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Actress Shirley Anne Field, who starred in The Entertainer and Alfie, has died at the age of 87.
The beloved British icon found fame as a model in the 1950s but rose to prominence as Tina Lapford opposite Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer in 1960.
Subsequent roles followed through the sixties, such as Albert Finney’s on-screen girlfriend Doreen in New Wave film Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, and Alfie opposite Michael Caine.
A statement shared by her representative on behalf of her family said: ‘It is with great sadness that we are sharing the news that Shirley Anne Field passed away peacefully on Sunday 10 December 2023, surrounded by her family and friends.
‘Shirley Anne will be greatly missed and remembered for her unbreakable spirit and her amazing legacy spanning more than five decades on stage and screen.’
Actress Shirley Anne Field, who starred in The Entertainer and Alfie, has died at the age of 87
Field opposite Michael Caine in Alfie – in which he played the titular womaniser who faces a reckoning with his own playboy lifestyle
The beloved British icon found fame as a model in the 1950s but rose to prominence as Tina Lapford opposite Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer in 1960
In recent years, she has starred in Doctors, Last Of The Summer Wine, The Bill and Dalziel And Pascoe.
Born in May 1936 and known as Shirley Broomfield, the beauty queen and cinema icon had a challenging childhood.
She was just five when her East London home was bombed during the Second World War – which led to her losing ties with her family for decades.
Too young to be evacuated, Little Shirley was sent to live in a Bolton orphanage run by Methodist Sisters. She didn’t see her mother again until she was 38.
‘I kept crying and getting into a temper,’ she told the Glasgow Times in a frank interview about her early life.
‘I kept saying “I’ve got a little baby brother, who is two years younger”. I had two sisters as well, but they were old enough to be evacuated.
‘Finally, the nuns brought my brother up to Bolton and he was put into a boys’ building on the other side of a field, which was full of cows, which I was terrified of. I only got to see him at special times.’
Shirley’s family was torn apart. Her sister Sonny was married four times by the age of 34 and had six children before she died of cancer. Shirley didn’t meet her other sibling, Joy, until she was in her 30s.
Meanwhile, her mother had disappeared into southern America, where she married a South American serviceman.
Shirley only discovered all this much later in life. Her lorry driver father had meantime remarried; he didn’t visit the orphanage until his daughter was 13.
Shirley Anne Field arriving for the UK premiere of The Kid at the Odeon, West End, London in 2010
Shirley Anne Field started life as a model and was once named Miss London before finding film on the silver screen (she is pictured in about 1960)
The beloved actress’s death was announced in a statement today (she is pictured in 1961)
Albert Finney (left) Shirley Anne Field and author Alan Sillitoe, in a London pub attending a pre-premier party of ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ in 1960
She finally met her mother, and her extended family, in 1978.
She told the Daily Mail in 2015: ‘I finally met my mother again when I was 38 and discovered my whole other family – three lovely American half-sisters. My mother lived to 98. She had a lot of stamina.’
‘All children want is someone to put their arm round them. And I did miss my mother. I craved her. Even though she left us behind, she had loved us all so much and her leaving us left an indelible mark, so much so that none of the Sisters had a chance with me,’ Shirley said in 2017.
In later life, Shirley Anne became an ambassador for the charity Action for Children. Inspired by her own upbringing in care, she had advocated for the organisation since 1993.
She later appeared on Cash in the Celebrity Attic, where she sold off mementoes of her big screen career at auction for the charity with the help of her daughter Nicola.
Shirley left the orphanage at 15 and made her way back to London and into the Gas Board typing pool where she was ‘bored silly’.
Soon, her path to fame started to unfurl when she was spotted by a photographer and took up modelling.
Famed for her natural beauty, her photos appeared in the likes of Reveille and Titbits magazine.
The young teenager also took part on local beauty contests and was crowned ‘Miss London’.
But Shirley said she was never chasing fame; she hoped that her mother would see her photos and would ‘find me and want me’.
Taken on by an agency, she soon found herself bagging minor roles in movies.
However, her beauty was a double-edged sword that would see her batting off unwanted sexual advances from older men within the industry.
Her fortunes turned around when she was 19 and picked up a life-changing role alongside Laurence Olivier in John Osborne’s The Entertainer, with her working class roots and northern accent setting her apart from other young actresses.
Shirley left the orphanage at 15 and made her way back to London and into the Gas Board typing pool where she was ‘bored silly’. She is pictured in 2010
Shirley Anne Field on the set of ‘Doctor in Clover’ being shot on location at Wrexham Park Hospital, Slough, in 1965
A household star, Shirley also appeared in a Christmas episode of Blankety Blank with the late Sir Terry Wogan, who was the host (Sir Terry, is left, with Shirley pictured second from left on the front row)
Shirley Anne Field is pictured at a lunch to celebrate the life of the late actor Sir John Mills at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London in 2006
By 1960 she was taking the film industry by storm. She had three films playing in Leicester Square at the same time: Man In The Moon with Kenneth More, The Entertainer and Richardson’s Saturday Night And Sunday Morning.
Despite this, her motivation was never about become a film icon. ‘It was always about hoping my mother would come and get me,’ she said. ‘But there I was, all over the place, and she didn’t see it.’
This is a breaking news story. Updates to follow.