York, one of the most recognisable British stars of the 1960s, trained at RADA and enjoyed a successful career spanning film, television and theatre.
Highlights ranged from her BAFTA-winning and Oscar nominated role in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), to playing Superman’s mother in three films and enjoying an acclaimed spell with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1990s.
Other stage credits included September Tide (Comedy Theatre, 1994), An Ideal Husband (Haymarket, 1998), The Wings of the Dove (tour, 2007) and her one-woman show The Loves of Shakespeare’s Women, which toured internationally.
In 2009 she led a triple bill of One Act Tennessee Williams plays at the New End Theatre (where she first appeared in 1978 in The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs). And last year, despite her cancer diagnosis, she starred in a national tour of Ronald Harwood's Quartet.
Speaking after her death, York’s son Orlando Wells, also an actor, said: “She was an absolutely fantastic mother, who was very down to earth. She loved nothing more than cooking a good Sunday roast and sitting around a fire of a winter's evening … Both my sister Sasha and I feel incredibly lucky to have her as a mother.
“She was a woman with grace and stature. She had advanced bone marrow cancer which she had an operation for. But, last Thursday, she had a scan and then the descent was fast. In the end, her death was painless and quick.”
Playwright Tom Stoppard also paid tribute: “I remember back in 1961 when I was a young journalist, I interviewed her for a magazine for her film Greengage Summer, and I still remember how completely charmed I was … I still think of her with great affection.”
Actor Chris Johnston, who played opposite York and Orlando in Hamlet at the Battersea Arts Centre in 1998, told the BBC she was “a true star”, who was a “warm, charming, relaxed and totally down-to-earth lady”.
Alongside her acting work, Susannah York was associated with a number of left-wing causes, including supporting Mordechai Vanunu, who was jailed for revealing Israel’s nuclear weapons programme. She also wrote two books for children, In Search of Unicorns (1973) and Lark's Castle (1975).
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