Googie Withers: 1917-2011

 The family of British Actress, Googie Withers has announced that she died peacefully in her sleep Friday afternoon, aged 94.

 The family of British Actress, Googie Withers has announced that she died peacefully in her sleep Friday afternoon, aged 94.  Best known for her work in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) Georgette Lizette Withers or “Googie” was born in India, but her family returned to England when she was 7 years old. From age 12 she began acting, and eventually became a student at the Italia Conti Academy of Arts. Googie was performing as a dancer on London’s West End when she was offered work as a film extra in Michael Powell’s The Girl in the Crowd (1935). She arrived on the set to find one of the major players in the production had been dismissed, and she was immediately asked to step into the role. The rest, is history During the 1930s Withers was constantly in demand in leading roles in minor films and supporting roles in more prestigious productions. While filming The Loves of Joanna Godden (1947), she met her co-star, Australian actor John McCallum, and they were married on 24 January, 1948. They remained married until McCallum’s death on February 3, 2010. Withers was he first non-Australian to be awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia Award (AO) in 1980 and she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002. That same year, aged 85, she appeared with John McCallum and Vanessa Redgrave in Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan in London’s West End. When husband McCallum was offered a position running J.C. Williamson Theatres, the couple moved to Australia. Withers starred in a number of stage plays, including Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, Beekman Place (for which she also designed the set), The Kingfisher, and Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard and Wilde’s An Ideal Husband for the Melbourne Theatre Company. She starred on Broadway with Michael Redgrave in The Complaisant Lover and in London with Alec Guiness in Exit the King. During the 1970s, Withers appeared as prison governor Faye Boswell in the television series Within These Walls, for which she won Best Actress Award in 1974.  Withers’ most recent screen performance was as the Australian novelist Katharine Susannah Prichard in the 1996 film Shine, for which she and the other cast members were nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast”.
Leading Australian theatre producer John Frost worked with Googie Withers and John McCallum on several occasions, and became a close family friend.  “My association with John and Googie began in 1978 when I worked as stage manager on their production of The Kingfisher,” Frost said. “We became firm friends and I was thrilled to present them in productions of High Spirits in 1993 and An Ideal Husband in 1997 and co produce their final West End appearance in Lady Windermere’s Fan starring Vanessa Redgrave. “Googie was theatre royalty,” Frost said. “Her zest for life and her command of the stage and screen will never be seen again. She will always have top billing and the number one dressing room in the eyes of her friends and fans. May her star always shine brightly.” Googie Withers is survived by her children Joanna, Nicholas and Amanda, and grandchildren Alexandra, Harry, Emma, Angus, Casper and Abigail. 

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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