Pauline Stroud, who died at the age of 92, was an actress who, somewhat unlikely, was chosen between Audrey Hepburn, Diana Dors and Joan Collins and 200 other aspirants to play the lead in a film about beauty queens.
The film, Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951) by Frank Launder and Sydney Gilliat, shot mainly on location in cold Folkestone, was a satire on the world of beauty pageants in which she played Marjorie Clark, a shy young waitress from an industrial city in the Midlands. who becomes a local celebrity when she is cast to play Lady Godiva in a show.
“A white horse, slightly fearless, stands up to apologize,” wrote Campbell Dixon of the Daily Telegraph, describing the scene. “On the back is – what exactly? A little tepee? No: a hand separates what we now perceive as a jungle of bristly hair hanging from the stirrups, a depressed little face peeps out, the spectators laugh, the hand drops the curtain, the nag stumbles “.
Later, Marjorie enters a beauty pageant and accidentally wins after the organizer’s attempt to rig the contest in favor of her girlfriend (Diana Dors) fails. Marjorie becomes a national celebrity and for a time she enjoys modeling success, but she has less luck when she tries to conquer show business. She ends up in a seedy theater playing Lady Godiva in a nude “French magazine”.
Audrey Hepburn was turned down for the role because she was too skinny, and Bruce Babington, in his book Launder and Gilliat (2013), suggests that the choice of the inexperienced and what he described, in a non-charitable way, as the “least talent,” just faintly cute “Pauline,” unhelpfully juxtaposed to Kay Kendall [who played Marjorie’s sister]Dagmar Wynter and Diana Dors ”, was probably deliberate.
Otherwise the film was noteworthy as an ensemble piece with an impressive lineup of British comedy stars in supporting or cameo roles (George Cole, Sid James, Stanley Holloway, Dennis Price, Alastair Sim and Dora Bryan among the others), as well as for its formation of seaside beauties.
In addition to Diana Dors in a bikini (the film was later released in the US as Bikini Baby to capitalize on her rising profile), these included Joan Collins in her first film role (uncredited) and brunette (and pregnant) Ruth Ellis , who, four years later, would become famous as the last woman hanged in Britain for murder.
Campbell Dixon of the Telegraph praised Pauline Stroud’s performance for her “captivating amateurism”, but preferred the professional comedy rounds of Stanley Holloway (as Marjorie’s puritanical and disapproving father) and Alastair Sim, singling out a scene in which the Pauline Stroud’s wannabe starlet finds Sim down in the dumps – producer off guard “in his dingy little office, munching on a sandwich while the gas runs out.”
An only child, Pauline Stroud was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on March 21, 1930 to Leslie Stroud, an accountant, and Daisy, née Waters. She was brought up in a convent until her mother, fearing that she might be prepared for her sisterhood, took her away. She subsequently she was privately educated.
Pauline trained at the Rada, but only after her starring role in Lady Godiva Rides Again, and has since been touring in representation, as well as playing mostly small television and film roles. In the B-movie comedy Alf’s Baby (1953), she was the beautiful but rebellious young woman adopted as a child by three bachelors. In the 1970s she worked as a ballet and opera extra at Covent Garden.
In the early 1950s she became engaged to a scion of a Greek family of shipowners, but broke up and remained unmarried, although she had a 20-year partnership with Barry Woodward, a cruise director, who died in 2002.
Pauline Stroud, born March 21, 1930, death announced on September 4, 2022