Childhood & Early Life
Susannah York was born on 9 January 1939 in Chelsea, London, as Susannah Yolande Fletcher. Her father, Simon William Peel Vickers Fletcher, was a merchant banker and a steel magnate. Her mother, Joan Nita Mary nee Bowring, was her father’s first wife. They divorced when Susannah was four years old.
Born younger of her parents’ two children, she had an elder sister, whose name is not known. However, from her mother’s second marriage, she had a half-sister called Mary Hamilton-Seif and from her father's second marriage she had a half-brother named Eugene Xavier Charles William Peel Fletcher.
Initially raised by her mother in London, she moved to Scotland, when her mother married Scottish businessman Adam Muir Hamilton. At the age of eleven, she was enrolled at Marr College in Troon, where she studied for two years.
At thirteen, she was sent as a boarder to Oak Hall School in Surrey because of family tension; but was shortly expelled from there for swimming naked in the school’s pool at midnight. Thereafter, she was enrolled at East Haddon Hall in Northamptonshire, from where she finished her schooling.
In 1956, she entered London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and graduated from there in 1958. While studying there, she won Ronson award for most promising student.
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In 1958, Susannah York began her career with classical repertory and pantomime companies. A year later, she debuted on television, appearing as Abigail Williams in Sean Connery’s production of ‘The Crucible’.
In 1960, she began her film career with dark psychological war drama ‘Tunes of Glory’, appearing in it as Morag Sinclair. Two other films released in the same year were 'The Richest Man in the World' and 'There Was a Crooked Man’. Concurrently, she also continued to appear on television.
In 1961, she got her first lead role, appearing as Joss Grey in ‘The Greengage Summer’, a film that was later released in the USA as ‘The Loss of Innocence’. Also in the same year, she appeared as Lady Charlotte in ‘The First Gentleman’.
In 1962, she got her first award nomination for her role in the psychological drama, ‘Freud: The Secret Passion', appearing in it as Cecily Koertner, a hysterical patient suffering from almost every kinds of neurotic symptoms. She was also seen in the movie ‘The Slaughter of St. Teresa's Day’ in the same year.
In 1963, she appeared as the feisty Sophie Western in the Oscar winning adventure comedy film, ‘Tom Jones’. It was followed in 1964 by ‘The 7th Dawn’ and ‘Scene Nun, Take One’; in 1965 by ‘Sands of Kalahari’ and ‘Scruggs’; in 1966 by 'Kaleidoscope' and 'A Man for All Seasons'.
In spite of her success with various types of roles, York was so far type cast as an “English Rose”. In 1968, she was able to overcome this with her performance as the two-faced lesbian Childie in the X-rated American film, ‘The Killing of Sister George’.
Playing Alice in ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’ (1969) was another memorable work of this decade. Also in the same year, she was seen in the movies ‘Battle of Britain’, ‘Lock Up Your Daughters’ and ‘Oh! What A Lovely War’.
In 1970s, she appeared in nineteen films, more significant among them being ‘Jane Eyre’ (1970), ‘Images’ (1972), ‘Superman’ (1978). Later in the same decade, she returned to the stage, appearing in productions like ‘The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs’ at the New End Theatre, in London, and ‘Appearances’, in Paris.
In 1970s, she published two children's fantasy novels, ‘In Search of Unicorns’ (1973) and ‘Lark's Castle’ (1976). Later she would revise both the books, publishing the revised version of the former in 1984 and of the latter in 1986.
In 1980s, Susannah York appeared in around fifteen films, which include ‘Superman II’ (1980), 'A Christmas Carol’ (1984) and ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’ (1987). Among her works on television, the most significant was ‘We'll Meet Again’ while her noteworthy stage performances were 'For No Good Reason,' and 'Fatal Attraction'.
In 1990s, she began to concentrate more on television. She appeared in 23 episodes of the TV series ‘Trainer’; it ran from September 1991 to December 1992. Also, in 1992, she became a member of the jury at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival.
Although she appeared in very few films in 1990s and 2000s, her performance in the 2005 comedy film, ‘Gigolos’, once again proved her acting talent. Her last film, ‘Calling’, was released in 2009 while her last work on television was in the ‘Gibberish’ episode of ‘Doctors’ (2010).
Family & Personal Life
On 2 May, 1959, Susannah York married actor Michael Wells. The couple had two children, daughter Sasha (born 1972), and son Orlando (born 1973),. After their divorce in 1976, she raised the children singlehandedly and although her career was important to her, her family always came first.
Sometime in late 2010, she was diagnosed with cancer. However, she refused chemotherapy and passed away in London on 15 January 2011 from multiple myeloma.