Dame Flora Robson, 82, a British character actress who appeared in more than 60 movies in a stage and film career that spanned half a century, died June 7 at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton, England. The cause of death was not reported.
Dame Flora first appeared on stage in 1921, and was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1960 in recognition of her work on the English stage and screen. She spent several years making films in Hollywood during World War II and, in later years, occasionally appeared on the Broadway stage.
She often played regal roles, scoring one of her first major triumphs in 1936 as Queen Elizabeth I in the movie "Fire Over England." One of her costars in that picture was Vivien Leigh, who played a lady-in-waiting.
Dame Flora later said: "'Fire over England,' that was my favorite role, but they were not nice to me while it was being made. They kept pushing me into a corner while they paid attention to Vivien Leigh. I suffered while making that picture."
And when they finished the film, she said, movie mogul Alexander Korda dropped her contract because "they said they couldn't come up with queens every day."
"On my tombstone," she once said, "they will write: 'She was a plain woman.' "
In London theater, she played the devoted governess in "The Innocents," Miss Tina, the old lady's companion in "The Aspern Papers," and the tragic Mary Paterson in "The Anatomist."
In Hollywood, she played the unsympathetic jealous wife in "We Are Not Alone." She played Ellen Dean in the 1939 movie version of "Wuthering Heights," in which she starred with Merle Oberon and Sir Laurence Olivier. She portrayed the Empress of China in "55 Days at Peking." Her other film credits include "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines."
After World War II, her portrayal in "Black Chiffon" of the unhappy mother who was prompted by stress to steal a nightdress in a shop, was considered one of her best roles. She also appeared as Cleopatra's nurse in the film version of Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra," and as the nurse in a film version of "Romeo and Juliet."
Flora Robson was born March 28, 1902 in South Shields, England. When she was 5 years old her father decided that she had the makings of a great actress. At 10 she was giving recitals all over London, and in her twelfth year, suffered a nervous breakdown.
Later she entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won the Bronze Medal upon her graduation in 1921. She spent a year with the Oxford Repertory and was fired when a director decided that she was not pretty enough. She spent the rext four years working in a cornflakes factory.
By the late 1920s she had returned to acting and continued to work as regularly as she wished. She made her debut in New York in "Ladies in Retirement" in 1940 and appeared in Los Angeles and other cities.
After announcing her retirement in 1970, Miss Robson returned briefly to the theater as Miss Prism in "The Importance of Being Earnest." She lived in Brighton.
Dame Flora, who never married, once said: "I have known very little personal love, but the public have always shown great affection. They seemed to have preferred me to the beauties."