A woman of sub­stance in her own right

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News -

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

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