Coral Browne
Coral Browne (1989 Academy Awards).jpg
Browne in 1989
Coral Edith Brown

(1913-07-23)23 July 1913
Melbourne, Australia
Died29 May 1991(1991-05-29) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1933–1985
Philip Westrope Pearman
(m. 1950; died 1964)

(m. 1974)

Coral Edith Browne (23 July 1913 – 29 May 1991) was an Australian-American stage and screen actress. Her extensive theatre credits included Broadway productions of Macbeth (1956), The Rehearsal (1963) and The Right Honourable Gentleman (1965). She won the 1984 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for the BBC TV film An Englishman Abroad (1983). Her film appearances included Auntie Mame (1958), The Killing of Sister George (1968), The Ruling Class (1972) and Dreamchild (1985). She was also actor Vincent Price's third wife.[1]


Coral Edith Browne was the only daughter of railway clerk Leslie Clarence Brown (1890–1957),[2] and Victoria Elizabeth Brown (1890–?), née Bennett, both of Victorian birth.[3][4] She and her two brothers were raised in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne.


Coral Browne in 1931
Coral Browne in 1931

She studied at the National Gallery Art School. Her amateur debut was as Gloria in Shaw's You Never Can Tell, directed by Frank Clewlow. Gregan McMahon snapped her up for her professional debut as "Margaret Orme" in Loyalties at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre on 2 May 1931, aged 17. She was still billed as "Brown", the "e" being added in 1936.[5]

At the age of 21, with just £50 on her and a letter of introduction to famed actress Marie Tempest from Gregan McMahon,[6] she emigrated to England where she became established as a stage actress, notably as leading lady to Jack Buchanan in Frederick Lonsdale's The Last of Mrs Cheyney, W. Somerset Maugham's Lady Frederick[6] and Alan Melville's Castle in the Air. She was a regular performer in productions at the Savoy Theatre in London and was resident in the hotel for many years, including throughout World War II. When the original British touring production of The Man Who Came to Dinner ran into financial difficulty and could not be produced in London, Browne borrowed money from her dentist and bought the rights to the play, successfully staging it at the Savoy.[7] She received royalties from the play from all future productions.

She began film acting in 1936, with her more famous roles being Vera Charles in Auntie Mame (1958), Mercy Croft in The Killing of Sister George (1968), and Lady Claire Gurney in The Ruling Class (1972). Her television debut came in January 1938, when she appeared in a BBC Television production of The Billiard Room Mystery.[8] Throughout her career, she was a regular performer on BBC Radio and appeared in numerous radio dramas, including Dinner at Eight,[9] The Second Mrs. Tanqueray,[10] The Caspary Affair,[11] The Tragedy of Othello,[12] Oedipus The King,[13] Hamlet,[14] The Infernal Machine,[15] Two Mothers,[15] Captain Brassbound's Conversion[16] and The Eyes of Youth[17] amongst many others. In 1961, Browne was the featured castaway on Desert Island Discs, hosted by Roy Plomley.[18] Television plays for the BBC included Charley's Aunt in 1969,[19] Lady Windermere's Fan in 1972,[20] Mrs. Warren's Profession also in 1972[21] and The Importance of Being Earnest in 1974.[22]

In 1969, Browne appeared in the poorly received original production of Joe Orton's controversial farce What the Butler Saw in the West End at the Queen's Theatre with Sir Ralph Richardson, Stanley Baxter, and Hayward Morse.

While touring the Soviet Union in a Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (later the Royal Shakespeare Company) production of Hamlet in 1958, she met the spy Guy Burgess.[23] This meeting became the basis of Alan Bennett's script for the television movie An Englishman Abroad (1983) in which Browne played herself, apparently including some of her conversations with Burgess. Burgess, who had found solace in his exile by continually playing the music of Jack Buchanan, asked Browne if she had known Buchanan. "I suppose so", the actress replied, "we nearly got married". On the BFI TV 100, a list compiled in 2000 by the British Film Institute (BFI), chosen by a poll of industry professionals, to determine what were the greatest British television programmes of any genre ever to have been screened, An Englishman Abroad was listed at No. 30.

Her other notable film of this period, Dreamchild (1986) concerned the author Lewis Carroll. In the film, Browne gave an affecting account of the later life of Alice Liddell who had inspired the tale Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Browne was portrayed by Prunella Scales on stage in Alan Bennett's adaptation of his play An Englishman Abroad entitled Single Spies. Penelope Wilton took the role of Browne in the BBC radio adaptation of the original film. In a televised documentary Caviar to the General broadcast on UK Channel 4 in 1990, shortly before her death, Coral Browne humorously described her reaction to seeing the stage version of An Englishman Abroad, particularly expressing her irritation at the costumes. She recalled that when she made the film version, the costume designer went to great lengths to find out what she wore at the time the story is set, but when she saw the stage costumes she exclaimed: "I nearly died. Fake fur and hats that wouldn't have come out of a grab bag at the Sally Army on Boxing Day. I was mortified. If the play ever comes to Broadway, I shall go armed with three lawyers and sue. I consider it a defamation". In 2018, an Australian stage play Coral Browne - This F***ing Lady was staged by Maureen Sherlock starring Genevieve Mooy as Browne. Subsequently, Amanda Muggleton took on the part of Browne in later productions of the play.[24]

Personal life

Browne married actor Philip Pearman in 1950,[25] and remained married until his death in 1964.[26] While making the film Theatre of Blood (1973), she met actor Vincent Price;[27] they married on 24 October 1974. The two appeared together in the international stage adaptation of Ardèle, which played in the US as well as in London at the Queen's Theatre. During this run, Browne & Price starred together in the BBC Radio play Night of the Wolf first airing in 1975.[28] The two subsequently appeared in the 1979 CBS TV miniseries Time Express.

According to her step-daughter Victoria Price, Browne was bisexual.[29] She became a naturalized United States citizen in 1987 as a gift to Price who later converted to Catholicism for her (she had converted many years previously).

Browne died on 29 May 1991 in Los Angeles, California, from breast cancer; she was 77. After her death, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered in the Rose Garden at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. She had no children from her marriages; Price died two years later.


Browne was awarded the BAFTA Television Award for Best Actress 1984 for her role in An Englishman Abroad. She later received the London Evening Standard British Film Awards for Best Actress in 1986 for Dreamchild. In 1976, the Los Angeles Theatre Critics named her Best Actress for her role in Travesties at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.


When told by the Royal Shakespeare Company that there was no suitable role in their upcoming production of King Lear for her husband, Philip Pearman, she demanded a script and running through it she found the page she was looking for. "There you are", she said, "the perfect part. A small camp near Dover."[30]

Browne's language was colourful, and an unauthorized biography of her, This Effing Lady, was published. She was a devout Catholic (by conversion). The two aspects came together in a story of her standing outside Brompton Oratory after Sunday mass when an actor came up to her with gossip about who was sleeping with someone else's wife. She stopped him in his tracks with: "I don't want to hear this filth. Not with me standing here in a state of fucking grace.[citation needed]"

Alan Bennett: "When I said to Coral that I’d thought [Cecil] Beaton was gay she remarked, 'Not when he was with me, darling. Like a rat up a drainpipe.'[citation needed]"

The younger Australian performer Barry Humphries paid tribute to Browne at her memorial service with an appropriate poem: "She left behind an emptiness/A gap, a void, a trough/The world is quite a good deal less/Since Coral Browne fucked off."[31]


In 2018, an Australian stage play Coral Browne – This F***ing Lady was staged by Maureen Sherlock starring Genevieve Mooy as Browne.[24]



Year Title Role Notes
1933 Waltzing Matilda
1935 Line Engaged Doreen
1935 Charing Cross Road Lady Ruston
1936 The Amateur Gentleman Pauline Darville
1936 Guilty Melody Cecile
1938 We're Going to Be Rich Pearl
1938 Yellow Sands Emma Copplestone
1939 Footsteps in the Sand Lily James
1939 The Nursemaid Who Disappeared Mabel Barnes
1940 Let George Do It! Iris AKA, To Hell with Hitler
1946 Piccadilly Incident Virginia Pearson
1947 The Courtneys of Curzon Street Valerie AKA, Kathy's Love Affair
1954 Twist of Fate Helen
1958 Auntie Mame Vera Charles
1961 The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Meg
1962 Go to Blazes Colette
1963 Tamahine Madame Becque
1963 Dr. Crippen Belle Elmore
1967 The Night of the Generals Eleanore von Seidlitz-Gabler
1968 The Legend of Lylah Clare Molly Luther
1968 The Killing of Sister George Mercy Croft
1972 The Ruling Class Lady Claire Gurney
1973 Theatre of Blood Chloe Moon
1975 The Drowning Pool Olivia Devereaux
1980 Xanadu Heavenly Voice #2 Voice
1984 American Dreamer Margaret McMann
1985 Dreamchild Alice Hargreaves
1987 Sparky's Magic Piano Voice, Video, (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Affairs of State TV film
1955 Simon and Laura Laura Foster TV film
1956 London Playhouse Amanda Pinkerton "The Guv'nor"
1956 ITV Television Playhouse "Castle in the Air"
1969 Play of the Month Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez "Charley's Aunt"
1972 Stage 2 Mrs. Kitty Warren "Mrs. Warren's Profession"
1972 Play of the Month Mrs. Erlynne "Lady Windermere's Fan"
1974 Play of the Month Lady Bracknell "The Importance of Being Earnest"
1979 Time Express Margaret 'Maggie' Winters Main role
1982 Eleanor, First Lady of the World Lady Reading TV film
1983 An Englishman Abroad Herself TV film

Notable stage


  1. ^ Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography (1999) by Victoria Price, ISBN 0-312-26789-4
  2. ^ Deaths: Brown, The Age, (Monday, 14 October 1957), p. 11.
  3. ^ Marriages: Brown–Bennett, The Cobram Courier, (Thursday, 5 December 1912), p. 4.
  4. ^ Rees, Anne, "Browne, Coral Edith (1913–1991)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 2015.
  5. ^ Stars of Australian Stage and Screen Hal Porter, Rigby Ltd. Adelaide 1965
  6. ^ a b "Return visit with Jack Buchanan is Coral Browne's hope". Argus. 3 April 1948. p. 7. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  7. ^ ISBN 978-0-312-26789-6. St. Martin's Griffin (15 October 2000)
  8. ^ "The Billiard-Room Mystery - BBC Television - 14 January 1938 - BBC Genome".
  9. ^ "Saturday-Night Theatre Coral Browne and Phyllis Neilson-Terry in 'DINNER AT EIGHT' - BBC Home Service Basic - 27 November 1943 - BBC Genome".
  10. ^ "Saturday-Night Theatre Coral Browne, Malcolm Keen, and Jack Buchanan in 'THE SECOND MRS. TANQUERAY' - BBC Home Service Basic - 7 October 1944 - BBC Genome".
  11. ^ "Musical Theatre of the Air: 16: The Caspary Affair - BBC Home Service Basic - 11 July 1946 - BBC Genome".
  12. ^ "World Theatre: The Tragedy of Othello - BBC Home Service Basic - 27 February 1956 - BBC Genome".
  13. ^ "Stephen Murray with Coral Browne and Leon Quartermaine in - Third Programme - 15 October 1957 - BBC Genome".
  14. ^ "HAMLET - Third Programme - 23 October 1960 - BBC Genome".
  15. ^ a b "THE INFERNAL MACHINE - Third Programme - 23 November 1960 - BBC Genome".
  16. ^ "CAPTAIN BRASSBOUND'S CONVERSION - Third Programme - 17 December 1961 - BBC Genome".
  17. ^ "SATURDAY-NIGHT THEATRE - BBC Home Service Basic - 20 January 1962 - BBC Genome".
  18. ^ "DESERT ISLAND DISCS - BBC Home Service Basic - 11 September 1961 - BBC Genome".
  19. ^ "Play of the Month: Charley's Aunt - BBC One London - 23 November 1969 - BBC Genome".
  20. ^ "Lady Windermere's Fan - BBC One London - 14 May 1972 - BBC Genome".
  21. ^ "Mrs Warren's Profession - BBC Two England - 3 October 1972 - BBC Genome".
  22. ^ "Play of the Month - BBC One London - 17 February 1974 - BBC Genome".
  23. ^ Alan Bennett gives the date of her meeting with Burgess as 1958 in the introduction to his Single Spies, which contains the text of An Englishman Abroad as a stage play and the text of A Question of Attribution about Anthony Blunt. Single Spies, London, Faber, 1989, ISBN 0-571-14105-6.
  24. ^ a b "Coral Browne This F***ing Lady "Wise, funny, disarmingly honest .. "". Coral Browne Play.
  25. ^ Coral Browne Wed, The Argus, (Tuesday, 27 June 1950), p.9.
  26. ^ "The Coral Browne Story - Book Reviews". 23 June 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  27. ^ Zengerer, Catherine & Kesteven, Sophie, "Australian actor Coral Browne went from humble beginnings to a 1940s Hollywood star", ABC Radio National, 28 November 3022.
  28. ^ "Saturday-Night Theatre". The Radio Times. No. 2700. 7 August 1975. p. 17. ISSN 0033-8060. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  29. ^ "Vincent Price's daughter confirms her father's bisexuality". Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  30. ^ Ned Sherrin, Ned Sherrin's theatrical anecdotes: a connoisseur's collection of legends, stories, and gossip (London: Virgin, 1991)
  31. ^ "Coral Browne: This Effing Lady, by Rose Collis". 28 October 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  32. ^ Barbara Angell at IMDb
  33. ^ "Culture". 8 March 2017. Archived from the original on 9 December 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2017.

Works cited