Sylvia Syms OBE
(1934 - )

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Sylvia 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.

Sylvia 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’ (1957).

Also 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.

It 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’.

The 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.


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