Elizabeth Allan (9 April 1910 – 27 July 1990) was an English actress who worked in both Britain and Hollywood, making about 50 films over more than a quarter century. She was born at Skegness, Lincolnshire in 1910 (some sources indicate 1908), and after four years onstage with the Old Vic, she made her film debut in 1931, first appearing in Alibi. She began her career appearing in a number of films for Julius Hagen’s Twickenham Studios but also featured in Gainsborough’s Michael and Mary and Korda’s Service for Ladies. In 1932, she joined Wilfred J. O’Bryen — to whom she had been introduced by actor Herbert Marshall — in a marriage that lasted until his death in 1977.
Her first US/UK co-production and first US production came in 1933, and she worked in the United States under contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 1935 was her most memorable year in Hollywood, when she not only distinguished herself in two memorable Dickens’ adaptations as David’s unfortunate young mother in George Cukor’s David Copperfield and as Lucie Manette in Jack Conway’s A Tale of Two Cities, but was also featured in Tod Browning’s Mark of the Vampire. Allan did not think highly of the latter film, to which she had been assigned, and considered it “slumming”. MGM announced her for a leading part in King Vidor’s The Citadel, and, when she was subsequently replaced by Rosalind Russell, Elizabeth sued the studio. The studio retaliated by refusing to let her work, and, frustrated, she returned to the UK in 1938.
By the 1950s, Allan had made the transition to character parts. Particularly memorable is her appearance as Trevor Howard’s brittle and dissatisfied wife in the film adaptation of Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter (1953). In 1958, she appeared as Boris Karloff’s wife in The Haunted Strangler. Late in her career, she was a frequent panelist on television game shows, including the British version of What’s My Line?. She was named Great Britain’s Top Female TV Personality of 1952. She died at Hove, East Sussex, aged 80.
- April, 09, 1908
- Skegness, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
- July, 27, 1990
- East Sussex, United Kingdom