Wednesday 17 January 2018

The soap queen of 'Crossroads'

Sue Lloyd, who has died aged 72, was a glamorous film and TV actress who became a regular in ITV's creaky daytime soap opera Crossroads, in which she appeared as Barbara Hunter, opposite her real-life husband Ronald Allen, who played her fictional hubbie David. She was born in Suffolk in 1939, just weeks before war was declared. The family relocated to Birmingham, where she attended Edgbaston School before winning a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School at Sadler's Wells in 1953.

She grew to 5ft 8in tall and so eschewed ballet for the chorus line in Lionel Blair's revue Five Past Eight at the Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow, directed by Michael Mills.

After appearing at the Victoria Palace Theatre in The Crazy Gang's These Foolish Kings she turned to modelling, even gracing the cover of Vogue on one occasion, before embarking on an acting career.

She quickly found her niche playing duplicitous temptresses in spy romps, beginning with The Sentimental Agent (1963). She was an ideal ingredient for Lew Grade's production line of transatlantic adventure series, and over the next decade she guested in The Saint, Department S, The Persuaders, Jason King, The Avengers and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), finally winning a regular role as Steve Forrest's co-agent Cordelia Winfield in the popular antiques and espionage hokum The Baron (1966).

Her film career began with an appearance as the girlfriend of Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) in The Ipcress File (1965), and she was cast opposite Peter Cushing in the horror film Corruption (1968). Other film roles followed, in Revenge of the Pink Panther (1977), and with Joan Collins in The Stud (1978) and The Bitch (1979).

In 1978 she was invited to join Crossroads, the television soap based in a fictional British midlands motel. "My initial reaction was to be a bit sniffy about it," Lloyd remarked in her autobiography, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (1998).

"The soap was renowned for its wobbly scenery, bizarre storylines and regular slaughtering by the critics. Why would I, just back from filming Revenge of The Pink Panther with Peter Sellers in the south of France and about to embark on the comedy The Upchat Line with John Alderton, want to get involved in a project like that? Besides, I was too busy. 'If they want you,' advised my agent, 'they'll come back'."

They did, and in 1979 Lloyd was offered the role of Barbara Brady. Within a year her character married David Hunter, the motel owner played by Ronald Allen, and in addition they had become a couple in real life. They remained together for 13 years, and married six weeks before Allen's death in 1991.

The daughter of a doctor, Lloyd's break came as a dancer in Lionel Blair's troupe; she also worked as a fashion model, and was photographed for the cover of Vogue.

After she had trained as an actress, television parts followed, mainly in popular crime thriller series, and she was cast as Cordelia Winfield in The Baron (1966-67).

Before her marriage to Allen, Lloyd was romantically linked with Sellers and Sean Connery, and her account of their affairs, sold to a newspaper, financed the purchase of a London flat.

Lloyd appeared in Crossroads for six years and was proud of the show's success in attracting some 15 million viewers a week. "A TV show would give its eye teeth for that kind of viewership today," she noted.

"Each episode only cost £10,000 to make and brought in £100,000 worth of advertising revenue. I think the truth is that they were ashamed of it. They axed it because it affected their egos."

Although she and Allen had been written out of Crossroads in 1985, they appeared together again in the Comic Strip's Eat the Rich (1988) on Channel 4 and the BBC crime drama Bergerac (1990). She also appeared again with Michael Caine, in the film Bullet to Beijing (1995).

After her husband's death, Lloyd went into semi-retirement, having decided to spend more time painting -- a hobby which she turned into a successful business -- and accepted only acting roles that appealed to her.

In 2005, with other Crossroads actors, she marked the 40th anniversary of the soap on ITV's This Morning, recalling her 700-odd appearances as Barbara Hunter, née Brady. Her last acting role was in the 2001 independent film Beginner's Luck.

Sue Lloyd, born August 7, 1939, died October 20, 2011

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