome, Mr Washington in 1944 to Edith's Finger, released in 2000, including The History of Mr. Polly (1949), The Witches (1966) Till Death Do Us Part (1969), Doomwatch (1972) and Hope and Glory (1987). She also made numerous TV appearances in Z-Cars, Gideon's Way, Public Eye, Dixon of Dock Green, Follyfoot, Softly Softly, Shadows, The Professionals, A Touch of Frost, Heartbeat and Midsomer Murders. Her finest role was probably as Jean Ashton in A Family at War.

Born in Purley, Surrey, on 25 November 1920 (not 1922 as is almost universally given), Shelagh Mary Fraser was the sister of ballerina and actress Moyra Fraser. Her father, John Newton Mappin Fraser, was in the jewellery business and travelled widely; sister Moyra was born in Sydney, Australia, where her father was sent to launch a branch of the famous Mappin and Webb company. After an early battle with spinal tuberculosis, Shelagh Fraser attended St. Christopher's School in Kingswood, Surrey, winning a scholarship to a drama school attached to the Croydon Repertory Theatre where she made her acting debut in 1938.

As well as her movie and TV appearances, Fraser had a long career in the theatre and appeared in more than 500 radio plays. For a while she was a member of the BBC Repertory Company.

She was married to director and producer Anthony Squire on 15 December 1961 although the marriage was dissolved.

She died in London on 29 August 2000 (not 13 September 2000 as the IMDB states and widely copied elsewhere).

The National Portrait Gallery has a couple of small pictures of Fraser dating from the 1950s, including one of her looking at a mural of Siamese cats.

I mention the latter because Shelagh Fraser's contribution to Robin was the story of Princess Tai-Lu, a magical Siamese cat which she co-wrote with Billy Thatcher, a fellow theatre actor/writer. The artists for the strip were Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone.

Books
Gipsy's Great Adventure by Victor Becker; English adaptation by Shelagh Fraser, illus. Lucien Lowen. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1951.
Tai-Lu Talking, with Billy Thatcher, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Heinemann, 1952.
Tai-Lu's Birthday Party, with Billy Thatcher, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Twirly Books, 1954.
Tai-Lu Flies Abroad, with Billy Thatcher, illus. Kenneth Rowell. London, Chatto & Windus, 1955.
Captain Johnnie, illus. Derek Crowe. London, Jonathan Cape, 1965.

Non-fiction
Come to Supper! by Moie Charles, as told to Shelagh Fraser. London, Chatto & Windus, 1956.
Say--Cheese!, with Moie Charles. London, Chatto & Windus, 1958.
The Cheeses of Old England. London, Abelard-Schuman, 1960.
Clare Goes Cooking. A cookbook in pictures for young people, illus. Pauline Bewick. London, Arco Publications, 1962.

Plays
Judith (performed at the R.A. Theatre, 1949).
Always Afternoon, by Dido Milroy, based on a story by Shelagh Fraser (performed at the Embassy Theatre, 1950; Garrick Theatre, 1950).
Fools of Fortune. A play in three acts, with Victor Becker. London, Samuel French, 1953.

Radio Plays
The Maid's Room.
The Salt of the Earth (adapted from the novel by Rebecca West).
The World My Wilderness (adapted from the novel by Rose Macauley).

(The above episode of Princess Tai-Lu comes from Robin Annual 5 (1957) and is © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

1 comment:

  1. Lovely write up - have been enjoying Shelagh in a Family At War again recently on Talking Pictures TV and its nice to find out about this creative side of her career! Thank you!

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