Star Archive

Virginia McKenna (1931 - )

If you were an actress in 50s cinema, then life was tough. If you weren't an English Rose type then there were few roles available to you; and if you were, then Virginia McKenna got the best of them.

She was born in London and studied at Central. After a short period in rep, and a couple of West End plays she moved into films and her rise was almost embarrassingly swift. She had a small role in The Cruel Sea; but since this was such a big hit and she was one of the few women in the cast, her career was made.

She showed audiences she could act in A Town Like Alice, which got her a BAFTA. Around this time she divorced Denholm Elliott and married Bill Travers. They would star together in most of their subsequent films. She took a break from her film career in the early sixties to bring up their children.

She returned to the screen in the smash-hit Born Free. This true life tale about returning a lion to the wild stimulated her and Travers' interest in wildlife and they devoted most of their time from this point on to the charity that became the Born Free Foundation.

Virginia McKenna


1952 The Second Mrs Tanqueray
1952 Father's Doing Fine
1953 The Cruel Sea
1953 The Oracle
1955 Simba
1955 The Ship that Died of Shame
1956 A Town Like Alice
1957 The Barretts of Wimpole Street
1957 The Smallest Show on Earth
1958 Carve Her name With Pride
1958 Passionate Summer
1959 The Wreak of the Mary Deare
1961 One Living, Two Dead
1966 Born Free
1969 Ring of Bright Water
1969 An Elephant Called Slowly
1970 Waterloo
1974 Swallows and Amazons
1982 Blood Link (Ger.)
1994 Staggered
1998 Sliding Doors

 Virginia McKenna at Amazon UK

 Virginia McKenna at Amazon US