Suzan Farmer

Stal­wart of Ham­mer films who livened up a se­ries of movies

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Death & Obituaries -

SUZAN Farmer, who died last month aged 75, was a film and tele­vi­sion ac­tress best known for a brief stint as Al­bert Tat­lock’s chi­ropodist Sally Rob­son in Corona­tion Street, and for her roles in sev­eral blood-cur­dling Ham­mer hor­ror films.

Fair-haired with soft fea­tures and a dis­tinc­tive wispy voice, in 1965 she was Boris Karloff’s daugh­ter in Die, Mon­ster, Die! “Mr Karloff was grumpy,” she later rem­i­nisced. “He kept him­self to him­self and wasn’t the charm­ing per­son­al­ity peo­ple per­ceived him to be.” The next year she played the vir­gin bride who falls vic­tim to Christo­pher Lee in Drac­ula: Prince of Dark­ness, and again with Lee in the bodice-rip­ping Rasputin, the Mad Monk.

Else­where, she looked se­duc­tive in the swash­buck­ling ad­ven­tures The Crim­son Blade (1963) and The Devil-Ship Pi­rates (1964), but nei­ther tested her act­ing prow­ess to any de­gree. She also per­formed her Ham­mer co-star Bar­bara Shel­ley’s “screamy” voice-overs in Drac­ula, Prince of Dark­ness.

Suzan Maxine Farmer was born on June 16, 1942 in Kent to two al­co­holic par­ents, and she and her brother Michael grew up in a vi­o­lent and un­sta­ble house­hold.

Her fa­ther died when she was four and she later moved in with relatives. Her brother was sent to board­ing school and went on to be­come trea­surer of the Con­ser­va­tive party and a life peer as Lord Farmer.

Suzan left school at 15 to pur­sue a ca­reer in show­busi­ness and af­ter sev­eral small the­atri­cal roles made her film de­but as Tess in The Supreme Court (1958), co-star­ring Hugh David and Harry Fowler.

Hav­ing de­cided to en­rol at the Cen­tral School of Speech and Drama in or­der to hone her act­ing skills, she was still study­ing when she was cast in the coun­try­side saga The Dawn Killer (1959).

She was soon flit­ting be­tween film and tele­vi­sion roles, join­ing Judy Gee­son in Gil­bert Gunn’s Wings of Mys­tery (1963). She also fea­tured in Val Guest’s 80,000 Sus­pects (1963), in which a doc­tor (Richard John­son) in a shaky mar­riage to Claire Bloom has to han­dle a small­pox out­break.

She had a role in Ham­mer Stu­dios’ The Scar­let Blade (1963) with Oliver Reed, and in 1964 she worked with Christo­pher Lee on The Devil-Ship Pi­rates. That same year she played Sally Carstairs in the BBC adap­ta­tion of Ed­mund Crispin’s de­tec­tive novel The Mov­ing Toyshop, and was cast as Mary Blake in the war film 633 Squadron. In 1966 she joined Les­lie Phillips in the med­i­cal romp Doc­tor in Clover, and played Caron in the sec­ond of the Charles Vine spy spoofs, Where the Bul­lets Fly, co-star­ring Tim Bar­rett.

In 1962 she had met the ac­tor Ian McShane on the set of The Wild and the Will­ing, and they were mar­ried in 1965. But McShane was still drink­ing heav­ily and the mar­riage foundered, with the cou­ple di­vorc­ing af­ter two years.

Among her other roles through the 1960s and be­yond, Suzan Farmer ap­peared in The Saint, played El­iza Mill­ward in The Ten­ant of Wild­fell Hall, and was in Dan­ger Man with Pa­trick McGoohan. She also fea­tured in Death in Deep Wa­ter (1976), the fi­nal episode of the ITV se­ries Thriller, in which she played the schem­ing temptress Gilly.

Suzan Farmer toured in pro­duc­tions of Shake­speare all over Africa. Dur­ing one stint, she was caught up in dusk-to-dawn cur­fews af­ter an at­tempted coup in Nige­ria; she went down with malaria in Sierra Leone; and was bit­ten by a mon­key as she hung her wash­ing out to dry in Cameroon. She died on Septem­ber 17 and is sur­vived by her brother.

STREET ROLE: Away from Ham­mer films, Suzan Farmer played Sally Rob­son in ‘Corona­tion Street’. Here she is seen with Wil­liam Roache (Ken Barlow) in 1978. Photo: ITV/Rex

SCREAM QUEEN: Hor­ror ac­tress Suzan Farmer. Photo: ITV/Rex

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