Jean Kent

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6 Mar 2006
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Jean Kent was one of the great stars of the golden age of British cinema.

She was born in Brixton,  London in 1921 as Joan Summerfield, the daughter of two musical hall performers.  She first set foot on stage at the age of three, singing at a children’s matinee before becoming a child dancer at the age of six.

Her first regular work was as a member of the chorus at the legendary Windmill Theatre.

Her film breakthrough came as a result of stage work, in particular her appearance in the revue Apple Sauce, which played at the London Palladium in 1941, and where film producers spotted her and offered her a long-term contraction 1943 with Gainsborough Pictures.


She found fame in fiery, bad girl roles in the studio’s enormously popular  costume melodramas of the 1940s, such as Fanny By Gaslight in 1944,  The Wicked Lady 1945 opposite James Mason, and  Caravan in 1946 in which she played gypsy dancer Rosal opposite Stewart Granger and Dennis Price.

She went on to play in  Terence Rattigan’s great box office success -  The Browning Version in 1951 co-starring Michael Redgrave.  In later years, Jean found television and theatre more attractive than work in the cinema. She played Queen Elizabeth I in the long-running Sixties series Sir Francis Drake (1961) and  Daphne Goodlace, potential seductress of both Albert and Harold, in the BBC’s Steptoe and Son(1962) while also playing in The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan on stage.