Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Stars turn out for Sheridan service

The order of service at the memorial for actress Dinah Sheridan
The order of service at the memorial for actress Dinah Sheridan

Dinah Sheridan, who played the mother in the classic British film The Railway Children, has been remembered in a special church service.

The actress, who died in November last year at the age of 92, also appeared in the British comedy Genevieve and the BBC series Don't Wait Up, which co-starred Nigel Havers.

The memorial service was held at St Paul's in Covent Garden, London, also known as "The Actors' Church".

Simon Williams, who appeared with the late star in Don't Wait Up, performed an extract of JM Barrie's Peter Pan with his actress wife Lucy Fleming.

He remembered how a young Dinah was the first to take on both the role of Wendy and Peter in subsequent stagings of the play. He said: "She had the warmth and down to earth practicality, the maternal instincts, of a Wendy. But you look a little closer and there was the reckless, devil-may-care twinkle in her eye that made you know she must have been a marvellous Peter Pan."

Tony Britton, who played the actress's husband in Don't Wait Up, also came to the service. Harold Snoad, the former BBC programme director who cast her in the sitcom, read the poem Why Must The Show Go On? by playwright and composer Noel Coward, whom Dinah counted among her friends.

The actress, described in obituaries as the quintessential English rose, was born Dinah Nadyejda Ginsburg in Hampstead in 1920 to a Russian father and German mother who were photographers to the Royal Family. Her first stage role came at the age of 12 and her film break was shortly after, when she was 15.

In 1942 she married actor Jimmy Hanley, with the two appearing together in Salute John Citizen (1942), 29 Acacia Avenue (1945) and The Huggetts Abroad (1949). The couple's children are Jenny and Sir Jeremy Hanley, with Jenny following in her parents' footsteps to become an actress and Sir Jeremy serving as Conservative party chairman in the 1990s.

Dinah went on to marry three more times, divorcing her second husband and outliving the third and fourth.

Daughter Jenny, who presented the cult ITV show Magpie in the 1970s, said after the service: "I think people still feel affection towards her because her films are timeless. Genevieve and The Railway Children have been on television practically every Easter and Christmas for the last 20 years. They appeal to different generations."

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