Who was Sarah Churchill?
Sarah Churchill was a British actress, dancer, and the daughter of Winston Churchill. She is best known for her portrayal of Anne Ashmond in the 1951 musical comedy film, ‘Royal Wedding.’ She also served the ‘Women’s Auxiliary Air Force’ (WAAF) as a photo interpreter during the ‘Second World War.’ Churchill is also known for creating many lithographic prints throughout her life. In the 1970s, she came up with a series of portraits of her father Winston Churchill. In her 1981 autobiography, ‘Keep on Dancing,’ she wrote about her addiction to alcohol and how it often landed her in trouble. Sarah Churchill passed away on September 24, 1982, after suffering from an acute internal condition for three months. Her mortal remains were buried at ‘St Martin's Church,’ near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England.
Childhood & Early Life
Sarah Churchill was born Sarah Millicent Hermione Churchill on October 7, 1914, at ‘Admiralty House’ in London, to Winston Churchill and Clementine Churchill. She was the second daughter and third-born child of her parents.
Named after her father’s ancestor Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, she was raised at the Churchill country estate in Chartwell. At the age of 10, her family moved to the famous Downing Street when her father became the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
She went to ‘Notting Hill High School’ in Ealing and later attended ‘North Foreland Lodge,’ an independent boarding school for girls in Kent. She practiced ballet after leaving school and made her stage debut at the age of 21.
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Churchill made her stage debut at the ‘Adelphi Theatre’ in London. She made her film debut in 1937 in the British comedy film ‘Who's Your Lady Friend?’ Directed by Carol Reed, the film also starred Frances Day and Sarah’ husband, Vic Oliver, in prominent roles.
In 1941, she played Joan Furze in the British comedy film ‘Spring Meeting.’ She received her breakthrough role in the same year when she was cast to play Ruth 'Ruthie' Cavour opposite her husband, Vic Oliver, in the John Paddy Carstairs-directed musical film, ‘He Found a Star.’
She appeared in the 1946 Italian film ‘Sinfonia fatale’ in which she played Iris Savage. The following year, she played Elena in the Italian drama film ‘Daniele Cortis.’ Adapted from the 1885 novel of the same name, the film had Sarah playing an important role.
In 1949, she was cast to play another prominent role in the Derek N. Twist-directed British comedy film ‘All Over the Town.’ In the same year, she made her stage debut in America when she played Tracy Lord in ‘The Philadelphia Story.’ She later toured with the drama troupe, playing the same part.
In 1951, she played Anne Ashmond in Stanley Donen-directed American musical comedy film ‘Royal Wedding.’ Her role in the film would eventually become one of her most remembered works in the film industry. The film, which was listed as one of the top box office hits of 1951, was released as ‘Wedding Bells’ in the United Kingdom.
In 1954, she was roped in to play an important role in the British police procedural television series ‘Fabian of the Yard.’ In 1959, she played Hester Peters in the Terence Young-directed British film ‘Serious Charge.’
She appeared as Rosalind in the 1961 stage play ‘As You Like It,’ which was adapted from Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy of the same name. Her parents made a surprise visit to watch their daughter perform. However, her father fell asleep during the play, which was attended mostly by schoolchildren from Croydon.
Churchill also appeared in Jack Benny’s radio and television shows. Her last stage appearance came in 1971. Apart from her acting and dancing skills, Churchill was also known for her services during the ‘Second World War.’
World War Service
Sarah Churchill joined the ‘Women’s Auxiliary Air Force’ (WAAF) as a photo interpreter during the ‘Second World War.’ As part of the ‘Allied Central Interpretation Unit’ (ACIU), Churchill worked closely with the photo interpretation team that included Constance Babington Smith who was known for her work in imagery intelligence. Smith later described Churchill as a ‘quick and versatile interpreter.’
During the 1943 ‘Teheran conference,’ Churchill accompanied her father to meet the then US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. She once again accompanied her father to the 1945 ‘Yalta conference,’ where Franklin D. Roosevelt among other dignitaries came up with postwar plans.
Churchill created many lithographic prints throughout her life. She created many prints featuring the scenic beauty of Malibu in the 1950s. In the 1970s, she came up with a series of Winston Churchill’s portraits. Titled ‘A Visual Philosophy of Sir Winston Churchill,’ the series was published commercially. Most of the prints in the series were based on the photographs chosen by her father and all of them were signed by Sarah Churchill.
Family & Personal Life
Her father was a prominent British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Her mother, Clementine, was a life peer who worked with the ‘Young Men's Christian Association’ (YMCA) during the ‘First World War.’ As the President of ‘Young Women's Christian Association,’ she played a significant role in the ‘Second World War.’
Churchill had four siblings, namely Diana, Randolph, Marigold, and Mary Soames. Diana served as an officer in the ‘Women's Royal Naval Service’ during the ‘Second World War.’ From 1940 to 1945, Randolph served as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Preston. Her youngest sister, Mary Soames, worked for the ‘Red Cross’ before joining the ‘Auxiliary Territorial Service’ in 1941.
Sarah Churchill married Austrian-born British actor Vic Oliver in 1936. Her parents were not happy with her wedding as they thought Oliver, who was 17 years her senior, was a wrong choice. Just before her marriage ended in divorce, she had an affair with John Winant. She divorced Oliver in 1945 and then started dating a photographer named Antony Beauchamp.
She married Beauchamp in 1949 and moved to the United States. In 1957, Beauchamp died from an overdose of sleeping pills. Subsequently, Churchill suffered from alcohol-related issues and often appeared before London courts on various alcohol-related charges. She even spent a few days in ‘Holloway Prison’ for misbehaving in public.
She married Thomas Touchet-Jesson, 23rd Baron Audley on April 26, 1962. However, Thomas Touchet-Jesson passed away the following year. In 1964, Sarah started dating African-American painter and jazz singer Lobo Nocho.
After suffering from an acute internal condition for three months, Sarah Churchill passed away on September 24, 1982. Her body was buried at ‘St Martin’s Church,’ next to the mortal remains of her parents and three of her siblings.