Fostering a Passion for Lovely Lynne Frederick…
A new documentary on the life, career and loves of actress Lynne Frederick.
Lynne: The English Rose (2019) DOCUMENTARY | Trailer (HD), Foster Hitchman
I was honoured when the multi talented Foster Hitchman approached me to review Lynne: The English Rose (2019), his documentary about the life of the actress Lynne Frederick. As unbeknownst to him, she was an actress I’d adored since my childhood. At one time – being a bit of a history geek for all things Tudor – my film favourites were Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) and Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972). In the latter film, Lynne played Henry VIII’S fifth wife Catherine Howard. With her youth, beauty, naivety and wide eyed innocence, I felt the the 17 year old Frederick was perfect casting and the Catherine Howard I’d always imagined.
Recently, when selecting a film, Lee Grant Blogathon I noticed (to my joy) Lynne Frederick in the cast list for Voyage of the Damned (1976), playing Lee Grant’s on screen daughter. Lynne’s name was one of several reasons I’d picked this film to review, and she shone brightly in her Oscar touted role in this all star prolific cast. (A full review of this film with more on this true life story, and more Lynne’s character is found HERE.) This film reignited my passion for this actress, and after reading more I was devastated to learn that Lynne had only a ten year career on screen and had passed away at the young age of 39.
Lynne: The English Rose is a wonderfully constructed documentary written, produced and directed by Hitchman. It was beautifully narrated by actor, Alastair James Murden. Hitchman writing a well researched, non-judgemental and compassionate biographical documentary on this actress. It was both a heart warming tribute to learn more of Lynne’s fabulous work on screen, yet heartrending to hear of her often sadly turbulent life off screen. It was all the more heart breaking to watch knowing that Frederick, a rare combination of beauty and strong acting talent was only on screen for such a short time and that she has since passed away. This documentary telling of her life from her birth in Hillingdon, London in 1954 to her death in 1994.
It briefly tells of Lynne’s childhood telling of her upbringing as an only child. Her father leaving the family when she was still a toddler and Lynne being brought up by her mother – a casting director for Thames Television – and grandmother in Leicestershire. Then at 15 years old, when Lynne was posing for test shots at her mother’s workplace, it was – and our – good fortune she was noticed by director and actor Cornel Wilde. Wilde on meeting Lynn was keen for her to be cast first film, No Blade of Grass (1970). Lynne secured the role without an audition. The young Frederick choosing her acting career over one in mathematics or physics.
The documentary then looks at her then overnight stardom with this leading to a highly successful film, modelling and television career. Her acting career is told with a leisurely look over her ten years in front of the camera. Her film and television appearances are explored with some wonderfully chosen film clips, movie stills and insightful behind the scenes tales. Her modelling career is illustrated with some captivating pictures. Lynne’s on screen career is spoken about at length, showing this wonderful talented actress in both child friendly and more adult roles. It tells of how her delicate girl next door features meant she was often cast even as an adult in roles for a much younger character.
The documentary is a mine of information in learning more her successful acting career in all her roles, which elaborates on both film work – in Spanish cinema, Horror films, children’s movies and sci fi roles – to her varied television appearances. Lynne winning much praise for her roles in Henry VIII and his Six Wives – which she won an award for – and her much lauded appearance for Voyage of the Damned. The documentary also chronicles her sweet singing voice.
It was lovely to learn of her role in another historical film I enjoyed as a kid, namely Nicholas and Alexandra (1972). So I was doubly enthralled, after learning more of Lynne’s role in this film. In this historical film, Frederick played Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia, the second eldest daughter of of the ill fated Romanov family (headed by Tsar Nicholas II). With Lynne’s passion of this her second project shown, with her animatedly taking us on a filmed behind the scenes tour off screen. Lynne narrating this featurette which easily captures her young enthusiasm in her chosen career, as we see her introducing her co-stars and telling us more about the film.
There are wonderful off screen stories telling of her early friendships with Judy Matheson, Fiona Fullerton and David Niven. Niven providing a paternal and supportive and long lasting relationship with her from their joint project, The Canterville Ghost (1974) until his death. Judy Matheson shares an engaging tale, when she had a role as Fredrick’s chaperone and as a co-star for a sadly un-filmed project. Matheson’s tells of her then strong relationship with this actress, who sadly she lost touch with. It was lovely to learn this – after I’d recently interviewed Judy – that she had had a small part in Lynne’s life.
The documentary also focuses on Lynne’s private life, and tells of her relationships with and marriage with her three husbands. It focuses on her apparently troubled marriage with Peter Sellers and her stepchildren, but this marriage spoken of in a balanced, non biased way. Hitchman showing an understanding to her problems as a stepmother to his three children, and her life as one who loved and became a carer for the unwell Sellers. It showing both Sellers and Lynne in a more rounded way with facts, rather than judging one against the other. This documentary showing deleted clips from The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004) and also supported by interviews and quotes from her stepchildren.
It also tells of her taking a break in her career to care for and to support Sellers. However it shares after his passing she received much of his inheritance and legacy in a controversial will. I learnt that because of her standing by her late husband’s wishes (in not giving more of his inheritance to her stepchildren), that she was blacklisted from Hollywood. Her marriage to David Frost soon after Sellers death also damaged her career. After her short marriage to Frost, the marriage ended in divorce a short time later. In her third marriage, she got her much craved role as a mother to her daughter. This marriage also ending in divorce, and Lynne passed away a few years later with causes unknown. This part of the documentary was the most tragic to hear about and I was happy to learn she became a mother.
After watching and learning about this actress I found Lynne’s life and legacy mirrored one of her most remembered characters. Like Catherine Howard, Frederick is sadly mostly remembered as a young English rose marrying a highly powerful older man (by thirty years), giving up her life (and in Lynne’s case her acting career) and caring for his physical and mental health needs. However like this historical character, this documentary shows there was so much more to Lynne Frederick. Hitchman’s strong writing and visual story reinforces Lynne as a woman, a mother and an acting talent that we (and Lynne’s daughter) lost far too early. This is always seen and felt in this passionate documentary with film clips, interviews and true stories.
This documentary showing its also a time for Lynne seen without a thorn in her side. That is to say seeing her as a talented actress in these commended roles rather than criticise and judge her on her apparent flaws and on her life after Sellers passed away. Sadly it’s only now many years after her untimely death, that as an actress, Lynne is given chance to bloom and be recognised as a talented and acclaimed British actress.
More Pictures from Lynne with words and pictures from Foster Hitchman…
Key to pictures
1970…Lynne Frederick, aged 15, wide eyed and innocent in the beginning stages of her career. She became a popular teen idol amongst the British public after her screen debut in No Blade of Grass (1970).
1975… Lynne Frederick, (circa 1975) aged 21, publicity shot with her long brown hair. From rising teen idol to a mature actress.
1977… Lynne Frederick, aged 23, her long waist length hair given way to a more sophisticated Louise Brooks inspired bob cut. Frederick cut her hair for her role in Voyage of the Damned (1976), a role which would officially solidify her as an adult.
Mr and Mrs Sellers, the seemingly picture-perfect red-carpet couple, at the royal premier of Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
1980… Lynne Frederick, aged 26, shunned and blacklisted by Hollywood.
A wee disclaimer and personal thank you to Foster Hitchman for asking me to write this post. Financial compensation was not received for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own. I would also like to add that Foster kindly personally agreed to me using this trailer for this documentary and use these his captioned pictures of his work. Tune in soon for an interview with Foster Hitchman soon, about this documentary and his role as a filmmaker.
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