Patricia Laffan in Quo Vadis (1951)
19 March 1919 |
Wandsworth, London, England
Patricia A. Laffan (born 19 March 1919) is an English stage and film actress. She is best known for her film roles as Empress Poppaea in Quo Vadis (1951) and the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars (1954).
Laffan is the daughter of Arthur Charles Laffan, a successful rubber planter in Malaya, and Elvira Alice (Vitali). Upon seeing the film Broadway Melody (1929) Patricia decided to act. She was educated at Folkestone and at the Institut Français in London. At the Webber-Douglas Dramatic School, she studied for the stage and also studied dancing at the De Vos Ballet School.
Laffan's first film appearance was in One Good Turn (1936). She joined the Oxford Playhouse Repertory Company, and her first stage appearance was as Jenny Diver in The Beggar's Opera Jan. 1937 at the Oxford Playhouse. Her first London appearance was as the Young Girl in Surprise Item 25 Feb. 1938 at the Ambassadors Theatre. She toured military bases throughout England during World War II, appearing in Hay Fever and Twelfth Night. Her first credited film part was a minor role as Betty in Caravan (1946). The following year she was featured in the mystery film Death in High Heels (1947) with Don Stannard.
In 1950 she appeared in the crime drama Hangman's Wharf as Rosa Warren. In the 1951 film Quo Vadis, she played Poppaea, the second wife of the Roman Emperor Nero. In Escape Route (1952), a crime thriller, she played Irma Brooks. She starred as the ruthless, PVC-clad alien Nyah in the Devil Girl from Mars (1954). Next year she had a supporting part as Miss Alice MacDonald in the mystery thriller 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956). By the 1960s she mainly appeared on radio and television, including performances in Anna Karenina, The Aspern Papers, and Rembrandt, and appearances on panel game programmes such as Petticoat Line and Call My Bluff. In the late 1960s and 1970s she produced and choreographed fashion shows around the world. In 2008 Laffan was interviewed for the British documentary British B Movies: Truly, Madly, Cheaply.
The 10 July 1954 issue of Picture Show & Film Pictorial featured “The Life Story of Patricia Laffan” which included these facts:
“She lists fast cars and breeding bull terriers as her hobbies. She is quick-witted and says that had she not become an actress she would probably have been a writer. As a matter of fact, she has had a number of short stories published, and during the time she spent in Paris she wrote scripts for the Paris radio.”
Laffan had a piece appearing in “Winter Pie --Miscellany for Men & Women,” ( A Pie Pocket Special) published in October 1947. It was entitled “Penicillin and Paris” and was a breezy account of her “first weekend in Paris,” under doctor’s orders to take vitamins and a holiday. She was “wined and dined on the right bank and on the left” and broadcast (and sang “Night and Day” with a large band) over Radio-Diffusion Francais. There is a reference to the fact that she was appearing in “The Rake’s Progress,” then showing in Paris.
The Pittston Gazette on 20 January 1955 had an item discussing Laffan’s first visit to the United States for a combination of work and vacation. She was scouting out panel and quiz shows (she appeared in several in England) to compare notes on American methods. She noted that “The air’s so good here.” On 25 January 1956, the Daily Reporter ran an item from Louella Parsons: “Hollywood is talking about the uncanny resemblance of British actress Patricia Laffan to Gertrude Lawrence, and the interest in Patricia to play the Lawrence biography…”
Laffan was interviewed on 21 March 1998 in London by Lisa Cohen, for her book “All We Know,” (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2012) an account of the lives of three women: New York intellectual Esther Murphy, writer-feminist Mercedes De Acosta, and British Vogue fashion editor Madge Garland. Laffan has a tangential connection to Garland: Garland was romantically involved with divorce lawyer Frances (Fay) Blacket Gill, one of the first women solicitors in England. Laffan is referenced as Gill’s “last girlfriend,” and briefly discusses Gill and her relationship with Garland.
- Crooks in Cloisters (1964) as Lady Florence
- 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956) as Miss Alice MacDonald
- Devil Girl from Mars (1954) as Nyah
- Escape Route (1952) as Irma Brooks
- Quo Vadis (1951) as Poppaea Sabina
- Hangman's Wharf (1950) as Rosa Warren
- Death in High Heels (1947) as Magda Doon
- Caravan (1946) as Betty (first credited film appearance)
- The Rake's Progress (1945) as Miss Fernandez
- One Good Turn (1936) first film appearance
- 1937 repertory at Oxford and Worthing
- 1937 The Beggar's Opera (Jenny Diver), Oxford Playhouse (first stage appearance)
- 1937 Sweet Adversity (Nurse Gertrude), Q Theatre
- 1938 Surprise Item (Young Girl), Ambassadors (first London appearance)
- 1938 One Way Street (Nurse), Q Theatre
- 1939 Number Six (Stephanie), Aldwych Theatre
- 1939 Honeymoon for Three (Marjorie Saunders), Richmond
- 1939 Pericles (Diana), Open Air, Regent's Park
- 1941 The Women, Q Theatre
- 1941 The First Mrs Fraser (Mabel), on Marie Tempest's last tour
- 1942 Hay Fever (Myra), tour
- 1942 Other People's Houses (Annie), tour
- 1943 Androcles and the Lion (Lavinia), Arts Theatre
- 1943 Wuthering Heights (Isabella), tour
- 1943 Twelfth Night (Viola and Olivia), tour for CEMA
- 1944 How Are They at Home (Eileen Stokes), Apollo
- 1945 Hidden Horizon (Kay Mostyn), Wimbledon
- 1948 Corinth House (Madge Donnythorpe), New Lindsey
- 1948 Frolic Wind (Miss Vulliamy), Boltons
- 1949 Primrose and the Peanuts (Primrose Mallet), Playhouse
- 1950 New England Night (Helen Wetherell), New Lindsey
- 1951 Mary Had a Little. . . (the Princess), Strand
- 1960 The Golden Touch (Comtesse de St Marigny-Marbeaux), Piccadilly
- 1960 Innocent as Hell (Lady Parsley), Lyric, Hammersmith
- Eder, Bruce. "Patricia Laffan, Biography". AllMovie. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
- "The Life Story of Patricia Laffan". Picture Show & Film Pictorial: 12. 10 July 1954.
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