Born: 1st July 1934 (as Jean Lyndsey Torren Marsh)
Jean Marsh was born in Stoke Newington, London, and was sent for dance lessons at an early age as therapy for a bout of paralysis. This inspired a love of performance, and she was soon dancing on both stage and screen. Marsh made an early movie appearance (an uncredited part in The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby) and her West End debut in 1947, and started getting small television roles in the early Fifties, such as The Infinity Shoeblack. In 1953, she danced in Will Any Gentleman? and fell in love with the film's star: Jon Pertwee, the future Third Doctor. They married in 1955, but Marsh craved her independence and they split after eighteen months, finalising their divorce in 1960.
Meanwhile, Marsh aspired to more substantial acting challenges and began to take voice lessons at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She relocated to the United States, where she won roles on Broadway and appeared in television programmes such as The Twilight Zone and Walt Disney's The Horsemasters. Marsh then returned to the UK, and in 1965 won not one but two roles in Doctor Who: first as Joanna, sister to King Richard the Lionheart, in The Crusade, and then as intergalactic spy Sara Kingdom, who accompanied the First Doctor for the second half of The Daleks' Master Plan before dying during its climactic moments.
As the Sixties wore on, Marsh amassed a wide array of television credits on both sides of the Atlantic, such as I Spy, Adam Adamant Lives!, The Informer and The Saint. But it was as the Seventies dawned that she made her most enduring mark on the cultural landscape, co-creating the period drama Upstairs, Downstairs with Eileen Atkins. Marsh also starred in the international hit, and was nominated for an Emmy Award three years in a row, winning once. Other television that decade included The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes, The Waltons and Hawaii Five-O; Marsh also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy on the big screen, and she returned to Broadway on multiple occasions.
In the Eighties, Marsh co-starred in the first season of 9 To 5, based on the hit movie. She was in the George C Scott horror film The Changeling and her guest appearances included The Love Boat, Tales From the Darkside and Trapper John, MD. Marsh also enjoyed a string of well-regarded roles as villainous witches, including the movies Return To Oz and Willow as well as a 1989 return to Doctor Who in Battlefield opposite Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor.
In 1991, Marsh and Atkins teamed up again to create another successful period drama, The House Of Eliott. In 1993, Marsh wrote a spin-off book also called The House Of Eliott, and then authored the first of three original novels, Fiennders Keepers, in 1996. The Nineties saw Marsh continue to act, including episodes of Murder, She Wrote, The Tomorrow People and Kavanagh QC.
The dawn of the new century saw Marsh no less active, with credits as varied as The Ghost Hunter, Holby City and Sensitive Skin. A role in the 2009 ghost story Crooked House was crafted especially for Marsh by Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss. She also returned to Sara Kingdom for Big Finish Productions, beginning in 2008 with Home Truths for The Companion Chronicles range of audio dramas.
In 2010, Marsh and Atkins relaunched Upstairs, Downstairs. Marsh earned a fourth Emmy nomination, although her appearances in the second (and final) season were curtailed by a minor stroke. In 2012, she was awarded an OBE for her services to drama. A year later, Marsh could be glimpsed alongside another Sixties Doctor Who companion, Anneke Wills, in a cameo role for the telefilm An Adventure In Space And Time, which helped celebrate the programme's golden anniversary.
|Updated 22nd May 2020|
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