When Jill Balcon died, her obituaries were predictable: Daughter of..., Wife of..., Mother of... Yet there was far more to her than that, and if British cinema didn't get to see much of what she could do, at least it got a glimpse.
She was the only daughter of Michael Balcon, one of the greatest producers in British cinema. She was educated at Roedean and, thanks to the beautiful speaking voice that would serve her well in her career, became a continuity announcer at the BBC aged 19. Perhaps unsurprisingly, breaking into films wasn't too difficult. Her first role was as Madeleine Bray in Nicholas Nickleby produced by her dad.
In 1948 she met the poet Cecil Day-Lewis. They began a relationship even though he was twenty one years older than her, married, and having a long-term affair with Rosamund Lehmann. Day-Lewis divorced in order to marry Balcon, which caused a rift between her and her father. It's unlikely to be coincidental that her film career effectively stopped at this point, though there was always television and radio to keep her busy.
There was also family. She had two children: Tamasin and Daniel. Her husband died in 1972 and she edited volumes of his poetry. It wasn't until 1991 that she returned to cinema for Derek Jarman in Edward II.
It's a shame we missed out on the best years of her career, but then again, 50s cinema would probably have just wasted her talents like it did with so many other women. At least we still have the wonderful poetry readings to remember he by.
|1948||Good Time Girl|
|1948||Saraband for Dead Lovers|
|1949||The Lost People|
|1999||The Importance of Being Earnest|
Jill Balcon at Amazon UK
Jill Balcon at Amazon US