Britain’s first notorious post-war sex siren in films, the enticing, green-eyed blonde bombshell Christine Norden, was a singer and dancer who had been performing since her teens. The story goes that she was “discovered” by agents of the distinguished film mogul Sir Alexander Korda while waiting outside a theatre ticket line.
Born Mary Lydia Thornton of humble beginnings to a bus driver three days after Christmas 1924, she was the first entertainer to land on the Normandy beaches in 1944 to perform for Allied troops after D-Day. Korda promptly signed her to a seven-year contract and placed her in stark, dark-edged films as a fetching, sometimes singing femme; she appeared in a surprising number of quality films, including Mine Own Executioner (1947), An Ideal Husband (1947), Nightbeat (1947) and Saints and Sinners (1949).
A prime pin-up attraction over the years, she admitted to many affairs (with both men and women) over the years. By the early ’50s her film career was over, however, and she trod the New York theatre boards for the next few decades, making her Broadway debut in the musical “Tenderloin” in 1960 and appearing in such productions as “Marat/Sade.” She made history of sorts as the first actress to appear topless on Broadway in the 1967 production of “Scuba Duba.”
Christine was married five times and has one of the craters of the planet Venus named after her as a tribute to her being a “forerunner of the modern sex symbol.” Her last husband developed and named a mathematical formula in her honor. She eventually returned to London for her final years, developed a respiratory infection and died of lobar pneumonia following bypass surgery at age 63. Her memoirs were discovered posthumously but deemed too gamey to be published at the time. Friend and royal biographer Michael Thornton, to whom they were left, has now made segments of her private story public.