Actress who made her screen debut opposite Cary Grant but whose greatest success came in her 80s in a tale dealing with sensuality in old age
Faith Brook the actress, who has died aged 90, made her film debut in 1941 as a 19-year-old beauty who loses Cary Grant in Hitchcock's Suspicion; her greatest success came more than 60 years later, when she played a woman in old age discovering love for the first time.
In between she was Gertrude, mother to Ian Mc-Kellen's Hamlet; appeared in The Old Country with Alec Guinness and Coriolanus with Steven Berkoff; and in 1999 was Charles Dance's mother in Good, for which she received the Clarence Derwent Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Then, in 2004, she was invited to play the part of Martha in a one-woman play, The Colour of Poppies. The drama was an adaptation of the French novel La Femme Coquelicot which, with its poetic treatment of the taboo subject of love and sensuality in old age, had created a sensation when first published in 1999.
When Faith Brook premiered it at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London in 2004, she found the first couple of performances "absolutely terrifying". "You usually play characters who don't talk to the audience, they talk to each other," she observed. "In this play I tell the audience a story for an hour and 20 minutes."
Yet her performance won her the best notices of her career, with critics declaring her portrayal of an elderly woman experiencing sexual passion for the first time to be utterly convincing. By the time the play had completed a tour of the provinces in 2007, she was a still youthful-looking 85.
Faith Brook was born into a family of actors in York on February 16, 1922. She was about a year old when her father, Clive Brook, was offered a contract at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, where his screen career flourished in the Twenties and Thirties with films such as Shanghai Express, with Marlene Dietrich.
Faith and her brother (the actor Lyndon Brook) grew up with the children of other Hollywood stars, and she recalled her early life as idyllic. But everything changed after the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindberg's baby in 1932. "I was no longer able to go anywhere by myself," she recalled. "In the end, my father decided that having private detectives as chaperones was no way to raise a family. He sent us back to England."
Faith's ambition was to be a dancer, but her father advised her to follow in his footsteps. He began taking her to the theatre, starting with Ivor Novello's Glamorous Nights, and sent her to Rada.
She began her career with small parts in Suspicion and in Zoltan Korda's Jungle Book (1942). During the war she was about to do a play called Aren't Men Beasts? when she was called up for the Auxiliary Territorial Service, which put her face on their recruitment posters. Later, with the entertainment unit "Stars in Battledress", she toured in Rattigan's Flare Path along the Adriatic coast, reaching Athens just after the Germans left. "I had quite a nice time -- me and nine fellers," she recalled.
She had her first West End success in Arnaud d'Usseau and James Gow's Deep are the Roots. This was followed by a season at the Old Vic and many subsequent stage appearances. Her television credits include The Irish RM, War and Peace, Cream in My Coffee, Gentlemen and Players, They do it with Mirrors and Miss Marple.
In 1949 she married a doctor attached to the US Navy and moved to New York, where she starred in a series of television plays and appeared on Broadway in Dial M for Murder. But the marriage did not last and she returned to Britain. Another marriage, to Michael Horowitz, a Harley Street doctor, was also short-lived.
Faith Brook loved poetry reading, giving a memorable rendering of Anna Akhmatova's Requiem at the opening of the Edinburgh Festival in 1976. She also trained student actors at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Rada.
She is survived by her son.