Syms was born in London on January 6th 1934. She was educated at a number
of convent schools before receiving her acting training at the Royal
Academy of Dramatic Art.
was a repertory player when she was discovered by Herbert Wilcox (already
a fairly established director) who really assisted the young actress
at the beginning of her career. She began by playing Anna Neagles, (actually
Wilcox’s wife), unruly daughter in the film ‘My Teenage
Daughter’ (1956). It was, I believe, at that point she signed
a contract with Associated British which she notes later that she regretted
but it did give her good work at the time. Soon after this film was
a second Neagle/Wilcox collaboration in ‘No Time for Tears’
that year she worked with the great British director J. Lee Thompson
in the superb ‘Woman in a dressing gown’. This film told
of a middle aged couple played by the great Yvonne Mitchell and the
superb Anthony Quayle and the nightmare scenario for a guy when he meets
a beautiful young girl (Syms). All the actors were excellent in bringing
tremendous characterisation to their roles t and it established the
film as a critically acclaimed piece of work.
was to be however the second J Lee Thompson film that would truly catapult
her to stardom as the 24 year old appeared as an army nurse in 'Ice
Cold in Alex' (1958). The film is documented on the site so I won’t
go into laborious detail. Suffice to say that the film established Syms
as not only as one of the sexiest girls on the screen but also as a
very capable and credible actress. How on earth Sir John Mills resisted
her – well hell we’ll never know!! The diverse actress then
played a more comic role the following year as Laurence Harvey's strip-tease
girlfriend in ‘Express Bongo’ (1959).
She was nominated for two British Film Academy Awards at this point
of her career one for ‘Woman in a Dressing Gown’ and then
again the next year for ‘No Trees in the Street’.
work did continue for her and she played some extremely difficult and
challenging roles (especially for the time). In 1961 she was the bigot's
daughter in love with a black man in ‘Flame in the Streets’.
Then later that year with the superb Basil Dearden she was a torn and
unhappy wife as she discovered she was married to a gay barrister in
'Victim'. At the time the part was so controversial several actresses
shied away from it. It would be easy to view this movie as nothing more
social comment - however, for it's time, this movie was ground-breaking,
for any number of reasons, including its superb acting. Sir Dirk Bogarde
and Syms, in particular, were nothing short of perfect in their parts.