Fifties film star Jean Kent dies aged 92
The actress appeared in films alongside Marilyn Monroe, Michael Redgrave and Laurence Olivier
Jean Kent, one of the biggest film stars of the Forties and Fifties, has died.
The death of the actress, aged 92, was announced by Michael Thornton, an author and former film critic who was a close family friend.
He said that Kent had been injured in a fall at her home in the Suffolk village of Westhorpe on Thursday. She was taken by ambulance to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, where she died early yesterday.
Kent made her last public appearance in June 2011, when she was honoured by the British Film Institute (BFI) on her 90th birthday. It screened one of her films, Caravan, at BFI Southbank in London.
Her career included regular appearances in Gainsborough melodramas, which were popular with newly independent women after the Second World War.
The turning point of her career came in the Gainsborough film Fanny By Gaslight, in 1944, in which she starred with James Mason and Stewart Granger.
In total, she made 45 films, with co-stars including Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, who both appeared with her in The Prince and the Showgirl, and Michael Redgrave, with whom she starred in The Browning Version and The Man Within, which also featured Richard Attenborough.
One of her most controversial works was Good-Time Girl, in 1948, in which a young woman becomes involved with criminals, which attracted the attention of censors.
Though known mainly for romantic and melodramatic roles, she also featured in comedies, such as Please Turn Over, produced by the team behind the Carry On films, and featuring some of their stars, such as Charles Hawtrey and Joan Sims.
Kent’s television career also included appearances on Up Pompeii!, Crossroads and Lovejoy. Her small-screen career had started in the Thirties, when she appeared in a musical called A Ship In The Bay, which was broadcast live.
Kent was born in Brixton, south London, in 1921, the only child of variety performers Norman Field and Nina Norre. As a 13-year-old, she performed in theatre in London’s West End, initially under the stage name Jean Carr.
She met her husband, Josef Ramart, an Austrian actor, on the set of Caravan.
They were married in April 1946, with Stewart Granger, her co-star in the film, as best man. Granger had also appeared with her in Waterloo Road, which also featured John Mills.
The couple, who also appeared together in 1949 in Trottie True, a musical comedy, bought a farm near Sudbury, Suffolk, in the Fifties, and stayed there for 20 years until they moved to Westhorpe. Her husband died from cancer in 1989.
Mr Thornton said: “I knew Jean for more than 50 years. She was a feisty, funny, outspoken character, who never took herself too seriously.
"She knew what it meant to be a star, and regarded it as her job to live up to that position and never to disappoint the public.”
He added: “Because she became one of the most famous stars of the Gainsborough era, with its bodice-ripping melodramas, she was underrated as an actress. But she was a great actress.”
Speaking on her 90th birthday, Kent said that she was still available for work.
“Oh yes, I’d work like a shot, as long as I didn’t have to walk,” she said. “A nice sitting-down part would be fine.”