Margaret Leighton
Leighton in 1959
Born(1922-02-26)26 February 1922
Died13 January 1976(1976-01-13) (aged 53)
Years active1938–1976
(m. 1947; div. 1955)
(m. 1957; div. 1961)
(m. 1964)

Margaret Leighton, CBE (26 February 1922 – 13 January 1976) was an English actress, active on stage and television, and in film.[1] Her film appearances included Anthony Asquith's The Winslow Boy (her first credited film role), Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn, Powell and Pressburger's The Elusive Pimpernel, George More O'Ferrall's The Holly and the Ivy, Martin Ritt's The Sound and the Fury, John Guillermin's Waltz of the Toreadors, Franklin J. Schaffner's The Best Man, Tony Richardson's The Loved One, John Ford's 7 Women, and Joseph Losey's The Go-Between and Galileo. For The Go-Between, she won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Leighton began her career on stage in 1938, before joining the Old Vic and making her Broadway debut in 1946. A four-time Tony Award nominee, she twice won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play: for the original Broadway productions of Separate Tables (1957) and The Night of the Iguana (1962). She also won an Emmy Award for a 1970 television version of Hamlet.

Life and career

Born in Barnt Green, Worcestershire, Leighton made her stage debut as Dorothy in Laugh with Me (1938), which also was performed that year for BBC Television.[2] She became a star of the Old Vic.[2] Her Broadway debut was as the Queen in Henry IV (1946), starring Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson during a visit of the Old Vic to the U.S., and the company performed a total of five plays from its repertoire before returning to London.[3]

After appearing in two British films, including the starring role of Flora MacDonald opposite David Niven in Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948) and in the popular The Winslow Boy (also 1948), the actress appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949) and the crime/mystery Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951).[4] In the U.S., she portrayed the wife of a presidential candidate in The Best Man (1964).[5]

Leighton won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Separate Tables (1956); she won another Tony in that category for The Night of the Iguana (1962), playing Hannah Jelkes (a role played by Deborah Kerr in the film version) opposite Bette Davis's Maxine Faulk.[6][7] Leighton was nominated for Best Actress in a Play for Much Ado About Nothing (1959) and for Tchin-Tchin (1962).[6] Her last appearance on Broadway was as Birdie Hubbard in a revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1967).[8]

She had a noteworthy list of TV appearances, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey and Burke's Law.[9][10] She won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama for Hamlet (1970) and she was nominated for an Emmy in 1966 for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama for four episodes of Dr. Kildare.[11] Her final TV performance was in the first season of Space: 1999 where she played Queen Arra in the episode "Collision Course."[10]

For her film role as Mrs Maudsley in The Go-Between (1971), Leighton won the British BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress.[12] She also received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for the role.[13] She received a BAFTA nomination for Best British Actress for her role as Valerie Carrington in Carrington V.C. (1954).[14]

Personal life

Leighton was married three times, to publisher Max Reinhardt from 1947 to 1955, to actor Laurence Harvey from 1957 to 1961, and to actor Michael Wilding from 1964 until her death.[15] She had no children by any of the marriages.[8]

She was appointed a CBE in 1974.[3] Leighton died of multiple sclerosis in 1976, aged 53, in Chichester, Sussex.[16][8]



Year Title Role Notes
1948 The Winslow Boy Catherine Winslow First credited feature
Bonnie Prince Charlie Flora MacDonald
1949 Under Capricorn Milly
1950 The Astonished Heart Leonora Vail
The Elusive Pimpernel Marguerite Blakeney
1951 Calling Bulldog Drummond Helen Smith
1952 Home at Seven Janet Preston
The Holly and the Ivy Margaret Gregory
1954 The Good Die Young Eve Ravenscourt
The Teckman Mystery Helen Teckman
Carrington V.C. Valerie
1955 The Constant Husband Counsel for the Defence
1957 The Passionate Stranger Judith Wynter / Leonie Hathaway
1959 The Sound and the Fury Caddy Compson
1962 Waltz of the Toreadors Emily Fitzjohn
1964 The Best Man Alice Russell
1965 The Loved One Helen Kenton
1966 7 Women Agatha Andrews
1969 The Madwoman of Chaillot Constance
1971 The Go-Between Mrs. Maudsley
1972 X Y & Zee Gladys
Lady Caroline Lamb Lady Melbourne
1973 Bequest to the Nation Frances Nelson
1974 From Beyond the Grave Madame Orloff Segment: "The Elemental"
1975 Galileo Elderly Court Lady
1976 Trial by Combat Ma Gore


Year Title Role Notes
1938 Laugh with Me Dorothy BBC TV play
1947 Everyman Beauty BBC TV play
1948 Arms and the Man Raina Petkoff BBC TV adaptation
1951, 1953 Sunday Night Theatre Catherine Bailey, Rosalind, Lucasta Angel Episodes: "Release (I)", "As You Like It", "The Confidential Clerk"
1955 ITV Opening Night at the Guildhall Gwendolen Fairfax TV film
1955, 1960 ITV Play of the Week Natalya Petrovna, Mrs. Manningham Episodes: "A Month in the Country", "Gaslight"
1956 Theatre Royal Marion Episode: "The Triumphant"
1957 Suspicion Miss Perry Episode: "The Sparkle of Diamonds"
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Iris Teleton Season 4 Episode 10: "Tea Time"
1959 Playhouse 90 Miss Kerrison Episode: "The Second Man"
1959 DuPont Show of the Month Millie Crocker-Harris Episode: "The Browning Version"
1964 Ben Casey Leila Farr Episode: "August Is the Month Before Christmas"
1964 Burke's Law Connie Hanson Episode: "Who Killed Everybody?"
1965 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Nell Snyder Season 3 Episode 13: "Where the Woodbine Twineth"
1965 Dr. Kildare Chris Becker Guest role (season 5)
1966 The F.B.I. Amy Hunter Episode: "The Chameleon"
1966 The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Gita Volander Episode: "The Lethal Eagle Affair"
1968 A Touch of Venus Rosemary Episode: "All on Her Own"
1968–69 Play of the Month Helen Lancaster, Mrs. Cheveley Episodes: "Waters of the Moon", "An Ideal Husband"
1969 Judd, for the Defense Mary Wright Episode: "The Crystal Maze"
1969 The Wednesday Play Florence Lancaster Episode: "The Vortex"
1970 The Name of the Game Amelia Rayner Episode: "The King of Denmark"
1970 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Gertrude Episode: "Hamlet"
1972 Armchair Theatre Lady Huntercombe Episode: "Hot Summer: Do Not Sell"
1973 The Upper Crusts Lady Seacroft TV series
1973 Frankenstein: The True Story Francoise DuVal TV film
1974 Great Expectations Miss Havisham TV film
1975 Space: 1999 Arra Episode: "Collision Course"

Select theatre credits

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Results Ref.
1971 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress The Go-Between Nominated [17]
1954 British Academy Film Awards Best British Actress Carrington V.C. Nominated [18]
1971 Best Actress in a Supporting Role The Go-Between Won [19]
1971 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress Won [20]
1966 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama Dr. Kildare Nominated [21]
1971 Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama Hamlet Won
1957 Tony Awards Best Leading Actress in a Play Separate Tables Won [22]
1960 Much Ado About Nothing Nominated [23]
1962 The Night of the Iguana Won [24]
1963 Tchin-Tchin Nominated [25]


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, 21 January 1976, page 111.
  2. ^ a b "Margaret Leighton | English actress". Encyclopedia Britannica. 9 January 2024.
  3. ^ a b "Leighton, Margaret (1922–1976) |".
  4. ^ "Margaret Leighton". BFI. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017.
  5. ^ "The Best Man (1964) - Franklin J. Schaffner | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie.
  6. ^ a b "Margaret Leighton – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB".
  7. ^ "The Night of the Iguana (1964)". BFI. Archived from the original on 1 November 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Margaret Leighton – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB".
  9. ^ "Margaret Leighton | TV, Documentary and Other Appearances". AllMovie.
  10. ^ a b "Margaret Leighton".
  11. ^ "Margaret Leighton". Television Academy.
  12. ^ "BAFTA Awards".
  13. ^ "The 44th Academy Awards | 1972". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  14. ^ "BAFTA Awards".
  15. ^ "Leighton, Margaret (1922–1976)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/40469. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  16. ^ "Margaret Leighton | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos". AllMovie.
  17. ^ "The 44th Academy Awards (1972) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  18. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1955". British Academy Film Awards. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  19. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1972". British Academy Film Awards. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  20. ^ "KCFCC Award Winners – 1970-79". Kansas City Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  21. ^ "Margaret Leighton". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  22. ^ "1957 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  23. ^ "1960 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  24. ^ "1962 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  25. ^ "1963 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved 28 March 2024.