DOROTHY Annie Todd was born on January 21, 1907, in Hartford, writes Adrian L Bridge.

Under the more glamorous stage name of Ann Todd, she went on to become a film star and actress famous across the world.

She had an acting career which spanned the best part of 60 years, from the 30s to the early 90s.

Ann met many of the most famous people in movie history, including Alexander Korda, Alfred Hitchcock, David O Selznick, Gregory Peck and Sir Ralph Richardson.

She also starred in a number of films directed by David Lean, one of the greatest film directors of all time, and became his wife in 1949.

Despite Ann’s distinguished career little has been said or written about her in her home town.

It is therefore appropriate that Ann now features as one of the on-line ‘Hidden Women of Cheshire’ in a promotional campaign currently being run by the Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership (see There is some ambiguity about the year of her birth in Hartford. Many biographies indicate that she was born in 1909. However, the 1911 Census clearly shows that she was born two years earlier and was christened in March 1907.

Like many in the acting profession it was perhaps best to be a little coy about one’s true age.

Ann’s slim frame, good looks and small stature at 5ft 4ins meant she always looked quite young. At the time of her marriage to Lean, she was described in one American newspaper as being 29, rather than the more accurate age of 42.

Ann was born into a well-to-do, middle class family. Her sales manager father, Thomas, was from Aberdeen, and her mother, Constance, was a Londoner. By 1911, the Todd family had moved to London.

Ann went to school in Sussex and she was soon enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. By her late 20s she had been signed up by the British film mogul Alexander Korda. She was a key actress in a number of the films he produced in the 1930s, such as Things to Come and South Riding.

Ann’s big break came in 1945 when she starred opposite the British matinee idol, James Mason, in a film called The Seventh Veil.

Her performance as a troubled concert pianist drew rave reviews. The film critic of the Los Angeles Times, commented that she ‘carried the film’, and critics dubbed her the ‘pocket Greta Garbo’ because of her diminutive stature.

Hollywood, in the form of David O Selznick soon came calling, and Ann was offered the largest film contract ever to an English actress – worth around $1 million - which was astronomical in the 1940s.

In 1947, Ann starred opposite the Hollywood screen legend Gregory Peck, in the Alfred Hitchcock directed film The Paradine Case.

All aspects of her life continued to be of interest to US reporters. In 1957, the New York press described 50 year old Ann as being “a damsel of allure”.

Not surprisingly, she was given a very laudatory obituary in the Los Angeles Times, following her death in London in May 1993.

There were many different aspects to Ann’s career. She played a leading character in the late 1930s British TV serial Ann and Harold. Her involvement in TV also extended to America, where she appeared not only for Hitchcock, but also in John Frankenheimer’s 1960 TV movie adaptation of Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro, alongside Robert Ryan.

Ann continued to appear in TV productions until she was well into her 80s. In 1957, she made her Broadway debut in The Four Winds.

Back in England, during 1954-5, she took on some of the leading female Shakespearean roles, during a complete season of acting with the Old Vic Theatre Company.

She also developed a highly successful career as a travel writer and documentary producer.

She was married and divorced three times.

Her first husband, Victor Malcolm, was the grandson of Lillie Langtry, the famous music hall artiste and mistress of Edward VII.

Ann’s 1949 divorce from Nigel Tangye, her second husband, was particularly bitter. Ann left Tangye to live with and then marry Lean, who was Tangye’s first cousin.

Tangye sued Lean for $160,000, largely as a consequence of his ‘misconduct’ with Ann.

It was thrown out by the divorce court judge, but Tangye was granted custody of Ann Francesca (Ann Todd and Tangye’s daughter).

Happiness eluded Ann in her third marriage to Lean and Ann was granted a divorce, on the grounds of his desertion, in 1957.

It was in her dressing room, in 1957, whilst preparing for The Four Winds that the admiring film and theatre critic, William Glover, referred to the now 50 year old actress as a “real peaches and cream stunner” of a film star.

In terms of her energy, zeal and talent for acting, this summary was just about right.