Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Lockwood, Margaret Marylocked

(1916–1990)

Margaret Mary Lockwood (1916–1990)

by Anthony Buckley, 1948

© Kenneth Hughes / National Portrait Gallery, London

Lockwood, Margaret Mary (1916–1990), actress, was born on 15 September 1916 in Karachi, India, the younger child and only daughter of Henry Francis Lockwood, district traffic superintendent (later chief superintendent) on the Indian railways, and his third wife, Margaret Eveline Waugh, a Scot, who had been a nurse. She also had an older stepbrother. Mother and children set up home in Upper Norwood, London, when Margaret was three and a half, after which they saw little of her father. She attended Sydenham Girls' High School, taking dancing lessons at the Italia Conti School. These led to her appearance as a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Holborn Empire when she was twelve. She left Sydenham High for the Cone School of Dancing, and did the rounds of auditions, performing in clubs, concerts, cabarets, and tea dances. In 1929 she adopted a family name, Day, for her stage name Margie Day, finally leaving school altogether at fourteen.

In 1933 Lockwood was accepted by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) at the age of sixteen, and showed both talent and dedication, completing the two-year course in fourteen months. Playing a leading part in the annual RADA show, she caught the attention of the London agent Herbert de Leon. He quickly secured her two brief London stage engagements and second lead in the film Lorna Doone (1934), directed by Basil Dean. De Leon remained her manager, adviser, and friend until his death forty-five years later.

Margaret Lockwood was immediately put under contract by British Lion film company and during the next few years made over a dozen films, many of them quota quickies, often appearing on the London stage in the evenings as well. A beautiful girl with abundant dark hair, big eyes, delicate features, a beauty spot high on her left cheekbone (which was allowed to appear for the first time in The Wicked Lady, 1945), natural poise, and an unaffected speaking voice, she proved a hard-working and reliable actress and was much in demand. The important Gainsborough film company promoted her as a star, and in Bank Holiday (1938) and in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) she achieved critical success (the latter film, in which she starred with Michael Redgrave, proved enduringly popular). Before long she was appearing in some of the best British films of the period, including The Stars Look Down and Night Train to Munich, both directed by Carol Reed.

Margaret Lockwood's career entered a new phase in 1943. Gainsborough had been acquired by J. Arthur Rank, who launched a series of frankly escapist films to cheer up the war-weary British public. These were novelettish costume melodramas, dubbed ‘Gainsborough Gothics’, scorned by serious critics and not especially well made but an enormous success at the box office. Lockwood afterwards was always identified with her part in the best-known of these, The Wicked Lady, in which she starred with James Mason.

Lockwood was now at the peak of her career and earning a large salary, the biggest British film star of her time although no longer taken very seriously as an actress. But her films began to decline in quality and by 1948, still only thirty-two, her great days were over. Her contract with Rank was dissolved in 1951. A woman of spirit, she returned to the stage and turned also to television. Always professional, she continued to act on the London stage and on tour for another twenty-five years. She starred in two television series, The Flying Swan (1965) and Justice (1971–4). Her last film appearance was in the fairy tale The Slipper and the Rose, in 1976, and her last stage part was Queen Alexandra in Motherdear in 1980.

Not a great emotional actress, Margaret Lockwood was a straightforward and intelligent woman who worked hard and lived quietly, earning the affection of the British public. Unpretentious, she disliked the attributes of stardom. She was nominated by the Motion Picture Herald as the top money-making star in Britain in 1945 and 1946, and won the Daily Mail film award as best actress in British films in 1946, 1947, and 1948. Later she received the Daily Mirror television award in 1961, and best actress award from the Sun in 1973 and from the TV Times in 1977. In 1981 she was appointed CBE.

In 1937 she married Rupert William Leon (who was not related to her agent), commercial clerk (later steel broker), the son of Emil Armand Leon, managing director of the British Iron and Steel Corporation. Her mother disapproved strongly of the marriage. Their daughter Julia, later the actress Julia Lockwood, was born in 1941 but the marriage failed soon afterwards. Margaret Lockwood wished to marry Keith Dobson, but her husband refused to give her a divorce. She then had a relationship with Theo Cowan, who was in charge of Rank's publicity. She later lived for seventeen years, apparently happily, with John Stone, a minor fellow actor considerably younger than herself, whom she met in 1959. She was afflicted by ear trouble and, after he left her in 1977, she gradually withdrew from the theatre. Two years later she was devastated by the death of her friend and mentor de Leon. For the last years of her life she lived as a recluse at 34 Upper Park Road, Kingston upon Thames. She died, a wealthy woman, of cirrhosis of the liver in the Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, on 15 July 1990.

Sources

  • Daily Telegraph (16–17 July 1990)
  • The Independent (17 July 1990)
  • The Times (16–17 July 1990)
  • Daily Mail (4 March 1946)
  • Daily Mail (22 June 1946)
  • M. Lockwood, My life and films (1948)
  • M. Lockwood, Lucky star (1955)
  • H. Tims, Once a wicked lady (1989)
  • I. Herbert, ed., Who’s who in the theatre, 17th edn, 2 vols. (1981)
  • L. Halliwell, Halliwell's film guide, 7th edn (1989)
  • b. cert. [Julia Lockwood]
  • m. cert.
  • d. cert.

Likenesses

  • A. Buckley, photograph, 1938, NPG; see illus. in Houston, Renée (1902–1980)
  • A. Buckley, photograph, 1948, NPG [see illus.]
  • photographs, Hult. Arch.

Wealth at Death

£433,705: probate, 16 Oct 1990, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]