Born: 17th December 1929 (as Grace Jacqueline Hill)
Born and raised in Birmingham, Jacqueline Hill lost her parents when she was very young, and she was raised by her grandparents. At age fourteen, Hill left school to find work, and was soon employed as a clerk at a Cadbury's chocolate factory. There she became involved in the company's amateur dramatics society; discovering a passion for acting, she successfully applied for a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
After graduating from RADA, Hill began to secure jobs in the theatre and as a model, but her career was given a significant boost in 1953 when she was profiled on the BBC talent show Shop Window. More substantial theatrical roles followed, as well as her film debut -- second-billed on the crime drama The Blue Parrot -- although she would make only one further movie in her career.
The same year, Hill met Alvin Rakoff, a Canadian who had become the BBC's youngest producer/director. Rakoff was soon regularly casting Hill in lead roles, while their off-screen relationship culminated in a 1958 wedding. It was Hill who encouraged Rakoff to cast an unknown actor named Sean Connery in a 1957 edition of BBC Sunday Night Theatre; five years later, he would skyrocket to international stardom as James Bond.
Hill's career became increasingly focussed on television plays for the BBC and ITV, and especially the kind of serious drama in which Rakoff often cast her. However, Hill was being hired with decreasing frequency by other directors, who were wary of running afoul of her influential husband. Appearances in programmes such as Maigret and No Hiding Place were rare exceptions.
Shortly before their marriage, however, Hill and Rakoff had worked together on an episode of Armchair Theatre, where they had struck up a friendship with production assistant Verity Lambert. This relationship was rekindled thanks to a chance encounter in New York in 1961 and, upon their return to England, the three began to see each other socially.
In 1963, Lambert became the producer of the nascent Doctor Who. Lambert thought of Hill for the role of schoolteacher Barbara Wright, but was doubtful that her friend would be interested in a science-fiction adventure for younger audiences. Nonetheless, Lambert discussed the opportunity with Hill at a party, and made a formal offer while Hill and Rakoff were on holiday in Italy that July. To Lambert's surprise and delight, Hill accepted the part.
Hill's first appearance as Barbara came in the premiere episode of Doctor Who, 100,000 BC part one. She remained on the show for twenty months, departing alongside co-star William Russell, who played Ian Chesterton. Ironically, Russell and Hill would immediately find themselves reunited in a stage version of Separate Tables. Soon thereafter, Hill decided to step back from acting in order to raise a family. Although she and Rakoff were unable to have children of their own, they had now made the decision to adopt, and their family soon added daughter Sasha and son John.
In the late Seventies, Hill felt it was time to return to acting. In 1979 she appeared in two episodes of the legal drama Crown Court, and Rakoff directed her in a BBC production of Romeo and Juliet. Meanwhile, Rakoff had told his colleague, Terence Dudley, of Hill's decision to resume her career. When Dudley was hired to direct Meglos for Doctor Who in 1980, he thought of Hill for the role of the priestess Lexa -- much to the approval of producer John Nathan-Turner, who felt that Hill's appearance would delight the programme's long-time fans.
Hill continued to work occasionally, including episodes of Angels and Tales Of The Unexpected, until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid-Eighties. Sadly, the disease proved to be terminal, and she died on February 18th, 1993. Twenty years later, Hill was portrayed by Jemma Powell in the docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time, which chronicled the early years of Doctor Who.
|Updated 4th May 2020|
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