Dorothy Annie Todd was born on January 21, 1907, in Hartford and under the shorter, presumably 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 1930s to the early 1990s, and which encompassed films, stage and TV.

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

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

Despite Ann Todd’s distinguished career, and her stellar connections with some of the leading film and acting legends of the 20th century, little has been said or written about her in the town and county of her birth.

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 Ann Todd certainly led a remarkable and colourful life, which definitely deserves to be less ‘hidden’, particularly in the town of her birth.

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, and other registry evidence, clearly shows that she was born two years earlier, in 1907, and was christened in March 1907.

Like many in the acting profession (both past and present) it was perhaps best to be a little coy about one’s true age.

Ann Todd’s slim frame, good looks and comparatively small stature (she was 5ft 4ins) meant she always looked quite young.

Indeed, possibly to Ann’s delight at the time of her marriage to film director David Lean, in 1949, she was described in at least one American newspaper report as being 29 years old, rather than the more accurate age of 42!

The future film star, Ann Todd, was born into a well-to-do, affluent middle class family.

Though Ann was born in Hartford, her sales manager father, Thomas, was a Scot from Aberdeen, and her mother, Constance, was a Londoner.

By 1911, the Todd family had moved to London, probably to advance Thomas’s career in sales management, and Ann had acquired a younger brother, Harold, who went on to achieve fame as a writer of comedies such as ‘No, my Darling Daughter’ and ‘A Pair of Briefs’ which were commercially very successful during most of the 1950s and 1960s.

The family still seem to have been very affluent in London, and could afford to accommodate two live-in female teenage servants, and Thomas’s adult sister, Ethel, within the household.

Harold was packed off to school at the exclusive Marlborough College, and then undertook a degree at Cambridge University.

Ann Todd went to school in Sussex, but acting seems to have been in her blood from an early age, and she was soon enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, specialising in the interesting combination of elocution, drama and fencing.

It didn’t take long for Ann Todd’s star potential to be noticed, and 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, in terms of worldwide fame, 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 in America. The film critic of the Los Angeles Times, for example, commented that she ‘carried the film’, and it was American film critics at this time who first dubbed the Northwich born actress as the ‘pocket Greta Garbo’ because of her distinctive style, looks and diminutive stature.

Hollywood, in the form of the great David O Selznick (the driving force behind the film production of Gone with the Wind) soon came calling, and Ann was offered the largest film contract ever offered to an English actress at that time – probably worth around a million dollars all told - which was an astronomical sum in the late 1940s.

With Selznick’s backing, in 1947, Ann starred opposite the Hollywood screen legend Gregory Peck, in the Alfred Hitchcock directed film “The Paradine Case”. Ann starred once again for Hitchcock in the 1950s, in an episode of his successful US TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”.

The Paradine Case wasn’t as commercially successful as hoped, but America never lost its enthusiasm for Ann.

All aspects of her life, personal and professional, continued to be of interest to US reporters, and features about her were carried throughout America, in newspapers from Lubbock in Texas to California, Utah, and Albany in New York.

In 1957, William Glover of the New York press described 50 year old Ann as being “a damsel of allure” as she prepared to make her debut on Broadway.

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

Ann’s career in British films is often undersold. We are told, for example, that she specialised in playing rather stoic, put upon, post-war British housewives. – Anyone that watches her 1950 performance as the morally ambiguous probable Victorian murderess, Madeleine (in David Lean’s film “Madeleine”) must realise that she could play a wide range of roles with subtlety and distinction.

In fact, there were many different aspects to the Northwich born actress’s career. She played a leading character in the late 1930s British television serial “Ann and Harold”, which was produced during the pre-WW2 days when Britain was pioneering the introduction of television (an experiment abruptly ended by the onset of war).

In fact, many experts regard ‘Ann and Harold’ as being the first ever attempt at producing what today would be called ‘soap opera’.

Ann Todd’s involvement in television 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 Hollywood movie star Robert Ryan.

Following many an actor’s adage about never giving up or retiring, Ann continued to appear in TV productions, such as Michael Gambon’s 1992 Maigret series, until she was well into her 80s.

Ann was well versed in the challenges of appearing before live theatre audiences: In 1957, she made her Broadway debut (thus escaping the pressures of a traumatic divorce from David Lean) by starring as a wealthy American socialite in a production of the little known play “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. All this just goes to show how accomplished and versatile Ann Todd actually was as an actress.

Not content with film, stage and TV performances, the multi-talented Cheshire born actress also developed a highly successful career as a travel writer and documentary producer, in the 1960’s, with programme credits to her name such as “Thunder of the Gods” (1966) and “Thunder of the Kings” (1967).

In many respects, Ann Todd grew up in Northwich, London and Sussex to become an archetypal Hollywood movie queen.

She had wealth, good looks, and a prodigious amount of talent. Her private life was also stormy, to say the least, and filled the gossip columns of papers on both sides of the Atlantic.

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.

In an era when there were no ‘blameless’ divorce cases, Ann’s 1949 divorce from Nigel Tangye, her second husband, was particularly bitter. Ann left Tangye to live with and then marry the film director David Lean, who was Tangye’s first cousin.

Tangye sued Lean for $160,000, largely as a consequence of his ‘misconduct’ with Ann. This financial claim 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 David Lean, as well. They were living apart from each other within 5 years, and Ann was granted a divorce, on the grounds of Lean’s desertion, in 1957.

None of this personal trauma seems to have adversely affected either Lean or Todd.

David Lean went on to achieve further cinematic immortality with his direction of the film “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1962.

Ann Todd immediately threw herself into a starring role in a Broadway production.

It was here, in her dressing room, in 1957, whilst preparing for her role in “The Four Winds” that the admiring American film and theatre critic, William Glover, interviewed Ann, and referred to the now 50 year old Northwich born actress as a “real peaches and cream stunner” of a film star. In terms of her energy, zeal and talent for acting, William Glover’s summary was just about right.