The actor Hildegard Neil, who has died aged 84, introduced authority to the various roles she took in British theatre and movie for greater than half a century. She was additionally prolific on tv, the place she shall be remembered by many viewers for a matriarchal position in a well-liked kids’s journey sequence.
As Emma Bulman in Boy Dominic (1974), she is left destitute along with her son Dominic (performed by Murray Dale) after her seafaring husband, Charles (Richard Todd), goes lacking, presumed lifeless, when his ship runs aground off the coast of Africa. Within the 13-episode sequence she sells their comfy residence in Greenwich, south-east London, and strikes to Yorkshire, the place she runs a boarding home with a drunken sailor, William Woodcock (Brian Blessed), who had served underneath her husband on the Battle of Trafalgar.
The sequence ends with the sudden return of the “misplaced” captain. The sequel, merely titled Dominic, started in 1976 with the information that Emma and Charles had been brutally murdered.
Neil beforehand acted alongside Blessed within the ITV Playhouse manufacturing Double Agent in 1969. In actual life they married 9 years later. Blessed was recognized for his booming voice, lengthy, bushy beard and spirit of journey, which took him up Mount Everest and Kilimanjaro, and impressed him to change into the oldest man to achieve the North Magnetic Pole on foot. Whereas Neil was by no means blissful in regards to the dangers concerned, she didn’t attempt to cease him from occurring these expeditions.
Her movie work included components as Roger Moore’s spouse in The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970), and the spouse whose adulterous husband (George Segal) is having an affair with a divorcee (Glenda Jackson) in A Contact of Class (1973). It was Neil’s flip to be the “different lady” when she performed the lover of a wealthy German financier performed by Peter Finch in England Made Me (1973).
She and Charlton Heston took the title roles within the 1972 epic Antony and Cleopatra, with Heston directing, though the movie fared poorly on the field workplace. However, the American commerce journal Selection recognised that “Hildegard Neil proves certainly one of Cleo’s extra convincing display incarnations.”
Speaking about getting ready for the half, she stated: “My life is calm, reserved, secure. Sadly, Cleopatra’s was something however that. I needed to get your hands on the opposite aspect of my nature, the darkish aspect, and stretch it. Such sensuality as I’ve and what temperament I’ve, I labored on and exaggerated to breaking level.”
Neil was born Hildegard Zimmermann in Cape City to Josephine (nee Seddon) and Carl Zimmermann, a police superintendent. On leaving faculty she labored as a library assistant and typist.
She travelled to London in 1961 to coach at Rada, the place she gained the Emile Littler award on commencement two years later. Though she landed the a part of Calpurnia in a 1963 BBC faculties manufacturing of Julius Caesar and gained repertory theatre expertise in Ipswich, Leatherhead and Worthing – taking Neil as her skilled title – work was initially exhausting to search out. “I used to be by no means a juvenile,” she stated. “I might by no means play the dizzy blond or the secretary. I’ve been buying and selling in a sure maturity since I used to be about 10.”
She ultimately discovered her manner as a shining mild with the Everyman theatre firm in Liverpool (1966-68), admired for roles similar to “an impassioned, superbly spoken” Rosalind, in line with one critic, in As You Like It and the title character in Hedda Gabler.
Then got here her tv breakthrough, taking part in Gracie Savott, who seduces a lodge magnate performed by Roy Dotrice in a BBC adaptation of Arnold Bennett’s novel Imperial Palace (1969). Character roles stored on coming, in motion sequence (Jason King in 1971, The Protectors in 1973, The Professionals in 1978), different dramas (The Important Probability in 1970, Van der Valk in 1977, Resort Babylon, because the Marchioness of Telford, in 2007) and sci-fi (Doomwatch in 1970, Area: 1999 in 1977).
She additionally had recurring components as Colette Hyde in The Early Lifetime of Stephen Hind (1974), Virginia in A Spy at Night (1981) and Margaret Coleman, wayward spouse of a gems service provider boss, acted by John Stride, in Diamonds (1981). She performed the idiot within the 1997 movie model of King Lear, with Blessed taking the title position and directing.
Within the theatre she had a 1969 season with the Royal Shakespeare Firm on the Aldwych theatre and, amongst dozens of roles, performed Woman Macbeth in Macbeth (Greenwich theatre, 1971), Jennifer Dubedat in The Physician’s Dilemma (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 1981) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (reverse Blessed’s Henry II) in The Lion in Winter (Haymarket theatre, Basingstoke, 1994).
Neil’s first two marriages, to Barry Wenn in 1961 and John Cartmel-Crossley in 1971, led to divorce. She is survived by Blessed and their daughter, the actor Rosalind Blessed.