Star Archive

Anna Lee MBE (1913 - 2004)

When Anna Lee died she had been virtually forgotten by the country of her birth, yet she remained a star in the US.

The first half of her career followed a conventional path: middle-class upbringing (dad a vicar), drama school, rep, West End, film bit parts, long-term contract. She even married her director, Robert Stevenson, who handled most of her best films. By the end of the 30s she was an established star. Then came the war.

Stevenson was a pacifist and his British work had won him a contract with David O. Selznick so Hollywood looked a lot more attractive than Britain. Naturally his wife and children went with him. Anna Lee wasn't a big enough name to get quite the same kicking in the press that other fleeing stars, notably Gracie Fields, got; but she never regained the public esteem she lost. 

Like many British actresses in Hollywood, Lee found her previous films career counted for little. Unlike most British actresses, going home wasn't an option, and she quickly settled for below-the-title roles. Ultimately, this gave her career a staying power it might otherwise have lacked. The marriage to Stevenson ended before the war did, but she continued to work in Hollywood. Though her roles were rarely large, she stayed busy.

Her Britishness got her a role in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley. She became part of Ford's informal repertory company and appeared in many of his films, including her only post-war British film Gideon's Day.

Though the seventies she worked increasingly in television. In 1978 she got her greatest role as Lila Quartermain in the day-time soap opera General Hospital.  She stayed in the role for over twenty five years. Even a car crash in 1981 which left her paralysed from the waist down couldn't stop her, and she continued to perform in a wheelchair. Her run ended a few months before her death when her contract was downsized.   

It is interesting to speculate what would have happened to Anna Lee if she had stayed in Britain. Would she have gone from strength to strength like Margaret Lockwood or would she have virtually disappeared like Jane Baxter? Either way, it's unlikely she would have appeared in as many classic films, even in bit parts, if she'd stayed. 


1932 Say It with Music
1933 Mayfair Girl
1933 The King's Cup
1933 Chelsea Life
1933 The Bermondsey Kid
1934 Rolling in Money
1934 Mannequin
1934 Lucky Loser
1934 Faces
1934 The Camels are Coming
1935 The Passing of the Third Floor Back
1935 First a Girl
1935 Heat Wave
1936 The Man Who Changed His Mind
1937 O.H.M.S.
1937 King Solomon's Mines
1937 Non-stop New York
1939 Four Just Men
1940 Young Man's Fancy
1940 Return to Yesterday
1940 Seven Sinners (U.S.)
1941 My Life With Caroline (U.S.)
1941 How Green Was My Valley (U.S.)
1942 Flying Tigers (U.S.)
1942 Commandos Strike at Dawn (U.S.)
1943 Forever and a Day (U.S.)
1943 Hangmen Also Die (U.S.)
1943 Flesh and Fantasy (U.S.)
1944 Summer Storm (U.S.)
1946 Bedlam (U.S.)
1946 G.I. War Brides (U.S.)
1947 High Conquest (U.S.)
1947 The Ghost and Mrs Muir (U.S.)
1948 Fort Apache (U.S.)
1948 Best Man Wins (U.S.)
1949 Prison Warden (U.S.)
1958 Gideon's Day
1958 The Last Hurrah (U.S.)
1959 The Horse Soldiers (U.S.)
1959 This Earth is Mine (U.S.)
1959 Crimson Kimono (U.S.)
1960 Jet Over the Atlantic (U.S.)
1960 The Big Night (U.S.)
1961 Two Rode Together (U.S.)
1961 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (U.S.)
1962 Jack the Giant Killer (U.S.)
1962 Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (U.S.)
1963 The Prize (U.S.)
1964 The Unsinkable Molly Brown (U.S.)
1964 For Those Who Think Young (U.S.)
1965 The Sound of Music (U.S.)
1966 7 Women (U.S.)
1966 Picture Mommy Dead (U.S.)
1967 In Like Flint (U.S.)
1968 Star! (U.S.)
1987 The Right Hand Man (U.S.)
1987 Beyond the Next Mountain (U.S.)
1989 Listen To Me (U.S.)
1989 Beverley Hills Brats (U.S.)
1994 What Can I Do?

 Anna Lee at Amazon UK

 Anna Lee at Amazon US