Oscar Actors: Roberts, Rachel–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Tony Award, Tony Nom)

Research in Progress: Oct 19, 2021
Rachel Roberts Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Nationality: Welsh

Social Class:



Education: University of Wales  n

Training: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut: repertory company, Swansea

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Breakthrough Role: Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, 1960; aged 33

Oscar Role: This Sporting Life, 1963; aged 37

Gap of First Film and First Nom:

Other Noms:

Other Awards: Tony Award; Tony Nom

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film: Yanks, 1979; aged 52; TV movie, posthumous, 1982

Career Output:

Film Career Span: 1960-1980

Marriage: 2.first actor, second actor Rex Harrison


Death: 1980; suicide; aged 53


Rachel Roberts (September 20, 1927–– November 26, 1980) was Welsh actress, best remembered for her screen performances as the older mistress of the central male character in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and This Sporting Life (1963). For both films, she won the BAFTA Award for Best British Actress.

She was also nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for This Sporting Life.

Her other notable film appearances included Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and Yanks (1979).

Roberts’ theatre credits included the original production of the musical Maggie May in 1964.

She was nominated for the 1974 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Chemin de Fer and The Visit, and won a Drama Desk Award in 1976 for Habeas Corpus.

Roberts was born in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales. After a Baptist upbringing (against which she rebelled), followed by study at the University of Wales and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, she began working with a repertory company in Swansea in 1950.

She made her film debut in the Welsh-set comedy Valley of Song (1953), directed by Gilbert Gunn.

Her portrayal of Brenda in Karel Reisz’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) won her a British Academy Film Award.[3] Lindsay Anderson cast her as the suffering Mrs Hammond in This Sporting Life (1963), earning another BAFTA and an Oscar nomination. Both films were significant examples of the British New Wave of film-making.

At the Royal Court, she played the title role as the life-enhancing tart in Lionel Bart’s musical Maggie May (1964).

In films, she continued to play women with lusty appetites as in Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man! (1973).

The haunting Australian-made Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), directed by Peter Weir, provided her with a different kind of role, as authoritarian head teacher of a Victorian girls’ school.

After relocating to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, she appeared in supporting roles in American films such as Foul Play (1978).

Her final British film was Yanks (1979), directed by John Schlesinger, for which she received a Supporting Actress BAFTA.

In 1976, she won a Drama Desk Award for her performance in Alan Bennett’s play Habeas Corpus.

In 1979, Roberts co-starred with Jill Bennett in the London Weekend TV production of Alan Bennett’s The Old Crowd, directed by Lindsay Anderson and Stephen Frears.

Roberts was married twice and had no children.

She first married actor Alan Dobie in 1955; they divorced in 1960.

In 1961, Roberts married actor Rex Harrison in Genoa, Italy. The marriage was tumultuous; Roberts and Harrison drank excessively and engaged in public fights. Harrison later left Roberts and they divorced in 1971. Later that year, Harrison married British socialite Elizabeth Rees-Williams, Roberts’s former best friend.

Roberts was known in the entertainment industry for eccentric behavior that stemmed from her alcoholism. She had habit of imitating a Welsh Corgi when intoxicated and once, at a party thrown by Richard Harris, attacked actor Robert Mitchum on all fours, chewing his trousers and champing on his bare skin, while he patted her on the head, saying “there, there.”

At the time of her death, Roberts was living on and off with Darren Ramirez, an attractive Mexican almost 20 years younger, but it was a largely platonic relationship.

Her last years were plagued by obsession of winning back Harrison.

Devastated by her divorce from Rex Harrison, Roberts’s alcoholism and depression worsened. She moved to Hollywood in 1975 and tried to forget the relationship.

In 1980, Roberts attempted to win Harrison back, but the attempt was futile as Harrison was then married to his sixth and final wife, Mercia Tinker.

On November 26, 1980, Roberts died at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 53. Her death was initially attributed to a heart attack. Her gardener found her body on her kitchen floor, lying amidst shards of glass; she had fallen through a decorative glass divide between two rooms. An autopsy later determined that her death was a result of swallowing lye or another alkali, or another unidentified caustic substance, as well as barbiturates and alcohol, detailed in her posthumously published journals. The corrosive effect of the alkali was the immediate cause of death. The coroner documented the cause of death as “swallowing a caustic substance” and, later, “acute barbiturate intoxication.” Her death was ruled a suicide.

Her journals became the basis for No Bells on Sunday: The Memoirs of Rachel Roberts (1984).

In 1992, Roberts’s ashes, along with those of friend Jill Bennett (who took her own life in 1990), were scattered on the River Thames in London by director Lindsay Anderson during boat trip, with several of the actresses’ professional colleagues and friends aboard; musician Alan Price sang “Is That All There Is?” The event was included as segment in Anderson’s BBC documentary, also titled Is That All There Is?


1953 Valley of Song Bessie Lewis Alternative title: Men Are Children Twice
1953 The Limping Man Barmaid
1954 The Weak and the Wicked Pat, pregnant inmate Alternative title: Young and Willing
1954 The Crowded Day Maggie Alternative title: Shop Spoiled
1957 The Good Companions Elsie and Effie Longstaff
1959 Our Man in Havana Prostitute Uncredited

1960 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Brenda, BAFTA Best Actress Award in a Leading Role

1961 Girl on Approval Anne Howland

1963 This Sporting Life Mrs. Margaret Hammond BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role; Oscar Nominated; Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress, Drama

1968 A Flea in Her Ear Suzanne de Castilian

1969 The Reckoning Joyce Eglington (Alternative title: A Matter of Honor)
1971 Doctors’ Wives Della Randolph
1971 Wild Rovers Maybell (town madam)
1973 Alpha Beta Nora Elliot
1973 The Belstone Fox Cathie Smith Alternative title: Free Spirit
1973 O Lucky Man! Gloria Rowe / Madame Paillard / Mrs. Richards
1974 Murder on the Orient Express Hildegarde Schmidt
1975 Picnic at Hanging Rock Mrs. Appleyard
1978 Foul Play Delia Darrow / Gerda Casswell
1979 Yanks Mrs. Clarrie Moreton BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1979 When a Stranger Calls Dr. Monk
1981 Charlie Chan and the Curse of Dragon Queen Mrs. Dangers


1958–1959 Our Mutual Friend Lizzie Hexam Miniseries
1960 On Trial Mrs. Rogerson 1 episode
1960 BBC Sunday-Night Play Mrs. Holyoake 1 episode
1963 The Eleventh Hour Mary Newell 1 episode
1966 ITV Play of the Week Lady Hamilton 1 episode
1966 Out of the Unknown Anna Preston 1 episode
1966 Blithe Spirit Ruth Condomine Television movie
1969 Destiny of a Spy Megan Thomas Television movie
1969 Happy Ever After 1 episode
1970 Night Gallery Rebecca Brigham 1 episode
1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. Dr. Victoria Thorson 1 episode
1973 Baffled! Mrs. Farraday Television movie
1974 Graceless Go I Television movie
1974 Play for Today Olwen 1 episode
1974 Great Expectations Mrs. Gargery Television movie
1976–1978 The Tony Randall Show Mrs. Bonnie McClellen 32 episodes
1977 A Circle of Children Helga Television movie
1979 Family Angela Brown 1 episode
1979 Six Plays by Alan Bennett: The Old Crowd Pauline Television movie
1979 3 by Cheever: The Sorrows of Gin Mrs. Henlein, TV movie
1980 The Hostage Tower Sonya TV movie

1982 The Wall Regina Kowalska TV movie, (final film role)