My friend Pauline Stroud, who has died of cancer aged 92, started her acting career with a starring role in the film Lady Godiva Rides Again in 1951. Pauline played Marjorie Clark, who, having taken the role of Godiva in a local town parade, is persuaded to take part in the Miss Fascination Soap beauty contest. Other contestants were played by Joan Collins, Jean Marsh and Diana Dors, and the film also featured Stanley Holloway, George Cole and Sid James.
Pauline was an only child, born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, to Leslie Stroud, an accountant, and Daisy (nee Waters). She initially attended a convent school – until her mother suspected that she was being considered as a possible recruit to the sisterhood. Thereafter she was educated privately, and her lessons included ballet and horse riding.
Lady Godiva should have been the first film in a five-year contract but, by the time it was released, Pauline had become engaged to Peter Lemos, member of a wealthy Greek ship-owning family, and he did not wish to share her with the cinema-going public. She ended the engagement, but not before the contract was broken and her career prospects damaged.
Pauline went to Rada in 1952, thereby doing the training-career process in rather the wrong order. She subsequently toured in rep in addition to appearing in television and film roles into the 70s.
In 1974 she began working at Covent Garden as an extra in ballet and opera. Her favourite job was the John Copley production of La Bohème – starting as Rudolfo’s nude model in 1974 and finishing as the little old lady in Café Momus 41 years later, aged 85.
Pauline was my neighbour in Kensington, central London, for about 30 years, but we only met properly in 2011 when I arranged for her malfunctioning television aerial to be replaced. Thereafter we frequently enjoyed afternoon tea (with pink wine) in each other’s flats. I found Pauline fascinating and wanted to write her life story but she was convinced it would be very boring.
In 1981 Pauline had inherited her mother’s house in Tunbridge Wells. She moved there permanently in 2015 but remained a frequent guest of mine. Then came Covid-19 and lockdowns, and through two of the strangest years we spoke on the phone every day until she was hospitalised in January. She would always sign off, in her beautiful voice, with: “Big love darling – big love.”
After her early romantic entanglement, Pauline never married – but the love of her life was Barry Woodward, a cruise director, her partner for 20 years until he died of cancer in 2002. She is survived by four cousins, Lynnette, Michael, Susan and Linda.