Ethel Griffies

The daughter of actor-manager Samuel Rupert Woods and actress Lillie Roberts, Ethel Griffies began her own stage career at the age of 3. She was 21 when she finally made her London debut in 1899, and 46 when she made her first Broadway appearance in “Havoc” (1924). Discounting a tentative stab at filmmaking in 1917, she made her movie bow in 1930, repeating her stage role in Old English (1930). Habitually cast as a crotchety old lady with the proverbial golden heart, she alternated between bits and prominently featured roles for the next 35 years. Her larger parts included Grace Poole in both the 1934 (Jane Eyre (1934)) and 1943 (Jane Eyre (1943)) versions of “Jane Eyre” and “Mrs. Bundy”, the amateur ornithologist in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). Every so often she’d take a sabbatical from film work to concentrate on the stage; she made her last Broadway appearance in 1967, at which time she was England’s oldest working actress. Presumably at the invitation of fellow Briton Arthur Treacher, Ethel was a frequent guest on TV’s The Merv Griffin Show (1962), never failing to bring down the house with her wickedly witty comments on her 80 years in show business.

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