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Monday, December 06, 2010

When Sally Met Spidey

OK, here's a poser to test your brains this bright Monday morning. What links this...

...to this?

You'll recognise Spider-Man, I have no doubt. But you might not recognise  'Spotlight on Sally', which was an Arthur Ferrier-drawn cartoon strip that appeared in the News of the World back in the 1940s.

So what connects the two?

The answer is Eileen Bennett. This lady here...

Eileen Bennett was a West End actress who appeared as a actress in a number of mostly lighthearted films in the late 1930s and early 1940s, amongst them Q Planes starring Laurence Olivier and Back-Room Boy starring Arthur Askey before earning more substantial roles opposite George Formby in Much Too Shy (1942, available on YouTube) and with Stewart Granger in Thursday's Child (1943). She played the young female lead in Arsenic and Old Lace at the Strand Theatre in the West End for two years and also had major roles in over a dozen BBC radio plays and several dramas in the early days of BBC Television.

She was also the model for Sally in Arthur Ferrier's famous News of the World strip, as can be seen in the Pathe newsreel below, although she gave up modelling not long after she graduated from RADA.


Eileen Bennett was born in London in 8 July 1920 and married Col. Thomas West Hammond Jr. in July 1945. Hammond, born in San Rafael, CA, on 1 June 1908, was a career soldier, who had graduated from West Point Military Academy. He had previously been married to Jane Allen Runyon in 1937 and had one son, Thomas West Hammond, born in 1942, before his wife died in 1943.

Thomas and Eileen had two children, David (born in Paris, 7 October 1946) and Nicholas (born in Washington, DC, 15 May 1950). The family moved to Europe in around 1956 and, after his mother took him to see My Fair Lady at a London theatre in 1959, young Nicholas decided that he, too, wanted to become an actor. And he did. The family moved back to America when he was 10 and within a couple of years he began appearing on TV and had a small role in Lord of the Flies. In 1965 he had his biggest break when he played Friedrich, the eldest of the von Trapp children, in The Sound of Music.

And twelve years later he played Peter Parker/Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man TV series. And that, dear readers, is the link: the actress who modeled for Sally is the mother of the actor who played Spider-Man.

(* My thanks to Nicholas for additional details of his mother's acting career.)

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