Childhood & Early Life
Karen Dotrice was born on November 9, 1955, in Guernsey, the Channel Islands, to 'Tony Award'-winning actor Roy Dotrice and Kay (née Katherine Newman). They were both Shakespearean actors and had performed in repertory productions in the U.K.
Both her sisters, Michele and Yvette, are actors.
Dotrice grew up watching her father perform at the 'Shakespeare Memorial Theatre,' which intensified her interest in acting at an early age. At the age of 4, she delivered her first stage performance in an ‘RSC’ production of Bertolt Brecht's 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle.'
The performance caught the attention of a 'Disney' scout, who later introduced her to Walt Disney in Burbank, California. The relationship eventually developed into a strong bond, as Dotrice viewed Disney as a father figure.
Dotrice called him "Uncle Walt." Disney apparently had a soft corner for English children, which contributed to their bond.
She had the privilege to work with him later in her life.
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Dotrice was 8 when she made her debut with the 1963 American–British fantasy film 'The Three Lives of Thomasina.' The movie featured her as Patrick McGoohan's (as ‘Andrew MacDhui’) daughter, 'Mary MacDhui.
She moved to California, leaving her family in England. Her father played ‘King Lear’ back then. Disney took proper care of the family and often hosted get-togethers at his Palm Springs home.
Dotrice's remarkable performance in 'The Three Lives of Thomasina' earned her a role in the 1964 'Disney' musical fantasy 'Mary Poppins.' She played ‘Jane Banks,’ with Matthew Garber as her brother, ‘Michael Banks.’ They had previously worked together in 'The Three Lives of Thomasina.'
The movie was a huge success, winning five 'Academy Awards.' Both Dotrice and Garber tasted success for the first time. Their performances, too, were highly acclaimed by critics.
Dotrice and Garber played on-screen siblings once again (as ‘Elizabeth Winthrop’ and ‘Rodney Winthrop,’ respectively) in one of Disney's last films, the 1967 comedy–fantasy film 'The Gnome-Mobile.' Unfortunately, the film failed to recreate the success of 'Mary Poppins.’
The movie saw Dotrice's final film appearance as a child actor. Following this, she lost touch with Garber, and they did not make any more appearances together on screen.
In 1970, she ventured into filmmaking with 'Capri' for Ken Annakin. The movie, which was supposed to star Michael Gough, Zena Walker, and Jack Watling, was shelved due to insufficient financial support.
Dotrice made her TV debut with single-episode appearances in the 1973 'BBC Two' drama 'A Picture of Katherine Mansfield' (as 'Edna’) and the 1974 ‘ITV’ drama 'Napoleon and Love' (as Désirée Clary, Queen of Sweden and Norway and the consort of King Charles XIV John).
She played 'Isabella' in the 1974 TV movie 'Bellamira,' starring Helen Mirren and Clive Revill. The following year, Dotrice played 'Lily Hawkins,' a house-parlor maid, in six episodes of the fifth and the last season of the ‘ITV’ series ‘Upstairs, Downstairs.’ It was one of the most-watched ‘ITV’ shows back then.
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Dotrice was cast as 'Maria Beadnell' in the 1976 TV miniseries 'Dickens of London.' Aired on 'Yorkshire Television,' the series depicted the life of English novelist Charles Dickens (played by Roy Dotrice, who also portrayed the author’s father, John Dickens).
She appeared as 'Pamela' in the 1977 British period comedy 'Joseph Andrews,' adapted from Henry Fielding's novel of the same name. She played 'Princess Ozyliza' in an episode of the ‘BBC’ children's series 'Jackanory.'
In the 1978 'Play of the Week' from the ‘PBS Mystery!' series 'She Fell Among Thieves,' Dotrice was cast as ‘Jenny.’ The TV film was an adaptation of Dornford Yates's novel of the same name.
She appeared as 'Alex Mackenzie' in the 1978 thriller film 'The Thirty-Nine Steps,' starring Robert Powell and John Mills, and based on John Buchan's novel of the same name. It was Dotrice's only feature film that featured her as an adult. Her role in the film earned her the 'Evening Standard British Film' award for the “Best Newcomer.”
In 1981, Dotrice delivered quite an underwhelming performance as ‘Desdemona’ in the 'Warner Theatre' production of 'Othello.' Her performance was harshly criticized, with some even calling it expressionless.
In 1982, she was seen as 'Marion Brownlow' in an episode of the ‘NBC’ science-fiction drama 'Voyagers!' It was her final appearance for the year, after which she quit acting to focus on her personal life. She also refrained from attending public events after this.
She, however, continued as a voice-over artist, lending her voice for word adaptations of 'Disney' productions such as 'The Little Mermaid,' 'Beauty and the Beast,' and 'Pocahontas.' She also lent her voice for a sing-along release of 'Mary Poppins' and gave an interview for the ‘ABC’ TV special 'Walt: The Man Behind the Myth.' She also narrated the audiobook adaptation of 'Dangerous Women' by George R. R. Martin and made an audio commentary for an episode of 'Upstairs, Downstairs' for its 'Acorn Media' DVD release.
In a 1995 interview given to 'Hello! magazine,' she confirmed her decision of not returning to acting.
Dotrice, however, made a public appearance in 2004, when she was honored as a 'Disney Legend.' Her 'Mary Poppins' co-star Garber was honored posthumously. In her interview for the audio commentary of the 40th 'Anniversary Edition Mary Poppins' DVD release, she regretted not keeping in touch with Garber, claiming that the news of Garber's death had come to her as a shock.
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She made a comeback in 2005, appearing in two episodes of the ‘PAX’ 'historical fantasy/drama 'Young Blades.' She appeared as herself in the 2009 film 'The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story,' which was about the duo ‘Sherman Brothers.’
In 2014, her official website announced her professional public appearances "for the first time in 50 years" in events such as memorabilia shows, signings, and corporate events.
She made a cameo appearance in the 2018 musical fantasy–comedy film 'Mary Poppins Returns.' However, Dotrice found the experience of working on the film completely different from that of her previous 'Mary Poppins' project.
That year, she was also featured in an ‘ABC’ special, 'Mary Poppins Returns: Behind the Magic -- A Special Edition of 20/20.'
Family & Personal Life The late actor Charles Laughton was Dotrice's godfather. They had starred together in 'Mary Poppins.'
She was initially married to English actor Alex Hyde-White, from 1986 to 1992. They had a son named Garrick William Hyde-White.
In 1994, Dotrice married 'Universal Studios' executive Edwin "Ned" Nalle, in a Philadelphia church. They had two children, Isabella and Griffin. Ned has previously served as an executive producer at 'ABC Studios.'
Isabella made an appearance as a child artist in 'Young Blades: The Invincible Sword' (2005), but the role was uncredited.
After Dotrice quit acting, she worked in a friend's art gallery.
In an interview, she mentioned that she did not want her children to become actors, as she had experienced the struggles of the job. She also revealed that she had quit acting when, as a teenager, she had been asked to make a topless appearance on screen.