Claire Bloom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Claire Bloom

Claire Bloom.jpg
Bloom in 1975
Patricia Claire Blume

(1931-02-15) 15 February 1931 (age 90)
Years active1946–present
(m. 1959; div. 1969)

(m. 1969; div. 1972)

(m. 1990; div. 1995)
ChildrenAnna Steiger
RelativesJohn Bloom (brother)
Bloom in The Brothers Karamazov (1958)

Claire Bloom CBE (born Patricia Claire Blume; 15 February 1931) is an English actress. She is known for leading roles in plays such as A Streetcar Named Desire, A Doll's House, and Long Day's Journey into Night, and has starred in nearly sixty films. She is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

After a childhood spent in England (and in the US for two-and-a-half years during WWII), Bloom studied drama in London. She debuted on the London stage when she was sixteen and soon took roles in various Shakespeare plays. They included Hamlet, in which she played Ophelia alongside Richard Burton. For her Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, critic Kenneth Tynan stated it was "the best Juliet I've ever seen". After she starred as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, its playwright, Tennessee Williams, stated, "I declare myself absolutely wild about Claire Bloom".

In 1952, Bloom was discovered by Hollywood film star Charlie Chaplin to co-star alongside him in Limelight. During her film career, she starred alongside numerous major actors, including Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Paul Scofield, Ralph Richardson, Yul Brynner, George C. Scott, James Mason, Paul Newman, Cliff Robertson, Anthony Hopkins and Rod Steiger.

In 2010, Bloom played the role of Queen Mary in the British film The King's Speech. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

Early life[edit]

Bloom was born as Patricia Claire Blume in Finchley, then part of Middlesex (now a suburb of North London), the daughter of Elizabeth (née Grew) and Edward Max Blume, who worked in sales.[1] Her paternal grandparents, originally named Blumenthal, as well as her maternal grandparents, originally named Gravitzky, were Jewish emigrants from Byten in the Grodno region of Russia, now in Belarus, Eastern Europe.[2]: 1–2 [3]She is Russian British and practices the Jewish Faith.

Bloom attended secondary school at the independent Badminton School in Bristol. She studied stage acting as an adolescent at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and continued her studies under Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based in the Royal Albert Hall, London.[4]

After the Luftwaffe began bombing London during the Blitz in 1940, her family had a number of narrow escapes as bombs dropped close to their home. She and her brother John were sent to safety in the country and then to the United States, where she spent a year living with an uncle.[5] She recalls, "It was 1941; I was ten, John was nearly six. We were to sail from Glasgow in a convoy, on a ship that was evacuating children."[6]: 26  During her year stay in Florida, she was asked by the British War Relief Society to help raise money by entertaining at various benefits, which she then did for a number of weeks. "Thus I broke into show business singing", she writes.[6]: 30 

Bloom, along with her mother and brother, next lived in New York for another eighteen months before returning to England. It was in New York that she decided to become an actress, after her mother took her to see the Broadway play, Three Sisters, for her twelfth birthday:

From then on I thought only of going into the theatre and playing in Chekhov. . . . Chekhov was moving. That's what I was looking for—something more moving even than my own plight as a little English girl driven from my home by the Gods of War.[6]: 36 

Acting career[edit]


With John Neville in Romeo and Juliet (1957)

After training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Central School of Speech and Drama, Bloom made her debut on BBC radio programmes. She made her stage debut in 1946 when she was 15 with the Oxford Repertory Theatre.

She debuted aged 16 at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre as Ophelia to Paul Scofield's Hamlet, Robert Helpmann alternated playing the prince. Bloom has written that during the production she had a crush on Scofield. As Scofield was happily married and the father of a son, Bloom hoped only, "to be flirted with and taken some notice of". She later recalled, "I could never make up my mind which of my two Hamlets I found the more devastating: the openly homosexual, charismatic Helpmann, or the charming, shy young man from Sussex."[2]: 43 

When asked about Bloom years later, Scofield recalled, "Sixteen years old I think—so very young and necessarily inexperienced, she looked lovely, she acted with a daunting assurance which belied entirely her inexperience of almost timid reticence. She was a very good Ophelia."[7]

Her London stage debut was in 1947 in the Christopher Fry play The Lady's Not For Burning, which starred John Gielgud and Pamela Brown and featured a young Richard Burton. It also played on Broadway in New York City. It was during the rehearsals for the play that Burton and Bloom began a long love affair. The following year, she received acclaim for her portrayal of Ophelia in Hamlet starring Burton, the first of many works by William Shakespeare in which Bloom would appear. Although Burton was at that time married to Sybil Christopher, fellow actor and friend of Burton, Stanley Baker, seeing how attracted he was to Bloom, commented that he "thought that this might be the time when Rich actually left Sybil."[8] In his later years, Burton told his biographer, Michael Munn, "'I only ever loved two women before Elizabeth,' Sybil was one, Claire Bloom the other."[8]: 52, 85 

In a 2002 interview with Michael Shelden, Bloom said of Burton, "He had it all: intelligence, physical beauty, an incredible voice. There was no one else like him. When we were at the Old Vic, he proved that a working-class actor could make it, and I was proud of him. I thought he set a great example in a society that was, and still is, so preoccupied with class and accent."[9]

Bloom has appeared in a number of plays and theatrical works in both London and New York. Those works include Look Back in Anger; Rashomon; 'Duel of Angels' (by Jean Giraudoux), co-starring with Vivien Leigh, in 1958;[10] and Bloom's favorite role, that of Blanche DuBois, in a revival of the Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire, which played in London in 1974. Critic Clive Barnes described the play as a "notable example of what the classic revival should be – well groomed, but thoughtful, expressive, illuminating."[11] Another critic writes that Bloom's portrayal of Blanche featured "remarkable layers of vitality and tenderness", and playwright Williams stated, "I declare myself absolutely wild about Claire Bloom."[11]

Bloom has also performed in a one-woman show that included monologues from several of her stage performances. She also starred in the 1976 Broadway revival of The Innocents.


With Charlie Chaplin in Limelight (1952)

Bloom's first film role was in the 1948 film The Blind Goddess. She trained at the Rank Organisation's charm school but did not stay with that company for long.

Her international screen debut came in the 1952 film Limelight, when she was chosen by Charlie Chaplin, who also directed, to co-star alongside him. The film catapulted Bloom to stardom.[citation needed] Biographer Dan Kamin states that Limelight is a similar story to Chaplin's City Lights, made twenty years earlier, in which Chaplin also helps a heroine overcome a physical handicap. In this film, Bloom plays a suicidal ballerina who "suffers from hysterical paralysis".[12]

The film had personal meaning for Chaplin as it contained numerous references to his life and family: the theatre where he and Bloom performed in the film was the same theatre where his mother gave her last performance;[citation needed] Bloom was directed by Chaplin to wear dresses similar to those his mother used to wear; Chaplin's sons and his half-brother all had parts.[13] Bloom states that she felt one of the reasons she got the part was because she closely resembled his young wife, Oona O'Neill.[14][15] In his autobiography, Chaplin writes that he had no doubt the film would be a success: "I had fewer qualms about its success than any picture I had ever made."[12] Chaplin explains his decision to make Bloom co-star despite this being her first film:

In casting the girl's part I wanted the impossible: beauty, talent, and a great emotional range. After months of searching and testing with disappointing results, I eventually had the good fortune to sign up Claire Bloom, who was recommended by my friend Arthur Laurents.[16][17]

Claire Bloom as Barsine, with Richard Burton as Alexander, in Alexander the Great (1956)

She was subsequently featured in a number of "costume" roles in films such as Alexander the Great (1956), The Brothers Karamazov (1958), The Buccaneer (1958), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). Bloom also appeared in Laurence Olivier's film version of Richard III (1955), in which she played Lady Anne, Ibsen's A Doll's House (1973) for which she won Best Actress award at Taormina International Film Festival, The Outrage (1964) with Paul Newman and Laurence Harvey, as well as the films Look Back in Anger (1959) and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), both with Richard Burton.[citation needed] Of Bloom's character in Spy, novelist David Plante writes that "Claire's refined beauty appears to be one with the refinement of a culture she represents as an actress."[18]

In the 1960s she began to play more contemporary roles, including an unhinged housewife in The Chapman Report, a psychologist opposite Cliff Robertson's Oscar-winning role in Charly, and Theodora in The Haunting. She also appeared in the Woody Allen films Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Mighty Aphrodite (1995). She appeared in the Sylvester Stallone film Daylight (1996). She played Hera in Clash of the Titans. Laurence Olivier played Zeus, her husband; she had also played his wife, Queen Anne in Richard III (1955). Her most recent appearances in films were her portrayal of Queen Mary in the 2010 Oscar winning British film The King's Speech and her portrayal of Eva Rose opposite Jerry Lewis in the 2016 film Max Rose.[16]


Bloom has appeared in numerous roles on television such as her portrayal of Lady Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited (1981).[citation needed] In 1996, she wrote, "I still find it puzzling when I am told I played a manipulative and heartless woman; that is not how I saw her. Lady Marchmain is deeply religious, and her dilemma includes trying to raise a willful brood of children on her own, while instilling them with her rigid observance of the Catholic code. Sebastian is both an alcoholic and a homosexual, and from her point of view, he lives in a state of mortal sin. She has to fight for his soul by any means in her power, with the knowledge that her efforts may lead to his destruction. A born crusader, the Marchioness confronts her difficult choices head on; her rigidity of purpose, which I don't in any way share, is understandable in context. The aspect that rings most true is her sense of being an outsider, a Catholic in Protestant England. Not such a leap from being a Jew in Protestant England as one would imagine."[2]: 162 

In Broadway stage play Hedda Gabler, 1971

Other work includes two prominent BBC Television productions for director Rudolph Cartier: co-starring with Sean Connery in Anna Karenina (1961),[19] and playing Cathy in Wuthering Heights with Keith Michell as Heathcliff (1962).[20] She also appeared as First Lady Edith Wilson in Backstairs at the White House (1979); as Joy Gresham, the wife of C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands for which she received the BAFTA Award as Best Actress (1985);[citation needed] as Marina Gregg in The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side, the last of the BBC Miss Marple adaptations in 1992; and as the older Sophy in the serial The Camomile Lawn (1992) on Britain's Channel 4. Her most recent appearance in a mini-series was in the 2006 version of The Ten Commandments.

On continuing television series, she has appeared on the New York-based Law & Order: Criminal Intent. From 1994 to 1995, she portrayed villainess Orlena Grimaldi on the daytime drama As the World Turns.[16] She also had major roles in several of the BBC-Shakespeare Play television presentations and has led workshops on Shakespearean performance practices. In 2003, Bloom did a stage reading of Milton's Samson Agonistes along with actor John Neville at Bryn Mawr College at the behest of poet Karl Kirchwey.[21]

Later appearances[edit]

In December 2006, she appeared on the London stage in Arthur Allan Seidelman's production of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks by Richard Alfieri, a two-hander in which she co-starred with Billy Zane.[22]

Bloom with Guy Pearce, a fellow actor in The King's Speech, January 2011

In October 2007, she appeared opposite Peter Bowles in Love Letters at the Théâtre Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo, directed by Marc Sinden, as part of his British Theatre Season, Monaco.

In 2008, she guest starred in New Tricks as actress Helen Brownlow. The story concerned the murder of Brownlow's husband whilst they were in a play together.

In December 2009 and January 2010, she appeared in the two-part Doctor Who story "The End of Time" as a mysterious Time Lord credited only as "The Woman". Series executive producer Russell T. Davies revealed in his 2010 book The Writer's Tale that the character is supposed to be the Doctor's mother.

In 2010, she guest starred as Jill Peters in The Bill in the episode "Taking a Stand" and played Queen Mary in The King's Speech.

In September 2012, she appeared in concert at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, Maryland, as the narrator in a performance of Leonard Bernstein's Kaddish, with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop.[23] In 2013, Bloom appeared in the sixth series of ITV's Doc Martin as the estranged mother of the title character. In 2015 she appeared as Matilda Stowe in ITV's Midsomer Murders episode 17.4, "A Vintage Murder".

In 2019, she appeared as Aunt Mary in the Stephen Poliakoff BBC TV mini-series, Summer of Rockets.

Personal life[edit]

Bloom has married three times. Her first marriage, in 1959, was to actor Rod Steiger,[citation needed] whom she had met when they both performed in the play Rashomon. Their daughter is opera singer Anna Steiger. Steiger and Bloom divorced in 1969. In that same year, Bloom married producer Hillard Elkins.[citation needed] The marriage lasted three years and the couple divorced in 1972. Bloom's third marriage on 29 April 1990, was to writer Philip Roth, her longtime companion.[24] They separated in 1994.

Bloom has written two memoirs about her life and career. The first, Limelight and After: The Education of an Actress, was published in 1982 and was an in-depth look at her career and the film and stage roles she had portrayed. Her second book, Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir, published in 1996, went into greater details about her personal life; she discussed not only her marriages but also her affairs with Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, and Yul Brynner. The book created a stir when Bloom described her former marriage to Roth. Soon after, Roth wrote a "revenge novel" I Married a Communist (1998), in which the character of Eve Frame appeared to represent Bloom.[25][26]


Bloom was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to drama.[27][28]



Year Title Role Notes
1948 The Blind Goddess Mary Dearing
1952 The King and the Mockingbird The Shepherdess Voice
English version
Limelight Thereza
1953 Innocents in Paris Susan
The Man Between Susanne Mallison
1955 Richard III Lady Anne
1956 Alexander the Great Barsine
1958 The Brothers Karamazov Katya
The Buccaneer Bonnie Brown
1959 Look Back in Anger Helena Charles
1960 Brainwashed Irene Andreny
1962 The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm Dorothea Grimm
The Chapman Report Naomi Shields
1963 80,000 Suspects Julie Monks
The Haunting Theodora
Il maestro di Vigevano Ada
1964 Alta infedeltà Laura
The Outrage Wife
1965 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Nan Perry
1968 Charly Alice Kinnian
1969 The Illustrated Man Felicia
Three into Two Won't Go Frances Howard
1971 A Severed Head Honor Klein
Red Sky at Morning Ann Arnold
1973 A Doll's House Nora Helmer
1977 Islands in the Stream[16] Audrey
1981 Clash of the Titans[16] Hera
1985 Déjà Vu Eleanor Harvey
1987 Sammy and Rosie Get Laid Alice
1989 Crimes and Misdemeanors Mirian Rosenthal
1991 The Princess and the Goblin Great Great Grandmother Irene Voice
1995 Mighty Aphrodite Mrs. Sloan
1996 Daylight Eleanor Trilling
2002 The Book of Eve Eva Smallwood
2003 The Republic of Love Onion
Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin Herself
Imagining Argentina Sara Sternberg
2006 Kalamazoo? Eleanor
2010 The King's Speech Queen Mary
2016 Max Rose Eva Rose
2018 Miss Dalí Maggie
TBA Sophie's War Teresa Pre-production


Year Title Role Notes
1952 BBC Sunday Night Theatre Martine Season 3 episode 19: Martine
1957 Goodyear Television Playhouse Rose Season 6 episode 8: "First Love"
Robert Montgomery Presents Queen Victoria Season 8 episode 31: Victoria Regina
1958 Shirley Temple's Storybook Beauty Season 1 episode 1: "Beauty and the Beast"
1959 Playhouse 90 Hypatia Season 4 episode 3: "Misalliance"
1961 Anna Karenina Anna Karenina TV movie
1979 Backstairs at the White House Edith Bolling Galt Wilson TV mini-series
1980 Hamlet Gertrude TV movie
1981 Brideshead Revisited Lady Marchmain 6 episodes
1983 Separate Tables Miss Cooper TV Movie
1984 Ellis Island Rebecca Weiller 3 episodes
1985 Ann and Debbie Debbie TV movie
Shadowlands Joy Davidman TV movie
Promises to Keep Sally TV movie
1986 Oedipus the King Jocasta
1987 Queenie Vicky Kelly 2 episodes
Intimate Contact Ruth Gregory 4 episodes
1988 The Lady and the Highwayman Lady Emma Darlington TV movie
Beryl Markham: A Shadow on the Sun Lady Delamere TV movie
1991 The Camomile Lawn Old Sophy Mini-series
1992 It's Nothing Personal Evelyn Whitloff TV movie
Miss Marple: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side Marina Gregg TV movie
1994 Remember Anne Devereaux Rawlings TV movie
A Village Affair Cecily Jordan TV movie
1996 Family Money Fran Pye Mini series
1997 What the Deaf Man Heard Mrs. Tynan TV movie
2000 Yesterday's Children Maggie TV movie
Love and Murder Nina Love TV movie
2005-13 Doc Martin Margaret Ellingham 4 episodes
2006 Agatha Christie's Marple Aunt Ada Season 2 episode 3: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs"
2008 New Tricks Helen Brownlow Season 5 episode 2: "Final Curtain"
2009-10 "Doctor Who: The End of Time" The Woman 2 episodes
2010 The Bill Jill Peters Season 26 episode 25: "Taking a Stand"
2015 Midsomer Murders Matilda Stowe Season 17 episode 4: A Vintage Murder
2019 Summer of Rockets Aunt Mary Mini-series


  1. ^ "Claire Bloom Biography (1931–)". Film Reference. Advameg. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Bloom, Claire (April 1998). Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir. Back Bay Books. ISBN 978-0316093835.
  3. ^ Bloom, Nate (21 January 2011). "Jewish Stars 1/21". Cleveland Jewish News.
  4. ^ V&A, Theatre and Performance Special Collections, Elsie Fogerty Archive, THM/324
  5. ^ Hubbard, Kim (28 October 1996). Contributed to by Nina Biddle. "Life with Portnoy: Claire Bloom Has a Few Complaints of Her Own". People. 46 (18). Retrieved 28 May 2015. She and her younger brother John (now 60 and a film editor) were closer to their mother
  6. ^ a b c Bloom, Claire (1982). Limelight and After: The Education of an Actress. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0060149260.
  7. ^ O'Connor, Garry (2002). Paul Scofield: An Actor for All Seasons. Applause Books. p. 76. ISBN 978-1557834997.
  8. ^ a b Munn, Michael (2008). Richard Burton: Prince of Players. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1602393554.
  9. ^ The Daily Telegraph Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  10. ^ "Vivien Leigh: The Later Years – Theatre, 1950s & 1960s". The Vivien Leigh Pages. 2003. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  11. ^ a b Kolin, Philip C. (2000). Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire. Cambridge University Press. p. 97. ISBN 9780521626101. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  12. ^ a b Kamin, Dan (2011). The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin: Artistry in Motion. Foreword by Scott Eyman. Scarecrow Press. pp. 94, 191. ISBN 978-0810877801.
  13. ^ Kohn, Ingeborg (2005). Charlie Chaplin, Brightest star of silent films. Portaparole. p. 76. ISBN 9788889421147. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  14. ^ Claire Bloom talks about 'Limelight' and Charlie Chaplin (Video). YouTube. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  15. ^ Tony Earnshaw in conversation with Claire Bloom (Video). YouTube. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  16. ^ a b c d e Fujishima, Kenji (25 May 2011). "Charlie Chaplin Is the Father Claire Bloom Never Had". Speakeasy. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  17. ^ Chaplin, Charles (1964). Charles Chaplin: My Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. p. 458. ISBN 9780140025507.
  18. ^ Plante, David (2013). Becoming a Londoner: A Diary. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 491. ISBN 978-1408839751.
  19. ^ "Lost BBC period drama of Anna Karenina found starring Sean Connery". TV and Radio. The Daily Telegraph. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  20. ^ Wake, Oliver. "Cartier, Rudolph (1904–1994)". Screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  21. ^ Heller, Karen (1 May 2003). "Bryn Mawr shows creative side as it makes way for arts". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  22. ^ Billington, Michael (2 December 2006). "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  23. ^ BERNSTEIN, L.: Symphony No. 3, "Kaddish"
  24. ^ Bailey, Blake (2021). Philip Roth: The Biography. London: Jonathan Cape. pp. 533–535. ISBN 9780224098175.
  25. ^ Grant, Linda (3 October 1998). "The Wrath of Roth". Books. The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  26. ^ Thackray, Rachelle (11 October 1998). "Roth takes novel revenge on ex-wife Claire Bloom". The Independent. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  27. ^ "No. 60534". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 2013. p. 7.
  28. ^ "Birthday Honours: Adele joins Blackadder stars on list". BBC. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2015.

External links[edit]