BY: GREGORY KATZ
LONDON – British actress Susannah York, one of the leading stars of British and Hollywood films in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has died in London. She was 72.
York received an Oscar nomination in 1970 for her role in “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also appeared in the classic “A Man For All Seasons” before going on to play Christopher Reeve’s biological mother in the “Superman” series of movies.
She died of cancer Saturday at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Her son, the actor Orlando Wells, said York was an incredibly brave woman who did not complain about her illness and a “truly wonderful mother.” He said she went into the hospital on Jan. 6 after experiencing shoulder pain.
York had a long, distinguished career on film, television and on stage, but she is best remembered for her early roles, when she had an immediate impact that started with her 1963 role as Albert Finney’s love interest in the memorable period piece romp “Tom Jones.”
With its tongue-in-cheek sensuality and gentle send-up of the British aristocracy, the film is remembered as an early landmark in 1960s cinema, and York’s unmistakable presence added to its appeal. Her long blond hair, stunning blue eyes and quick-witted repartee brought her a string of excellent roles.
York acted with major stars like Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, George C. Scott and many others, stirring some controversy with her daring portrayal of a lesbian in the 1968 drama “The Killing of Sister George.”
In 1972, York won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. Her film work tailed off as London’s “Swinging Sixties” era faded into cultural history, but she returned to play Superman’s mother.
Actress and politician Glenda Jackson, who starred with York in the 1975 film version of “The Maids,” said York’s death “came as a shock.”
Jackson said York had been a pleasure to work with and was “too young to go.”
York branched out into television and stage work, earning a number of accolades and awards throughout her long career. She made appearances in several successful TV shows including “The Love Boat” in the U.S. and “Holby City” in Britain.
Her stage work continued for much of her career and included several one-woman shows.
British director Richard Bracewell, who worked with York later in her career, described her as “electrifying” once the cameras started to roll.
Wells said his mother was incredibly versatile throughout her working life.
“There was the glamorous Hollywood aspect — she has worked with everyone from John Huston to Sydney Pollack — as well as the big commercial films like Superman,” he said.
Wells, an accomplished television actor, said his mother also had a passion for writing.
“She wrote two children’s books, which is great for her grandchildren and something we will pass on to them,” said Wells.
York was born in London and studied at the storied Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which has tutored many of Britain’s top actors throughout the years.
York had two children — son Orlando and daughter Sasha — with her husband, Michael Wells, before they divorced. She is survived by her children and several grandchildren.
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