34 Facts About Peggy Ashcroft


Dame Edith Margaret Emily Ashcroft, known professionally as Peggy Ashcroft, was an English actress whose career spanned more than 60 years.


Peggy Ashcroft was working in smaller theatres even before graduating from drama school, and within two years she was starring in the West End.


Peggy Ashcroft maintained her leading place in British theatre for the next 50 years.


Peggy Ashcroft's career was almost wholly spent in the live theatre until the 1980s.


Peggy Ashcroft then turned to television and cinema with considerable success, winning two BAFTAs and an Academy Award.


Peggy Ashcroft was born in Croydon, Surrey, the younger child and only daughter of Violetta Maud, nee Bernheim and William Worsley Peggy Ashcroft, a land agent.


Peggy Ashcroft's father was killed on active service in the First World War.


Peggy Ashcroft attended Woodford School, East Croydon, where one of her teachers encouraged her love of Shakespeare, but neither her teachers nor her mother approved of her desire to become a professional actress.


Peggy Ashcroft was determined and at the age of 16, she enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama, run by Elsie Fogerty, from whom her mother had taken lessons some years before.


Peggy Ashcroft learned more from reading My Life in Art by Constantin Stanislavski, the influential director of the Moscow Art Theatre.


Peggy Ashcroft graduated from the Central School in 1927 with London University's Diploma in Dramatic Art.


Peggy Ashcroft is a lovely person and the best actress living.


In 1930 Peggy Ashcroft was cast as Desdemona in a production of Othello at the Savoy Theatre, starring Paul Robeson in the title role.


The production was not well received, but Peggy Ashcroft's notices were excellent.


The production prompted a political awakening in Peggy Ashcroft, who was astonished to receive hate mail for appearing onstage with a black actor; she was angry that Robeson was not welcome at the Savoy Hotel, despite being the star at the adjoining Savoy Theatre.


Peggy Ashcroft recalled, "When Peggy came on in the Senate scene it was as if all the lights in the theatre had suddenly gone up".


Peggy Ashcroft paid her performers modest wages, but the theatre was known for its unrivaled repertory of classics, mostly Shakespeare, and many West End stars took a large pay cut to work there.


Peggy Ashcroft was not attracted to the medium of cinema and made only four more films over the next quarter-century.


Critical opinions differed as to the relative merits of her leading men, but Peggy Ashcroft won glowing reviews.


Peggy Ashcroft played the Queen in Richard II, Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal, Irina in Three Sisters and Portia in The Merchant of Venice.


Peggy Ashcroft included Harry Andrews, Glen Byam Shaw, George Devine, Michael Redgrave and Harcourt Williams, with Angela Baddeley and Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as guests.


Peggy Ashcroft won excellent notices, but the productions were thought to lack flair and were unfavourably compared with the exciting work of the rival Old Vic company under Richardson and Olivier's leadership.


Peggy Ashcroft began the 1950s with a return to Shakespeare, at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, playing Beatrice to Gielgud's Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing and Cordelia to his King Lear.


The last of these was not a success, but Peggy Ashcroft was credited with courage for taking the role on.


Peggy Ashcroft immediately agreed to join him, and her lead was, in Hall's view, key to the success of the new Royal Shakespeare Company.


Peggy Ashcroft appeared at the Royal Court in Duras's The Lovers of Viorne in the role of a schizophrenic killer, a performance that the young Helen Mirren found so accomplished that "I just wanted to rush out and start all over again".


Many were surprised when Peggy Ashcroft appeared with Richardson at the Savoy in 1972 in what was by all appearances a conventional West End drawing room comedy, Lloyd George Knew My Father, by William Douglas-Home, but the two stars revealed unexpected depths in their characters.


Peggy Ashcroft later made occasional, but highly successful, television and film appearances.


Peggy Ashcroft was the grandmother of the French singer Emily Loizeau.


Peggy Ashcroft died of a stroke in London at the age of 83.


Peggy Ashcroft's ashes were scattered around a mulberry tree in the Great Garden at New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, which she had planted in 1969.


Peggy Ashcroft was awarded honorary degrees by eight universities and was an honorary fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford.


Peggy Ashcroft was awarded a British Film Institute Fellowship in 1989.


Peggy Ashcroft is commemorated with a memorial plaque in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.