Birthday: January 2, 1913
Died At Age: 91
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Joan Boniface Winnifrith
Born in: Ightham, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: George Stafford (m. 1944–1964), Robert Nathan (m. 1970–1985), Robert Stevenson (m. 1934–1944)
children: Caroline Stevenson, Jeffrey Byron, John Stafford, Steve Stafford, Venetia Stevenson
Died on: May 14, 2004
place of death: Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
awards: 1998 - Soap Opera Digest Awards
1983 - Soapy Awards
Anna Lee was an English actress, best known for her role of ‘Lila Quartermaine’ in ‘General Hospital’, the longest-running American soap opera in production.
Born as Joan Boniface Winnifrith, she was the daughter of a village rector, and god-daughter of actress Sybil Thorndike; her stage name was a composite of Anna Karenina and Robert E. Lee. After training at London's Royal Albert Hall, she began appearing in English films, first as an extra, then working her way up to featured parts. After doing small parts in a dozen British films, she moved to Hollywood to become a star where she became associated with John Ford, appearing in several of his films. Alongside starring in movies, she also toured and entertained the allied troops with the U.S.O. during World War II. Later she appeared in several television anthology series and made a comeback to the big screen after a few years. During the 1980s and 1990s, she regularly featured in the soap opera ‘General Hospital’. A year after she had joined the show, playing the part of Lila Quartermaine, she was paralyzed from the waist downwards in a car accident and thereafter acted the role in a wheelchair until 2003. She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to film and television industry.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born as Joan Boniface Winnifrith, on January 2, 1913, in Ightham, Kent, England. She was one of three children born to an Anglican clergyman at St. Peters Church.
At the age of 17, she enrolled to study dramatics at the London’s prestigious Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art at the London’s Royal Albert Hall.
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Soon she joined the London Repertory Theatre and earned the nickname ‘The British bombshell’ for her work in the plays ‘The Constant Nymph’ and 'Jane Eyre’.
In early 1930s, she was signed by Gaumont British and appeared in over a dozen films during the next few years including ‘The Camels Are Coming’ (1934), ‘Passing of the Third Floor Back’ (1935), ‘The Man Who Changed His Mind’ (1936), and ‘King Solomon's Mines’ (1937).
During World War II, she appeared in movies such as ‘Seven Sinners’ (1940), ‘How Green Was My Valley’ (1941), ‘Flying Tigers’ (1942), and ‘Hangmen Also Die’ (1943). Alongside, she volunteered for overseas duty with the U.S.O. and entertained Allied troops. She also spent several months visiting field hospitals throughout the Mediterranean area.
In the years after the war, she starred in movies such as ‘Bedlam’ (1946), ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ (1947), and ‘Fort Apache’ (1948).
During the 1940s and 1950s, she made frequent appearances on television anthology series including ‘Robert Montgomery Presents’, ‘The Ford Theatre Hour’, ‘Kraft Television Theatre’ and ‘Wagon Train’. She also guest-starred in TV series such as ‘Maverick’, ‘Dr. Kildare’, ‘The F.B.I.’, ‘Mr. Novak’, ‘Mission: Impossible’, ‘Perry Mason’, ‘Mannix’, ‘Family Affair’ and ‘Glitter’.
Later, she returned to big cinema and appeared in movies such as ‘Gideon of Scotland Yard’ (1958), ‘The Last Hurrah’ (1958), ‘Horse Soldiers’ (1959), ‘This Earth is Mine’ (1959), ‘The Crimson Kimono’ (1959), ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ (1962), ‘The Sound of Music’(1965), ‘7 Women’ (1966) and ‘In Like Flint’ (1967).
In 1978, although she was nearing retirement age, she won the role of ‘Lila Quartermaine’ in the ABC daytime drama, ‘General Hospital’. She appeared in it until 2003 when her health began to decline and she left the show.
She is best remembered for the role of the matriarch ‘Lila Quartermaine’ on the TV soap opera ‘General Hospital’. She joined the show in 1978 and even after she was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident, she continued to play the matriarch of the show from her wheelchair until 2003.
Awards & Achievements
In 1982, she was awarded ‘Member of the Order of the British Empire’ for her distinguished services to drama.
In 1983, she received the ‘Soapy Award for Favorite Woman in a Mature Role’ for her role of the matriarch ‘Lila Quartermaine’ in ‘General Hospital’.
In January 1993, she was presented a Star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ for her services to film and television industry.
In 1998, she received the ‘Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role’ for her role in ‘General Hospital’.
In 2004, she was posthumously awarded a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1934, she married film director, Robert Stevenson. They were blessed with two daughters, Venetia and Caroline. In March 1944, the couple got divorced and both the daughters stayed with their father.
During World War II she met George Stafford, a pilot. On June 8, 1944, they got married and had three sons, John, Stephen and Tim Stafford. They also got divorced in 1964.
On April 5, 1970, she married Robert Nathan, a novelist. It was her third and last marriage and they remained together until Robert died in 1985.
She died on May 14, 2004 in Beverly Hills, California, after a brief illness, at the age of 91. She was buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.