A woman of substance in her own right
The obituaries of Jill Balcon, who died last week at the age of 84, all made sure to note that she was the widow of Cecil Day-Lewis, former British poet laureate, and the mother of Daniel Day-Lewis, about whom no more need be said. Enthusiasts for British cinema will also have remembered that her father was Sir Michael Balcon, the force behind the founding of the untouchable Ealing Studios.
One could go further and point out that, once Balcon’s son married Rebecca Miller, she gained mutual in-law status with that writer and director’s dad, Arthur Miller. Yet all this scrutinising of family trees somewhat obscures the late Ms Balcon’s own considerable achievements.
An impressive actor with a gorgeous voice, Balcon studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama and appeared in such notable films as Nicholas Nickleby (1947) and Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948). In the succeeding decades, when not concerned with family, she devoted her time to theatre, television and radio. Cinema fans can, however, catch a brief glimpse of her in Derek Jarman’s Edward II (1991) and enjoy a more substantial performance in the same director’s characteristically barmy Wittgenstein (1993).
Understandably peeved that the authorities refused to grant her husband a spot in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, Balcon devoted much of her later years to the promotion of poetry.
Daniel’s folks: Cecil Day Lewis and Jill Balcon in 1957