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      Facts

      Forget for a moment what most of us associate with Virginia McKenna and her late husband Bill Travers. You know, the movie Born Free (1966) and the Born Free Foundation Charity. Look behind these and you will find a body of film work (from the 50s and 60s especially) that stands the test of time. For example, I would venture that you will find Ring of Bright Water (1969) every bit as heart-rending as the more celebrated Born Free, with Mij The Otter giving everyone a run for their money in the acting stakes! And there is a movie I recently caught, The Smallest Show on Earth (1957), which is every bit as charming as the more revered Ealing classics of roughly that period, you know films like The LadyKillers (1955) and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953). There is a sweet innocence to the humour of the film; an innocence of a time, alas, long since gone but preserved for posterity in this glittering gemstone.

      What I particular like about McKenna was her generosity as an actress, a talent seldom seen before or since in the usually self-indulgent world of acting. Take the two above mentioned films. In the first she allows an otter to take centre stage and in the second she lets three delicious hams, Peter Sellers, Bernard Miles and Margaret Rutherford, to deliver a banquet of over-acting in the best possible taste. It seems that McKenna felt that the film was more important than personal glory, and her films are all the better for it.

      She trained as an actress at the Central School of Speech and Drama then worked on stage in London's West End theatres before making her motion picture debut in 1952. She continued to appear in both films and on stage and in 1954/1955 was a member of the Old Vic theatre company. She was married for a few months in 1954 to actor Denholm Elliott and married again in 1957 to actor Bill Travers with whom she remained until his death in 1994.

      In 1956, McKenna won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film, A Town Like Alice and two years later was nominated for Best Actress again for her role the WW II SOE agent Violette Szabo in 1958's Carve Her Name with Pride. However, McKenna is best remembered for her 1966 role as Joy Adamson in the true-life film Born Free for which she received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama. Her husband co-starred with her and the experience led them to become active supporters for wild animal rights and protecting their natural habitat. This led to McKenna and her husband becoming involved in the Zoo Check Campaign in 1984 and to their establishing the Born Free Foundation in 1991.

      On the stage, in 1979 she won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a British musical for her performance opposite Yul Brynner in The King and I. Over the years she appeared in more motion pictures but also was very active with television roles and on stage where she continues to make occasional appearances. For me her best TV role to date came in 1979 when she played Portia in the BBC's Julius Caesar.

      For her services to wildlife and to the arts, in 2004 Virginia McKenna was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.



      { M A I L I N G  A D D R E S S E S }


        Virginia McKenna
        Born Free Foundation
        3 Grove House
        Foundry Lane
        Horsham
        West Sussex
        RH13 5PL
        United Kingdom

        Virginia McKenna
        8 Buckfast Ct.
        Runcorn
        Cheshire
        WA7 1QJ
        United Kingdom



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    virginia mckenna virginia mckenna virginia mckenna
    Queen Elizabeth II Meets Actor Bill Travers and Actress Virginia Mckenna at Royal Film Show Virginia Mckenna, June 1952


    Sept. 2013: As part of photographing the covers and inner flaps of every book ever published, I've started the scans on Virginia McKenna books which can be viewed here (smartphone page). Just a few for the mo. but will be added to. If you have any photos of any Virginia McKenna book covers from any part of the world why not e-mail (ihuppert5@aol.com) them to me and I'll put them up. The aim is to have a visual record of every Virginia McKenna book ever published. Inner flaps and the publishers notes contain so much info about the book - I like to include at least the flap as well if possible. And your help makes it a lot easier. Or, if you prefer, you can send me your unwanted books and I can scan them. Any book, not just this author. Address: Paul Page, 5 High St., South Norwood, London SE25 6EP, UK. If you are thinking of chucking those books out then this would make a perfect alternative home for them.


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