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Eleanor Bron

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Eleanor Bron

Eleanor Bron
Eleanor Bron (1968)
Born (1938-03-14) 14 March 1938
Stanmore, Middlesex, England, UK
Occupation Actress, author
Partner(s) Cedric Price (?–2003, his death, widowed)

Eleanor Bron (born 14 March 1938)[1] is an English stage, film and television actress and author.

Early life and family

Eleanor Bron was born in 1938 in Stanmore, Middlesex, into a Jewish family. Before her birth her father Sidney had legally changed his name from Bronstein to Bron, in an effort to enhance his newly founded commercial enterprise, Bron's Orchestral Service. Her brother Gerry explained the change simply: "Bronstein's Orchestral Service was a bit of a mouthful."[2]

She attended the North London Collegiate School and then Newnham College, Cambridge: she later characterized her time at Newnham as "three years of unparalleled pampering and privilege".[3]

Bron was the partner of the architect Cedric Price for many years, until his death in 2003; they had no children.[4] Her elder brother was the record producer Gerry Bron.[5]


Early work

Bron began her career in the Cambridge Footlights revue of 1959, entitled The Last Laugh, in which Peter Cook also appeared. The addition of a female performer to the Footlights was a departure, as it had until that point been all-male, with female characters portrayed in drag.

Film appearances

Her film appearances include the role of Ahme in the Beatles film Help! (1965); her name inspired Paul McCartney when he composed "Eleanor Rigby". Other roles included the doctor who grounds Michael Caine's character in Alfie (1966), the unattainable Margaret Spencer in Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's film Bedazzled (1967), Hermione Roddice in Ken Russell's Women in Love (1969), and Sisters McFee and MacArthur in The National Health (1973).

She also appeared in the films Two for the Road (1967) alongside Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, and A Touch of Love (1969) with Sandy Dennis and Ian McKellen. More recently she has appeared in the film adaptations of Black Beauty (1994), A Little Princess (1995), The House of Mirth (2000), and Wimbledon (2004).

Television work

Eleanor Bron's earliest work for television included appearances on BBC-3, where she performed in sketches with John Fortune; they had already worked together at Peter Cook's Establishment Club. Later, her work included such programmes as Where Was Spring? (1969) and After That, This (1975) – the one with the "egg" timer in the opening credits.

She collaborated with novelist and playwright Michael Frayn on the BBC programmes Beyond a Joke (1972)[6] and Making Faces (1975).[7][8]

She appeared in "Equal Opportunities", a 1982 episode of the BBC series Yes Minister, playing a senior civil servant in Jim Hacker's Department.[9] Hacker plans to promote her—ostensibly to strike a blow for women's rights—only to be sorely disappointed.[10]

In 1979, Bron appeared as Maggie Hartley, a stage actress accused of murder, in an episode of the popular British legal series Rumpole of the Bailey, entitled "Rumpole and the Show Folk", starring Leo McKern. She also played Mrs Barrymore in the 1983 TV movie of The Hound of the Baskervilles starring Ian Richardson as Sherlock Holmes.

Bron appeared in a brief scene in the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who serial City of Death (1979), alongside John Cleese. The pair are art critics in Denise Rene's art gallery in Paris who are admiring the TARDIS (which they think to be a piece of art), when the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward) and Duggan (Tom Chadbon) rush into it and it dematerialises. Bron's character, believing this to be part of the work, states that it is "Exquisite, absolutely exquisite!"[11] Later, she had a more substantial guest role in another Doctor Who television serial, Revelation of the Daleks (1984).[12] Bron also appeared in a Doctor Who radio drama, Loups-Garoux (2001), in which she played the wealthy heiress Ileana de Santos.[13]

Bron played an art critic again in 1990, appearing on the BBC sketch comedy show French and Saunders in a parody of an Andy Warhol documentary.[14] Later she made frequent appearances on Jennifer Saunders' television series Absolutely Fabulous (1992–present). Bron played, via flashback, the recurring character of Patsy's mother, an exuberantly horrible woman who "scattered bastard babies across Europe like a garden sprinkler". After giving birth, she would always say "Now take it away! And bring me another lover."[4] In 1994, she had a supporting role in the BBC's ghost story The Blue Boy.

Stage appearances

In 1975 she appeared in the West End musical The Card. Throughout the 1980s she appeared in Amnesty International's Secret Policeman's Balls live benefit shows, working alongside Peter Cook and Rowan Atkinson. In 2005 she appeared in the Liverpool Empire Theatre in the musical play Twopence To Cross The Mersey. She appeared in the role of an abbess in Howard Brenton's play In Extremis, staged in Shakespeare's Globe in 2007. She also appeared in the dramatized version of Pedro Almodóvar's film All About My Mother, which opened at the Old Vic theatre in the late summer of 2007.[4]

Bron also gave the premiere performance of The Yellow Cake Revue (1980),[15] a series of pieces for voice and piano written by Peter Maxwell Davies in protest against uranium mining in the Orkney Islands.[16]

Recent work

In 1985, Bron was selected for her authoritative tone to become "the voice of BT" and can still be heard on various error messages such as "Please hang up and try again" and "The number you have dialled has not been recognised".[4]

In 2001 and 2002 she appeared in the BBC radio comedy sketch show The Right Time, along with Graeme Garden, Paula Wilcox, Clive Swift and Neil Innes. Another notable radio appearance was in The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in the 2002 episode "The Madness of Colonel Warburton". In 2001 she played the great-grandmother in the seven-part ITV series Gypsy Girl, based on books by Elizabeth Arnold.[17]

In 2006 she narrated the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of the Craig Brown book 1966 and All That. Other work includes a recorded tour of Sir John Soane's Museum in London, England.[18]

In April 2010, Bron, along with Ian McKellen and Brian Cox, appeared in a series of TV advertisements to support Age UK,[19] the charity recently formed from the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged. All three actors gave their time free of charge.

In June 2010 Bron guest starred in the Foyle's War episode The Russian House.

Bron appeared in the long-running British TV series Midsomer Murders as Lady Isobel DeQuetteville in the episode "The Dark Rider", first aired on ITV1 on 1 February 2012.[20]

On 25 December 2013 Bron appeared on BBC One in an adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story, The Tractate Middoth.

On 25 July 2014 Bron joined the cast of radio soap The Archers, playing the part of Carol Tregorran.[21]


She is the author of several books, including Life and Other Punctures, an account of bicycling in France and Holland on an early Moulton bicycle; and Cedric Price Retriever, an inventory of the contents of the bookshelves of her partner, the architect Cedric Price.


Cultural influences

She is mentioned in the Yo La Tengo song "Tom Courtenay": "dreaming 'bout Eleanor Bron, in my room with the curtains drawn...".


  1. ^ Eleanor Bronstein not Eleanor BronBorn in 1938 per www.findmypast (England & Wales births 1837–2006). Note her name is registered as
  2. ^ Westbrook, Caroline (3 April 2007). "Gerry Bron interview". Something Jewish. Retrieved 24 April 2007. 
  3. ^ Grumbach, Doris (4 November 1979). "My Oxford, My Cambridge"Nonfiction in Brief: . New York Times. p. BR5. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Franks, Alan (27 May 2010). "Eleanor Bron, the accidental actress". The Sunday Times (London, UK). Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Epstein, Dmitry (November 2004). "Interview with Gerry Bron". Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Beyond a Joke" (1972)""". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Moseley, Merritt (2006). Understanding Michael Frayn. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. p. 18.  
  8. ^ Making Faces" (TV series 1975)""". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  9. ^ "Yes, Minister: 'Equal Opportunities' episode summary". Retrieved 30 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "Yes, Minister: 'Equal Opportunities' episode recap". Retrieved 30 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Doctor Who: City of Death". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  12. ^ "Revelation of the Daleks". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  13. ^ "Loups-Garoux". Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  14. ^ "Episode Guide > Season 3, Episode 5: Dangerous Liaisons". Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  15. ^  
  16. ^  
  17. ^ "Gypsy Girl (TV Series 2001)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  18. ^ "Sir John Soane's Museum: Audio Tours". Sir John Soane’s Museum. 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  19. ^ "Eleanor Bron TV advert".  
  20. ^ "ITV Review: Midsomer Murders – The Dark Rider". 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  21. ^ "Eleanor Bron joins The Archers as Carol Tregorran".  

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