Oscar Actors: Ure, Mary–Background, Career, Awards (Suicide)

Mary Ure became the second Scottish-born actress (after Deborah Kerr) to be nominated for an Oscar Award, for her role in the 1960 film Sons and Lovers.

Born as Eileen Mary Ure in Glasgow on Feb 18, 1933,  Ure was the daughter of civil engineer Colin McGregor Ure and Edith Swinburne. She went to the independent Mount School in York, where in 1951 she played the role of the Virgin Mary in the York Cycle of Mystery Plays, revived for the Festival of Britain.

She trained for the stage at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

In her final year, 1954, she won the Carlton Hobbs Bursary to join the Radio Drama Company, but declined it. Known for her beauty, Ure began performing on the London stage and quickly developed a reputation  as a dramatic actress.

She made her London debut as Amanda in “Time Remembered” (1954).

Look Back in Anger

She played a leading role as Alison Porter in John Osborne’s new play Look Back in Anger (1956). In 1958, she was in the Broadway production of Look Back in Anger and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Dramatic Actress.

She also performed a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon and, while pregnant, performed in the 1960 London production of The Changeling at the Royal Court.

But her growing alcoholism affected her stage career to the point that she was fired from the 1974 pre-Broadway production of Love for Love and was replaced by her understudy, Glenn Close.

Ure first appeared on screen in Storm Over The Nile in 1955 and then transferred her fragile, captivating portrayal of “Alison Porter” from stage to screen in the 1959 film adaptation of Look Back in Anger. In 1960 she appeared in the film Sons and Lovers as Clara Dawes, earning nominations for both the Golden Globe Award and the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

In 1963, after an absence of three years, she returned to film in the sci-fi drama The Mind Benders. She followed with roles in The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964) and Custer of the West (1967), both with then-husband Robert Shaw.

After 1968’s Where Eagles Dare, Ure’s next and last film appearance, in 1971’s A Reflection of Fear co-starring her husband.

In 1956, Ure began an affair with married playwright John Osborne while working on Look Back in Anger. The couple married in 1957, had a son Colin in 1961, but divorced in 1963. Osborne had continued having affairs during the marriage, and Ure began an affair with her co-star Robert Shaw in 1959, while the two were performing in The Changeling.

Ure and Shaw married in 1963, with Shaw immediately adopting Colin.[5] Ure and Shaw had three more children together: Elizabeth (born 1963), Hannah (born 1965) and actor Ian Shaw (born 1969).[4] Ure and Shaw were still married at the time of her death.

Ure suffered from alcoholism coupled with deterioration of her mental health through the early 1970s.

On April 2, 1975 she appeared on the London stage with Honor Blackman and Brian Blessed in an adaptation of the teleplay The Exorcism, and after a disastrous opening night was found dead, aged 42, from an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates. Her body was discovered by her husband Robert Shaw in their London home.


Storm Over the Nile (1955) – Mary Burroughs
Windom’s Way (1957) – Lee Windom
Look Back in Anger (1958) – Alison Porter
Sons and Lovers (1960) (Nominee Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Golden Globe) – Clara Dawes
The Mind Benders (1963) – Oonagh Longman
The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964) – Vera Coffey
Custer of the West (1967) – Elizabeth Custer
Where Eagles Dare (1968) – Mary Ellison
A Reflection of Fear (1971) – Katherine