Kay Walsh
Walsh in Lease of Life (1954)
Kathleen Walsh

(1911-11-15)15 November 1911
Chelsea, London, England
Died16 April 2005(2005-04-16) (aged 93)
Chelsea, London, England
Occupation(s)Actress, dancer, writer
Years active1934–1981
(m. 1940; div. 1949)
(m. 1953, divorced)

Kathleen Walsh (15 November 1911 – 16 April 2005) was an English actress, dancer, and screenwriter. Her film career prospered after she met her future husband film director David Lean, with whom she worked on prestige productions such as In Which We Serve and Oliver Twist.

Early life and career

Walsh was born on 15 November 1911 in Chelsea, London.[1][2] She was raised in Pimlico by her grandmother.[3] She began her career as a dancer in West End music halls, and at the age of 17 she began going out with Pownoll Pellew (later 9th Viscount Exmouth), and they shared an interest in sports cars.[4] She made her film debut in How's Chances? (1934) in a small part, and had a larger role in Get Your Man, another 1934 film. She continued to act in "quota quickies" films for several years. Walsh first met David Lean, then a film editor, in 1936, during the filming of Secret of Stamboul. They began a relationship, and Walsh broke her engagement to Pellew. Walsh and Lean married on 23 November 1940. She moved on to prestige films with appearances in In Which We Serve (1942) and This Happy Breed (1944), both directed by Lean and written by Noël Coward. Walsh campaigned for Lean to receive co-director credit on In Which We Serve.[5]

Walsh contributed dialogue to the 1938 film of Pygmalion,[5] and devised the scenario for the closing sequence of Lean's film adaptation of Great Expectations (1946), receiving a writing credit on the latter film.[6] She devised the opening sequence of Lean's adaptation of Oliver Twist (1948) and played Nancy. Walsh and Lean divorced in 1949 on grounds of infidelity based on Lean's relationship with actress Ann Todd. Walsh continued to work as a character actress in films through the 1950s, including films with Alfred Hitchcock and Ronald Neame. Her own favourite film role was that of the barmaid Miss D. Coker in Neame's 1958 film of The Horse's Mouth, with Alec Guinness.[3]

Between films, she appeared regularly in plays and farces at the Strand and Aldwych theatres, directed by Basil Dean. She starred with Peter Coke in the 1938 thriller Death on the Table and Ralph Lynn at Aldwych in the 1940 comedy Nap Hand. She was a semi-regular on the 1979 Anglo-Polish TV series Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and remained active in films until her retirement in 1981. Her last role was in Night Crossing.[6]

Second marriage, later life and death

Her second marriage was to the Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques, and they adopted daughter Gemma in 1956. This marriage also ended in divorce.

She lived in retirement in London. She died on 16 April 2005 at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, aged 93, from multiple burns, following an accident.[1]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1934 The Bedroom Diplomat Minor Role uncredited
Get Your Man Mary Vivien [5]
1935 Smith's Wives Mabel Smith
1936 If I Were Rich Chrissie de la Mothe
The Luck of the Irish Eileen O'Donnel
The Secret of Stamboul Diana [3]
1937 All That Glitters Eve Payne-Coade
Keep Fit Joan Allen [6]
The Last Adventurers Margaret Arkell [5]
1938 I See Ice Judy Gaye [5]
Meet Mr. Penny Peggy Allgood
1939 The Mind of Mr. Reeder Peggy Gillette
The Missing People
Sons of the Sea Alison Devar
1940 All at Sea Diana
The Chinese Bungalow Sadie Merivale
The Second Mr. Bush Angela Windel-Todd
The Middle Watch Fay Eaton
1942 In Which We Serve Freda Lewis [3]
1944 This Happy Breed Queenie Gibbons [3]
1947 The October Man Molly Newman
1948 Vice Versa Florence Verlane [6]
Oliver Twist Nancy [6]
1950 Stage Fright Nellie Goode [6]
Last Holiday Mrs Poole [6]
The Magnet Mrs Brent [6]
1951 The Magic Box Hotel Receptionist
Encore Miss Molly Reid segment: "Winter Cruise" [3]
1952 Hunted Mrs. Sykes
Meet Me Tonight Lily Pepper segment: "Red Peppers"
1953 Young Bess Mrs Ashley [5]
Gilbert Harding Speaking of Murder Priscilla
1954 Calling Scotland Yard: The Missing Passenger Priscilla short
The Rainbow Jacket Barbara [7]
Lease of Life Vera Thorne [6]
1955 Cast a Dark Shadow Charlotte Young [6]
1956 Now and Forever Miss Muir
1958 The Horse's Mouth Dee Coker [5]
1960 Tunes of Glory Mary Titterington [6]
1961 Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog Mrs Brown
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mrs. Morgan Season 7 Episode 9: "I Spy"
1962 Reach for Glory Mrs Curlew [6]
The L-Shaped Room Prostitute uncredited
1963 80,000 Suspects Matron [6]
Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow Mrs Waggett
Lunch Hour Manageress
1964 Circus World Flo Hunt 1964 TV series Gideon's Way as Martha Smallwood
The Beauty Jungle Mrs. Freeman [6]
1965 A Study in Terror Cathy Eddowes
He Who Rides a Tiger Mrs Woodley [6]
Gideon's Way : Episodes “The Housekeeper” and "Morna' Martha and Mrs Harriet Bright [6]
1966 The Witches Stephanie Bax [6]
1967 Bikini Paradise Harriet Pembroke
1969 Journey to the Unknown Mrs Joan Walker TV movie, episode: "The Last Visitor"
Taste of Excitement Miss Barrow
1970 Connecting Rooms Mrs Brent
The Virgin and the Gypsy Aunt Cissie [6]
Scrooge Mrs Fezziwig [6]
1972 The Ruling Class Mrs Piggot-Jones [6]
1982 Night Crossing Doris's mother [6]


  1. ^ a b "Walsh, Kathleen [Kay] (1911–2005)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/95768. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Tom Vallance (27 April 2005). "Kay Walsh (obituary)". The Independent. London. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  4. ^ Dave Cox, Ave Atque Vale, p 15
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Kay Walsh (obituary)". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 April 2005. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Brian Baxter (29 April 2005). "Kay Walsh (obituary)". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  7. ^ "The Rainbow Jacket". studiocanal.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 August 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2016.