Pauline Stroud, actress who played a beauty queen in Launder and Gilliat’s 1951 film Lady Godiva Rides Again – obituary
Pauline Stroud, who has died aged 92, was an actress who, somewhat improbably, was chosen over Audrey Hepburn, Diana Dors and Joan Collins and 200 other hopefuls to play the lead in a film about beauty queens.
The film, Frank Launder and Sydney Gilliat’s Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951), mostly filmed on location in chilly Folkestone, was a satire about the beauty pageant world in which she played Marjorie Clark, a shy young waitress from an industrial Midlands town who becomes a local celebrity when she is chosen to play Lady Godiva in a pageant.
“A white horse, slightly spavined, dawdles apologetically into view,” wrote The Daily Telegraph’s Campbell Dixon, describing the scene. “On its back is – what exactly? A small teepee? No: a hand parts what we now perceive to be a jungle of stringy hair hanging to the stirrups, a depressed little face peeps out, the spectators jeer, the hand lets the curtain fall, the nag stumbles by.”
Later, Marjorie enters a beauty contest, and accidentally wins after the organiser’s attempt to rig the contest in favour of his girlfriend (Diana Dors) misfires. Marjorie becomes a national celebrity and for a time enjoys success as a model, but has less luck when she tries to conquer the world of show business. She ends up in a seedy theatre playing Lady Godiva in a nude “French revue”.
Audrey Hepburn was rejected for the role as being too thin, and Bruce Babington, in his book Launder and Gilliat (2013), hints that the choice of the untrained and what he described, uncharitably, as the “minimally talented, only faintly pretty” Pauline, “unkindly juxtaposed with Kay Kendall [who played Marjorie’s sister], Dagmar Wynter and Diana Dors”, was probably deliberate.
Otherwise the film was notable as an ensemble piece with an impressive line-up of British comedy stars in supporting roles or cameos (George Cole, Sid James, Stanley Holloway, Dennis Price, Alastair Sim and Dora Bryan among others), as well as for its line-up of bathing beauties.
In addition to the bikini-clad Diana Dors (the film was later released in the US as Bikini Baby to capitalise on her rising profile), these included Joan Collins in her first (uncredited) film role and a dark-haired (and pregnant) Ruth Ellis, who, four years later, would become infamous as the last woman to be hanged in Britain for murder.
The Telegraph’s Campbell Dixon praised Pauline Stroud’s performance for its “appealing amateurishness” but preferred the professional comic turns of Stanley Holloway (as Marjorie’s puritanical, disapproving father) and Alastair Sim, singling out a scene in which Pauline Stroud’s would-be starlet finds Sim’s down-at-heel producer “in his drab little office, munching on a bun while the gas gives out”.
An only child, Pauline Stroud was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on March 21 1930 to Leslie Stroud, an accountant, and Daisy, née Waters. She was educated at a convent until her mother, fearing that she might be being groomed for the sisterhood, took her away. Afterwards she was educated privately.
Pauline trained at Rada, but only after her starring role in Lady Godiva Rides Again, and thereafter toured in rep as well as taking mostly small television and film roles. In the B-movie comedy Alf’s Baby (1953), she was the beautiful but wayward young woman adopted as a baby by three bachelors. In the 1970s she worked as a ballet and opera extra at Covent Garden.
In the early 1950s she became engaged to a scion of a Greek ship-owning family, but she broke it off and remained unmarried, though she had a 20-year partnership with Barry Woodward, a cruise director, who died in 2002.
Pauline Stroud, born March 21 1930, death announced September 4 2022