Doris Nolan

Doris Nolan (July 14, 1916 – July 29, 1998) was an American actress best known for her Broadway roles and her appearance in the 1938 movie Holiday. She appeared in plays and films during the 1930s and 1940s. Later she moved to the UK, where she made guest appearances on British television shows.

Doris Nolan
Doris Nolan in Top of the Town still.JPG
Nolan in 1937
Born(1916-07-14)July 14, 1916
DiedJuly 29, 1998(1998-07-29) (aged 82)
Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England
Years active1936-1981
(m. 1943; died 1995)

Early yearsEdit

Nolan was the daughter of Frank J. Nolan, who was a woolen goods importer. She began acting in high school in New Rochelle, New York. After graduation, she joined the Provincetown Players in 1933, working as the director's secretary to pay her tuition. The following summer, she joined the Clinton Hollow Theatre in Poughkeepsie, New York. Her acting as the female lead in The Late Christopher Bean there was seen by a talent scout, and that led to her getting a contract with Fox Studios.[1]


Nolan's first professional acting contract was with Fox Film Corporation, when she was 16 years old. She was given a small role in Our Little Girl with Shirley Temple, but after she botched her scene several times, Fox dropped her from the movie and gave her no more work.[2]

She then switched to Broadway, where she achieved greater success. Although she was just 17, Nolan was cast as the female lead in Night of January 16th, produced by her manager Al Woods. She was nervous about playing the part of an older femme fatale who was the mistress (and possibly murderer) of a rich businessman.[3] Despite her jitters, the show was a success and Nolan got positive reviews.[4]

When Nolan left the play, Woods sent her back to Hollywood, getting her a contract with Universal Pictures.[5] She continued to move back and forth between movies and theater throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Her most prominent film appearance was in the 1938 version of Holiday, where she played alongside Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Her subsequent film roles went downhill, but she reinvigorated her Broadway career with an 18-month stint in The Doughgirls, a popular comedy play about the difficulties of life during World War II.[6] It was made into a film. Her final Broadway appearance was in The Closing Door, alongside her husband, who had written the play. It got poor reviews and closed after a few weeks.[7]

After moving to the UK in the early 1950s, Nolan worked in regional stage productions and took guest parts on television series, such as The Saint, where she appeared in 1962 in "The Latin Touch", the second episode of the first season. Her final television appearance was in an episode of ITV's Brideshead Revisited serial in 1981.

Personal lifeEdit

Nolan married Canadian actor Alexander Knox in a civil ceremony on December 30, 1944. The judge presiding over the wedding almost mistakenly pronounced her married to Knox's best man, but they stopped him and redid the vows.[8] They had a son Andrew Joseph Knox (born 1947; committed suicide in 1987) who became an actor and appeared in Doctor on the Go and who was married to Imogen Hassall.[9]

Knox's political activity caused him trouble during the Hollywood blacklist, and the couple moved to the UK so he could continue working. She stayed in the UK until her own death on July 29, 1998.



Year Show Role Notes
1935 Night of January 16th Karen Andre Broadway debut
1936 Arrest that Woman Marie Smith
1937 Tell Me Pretty Maiden Margo Dare
1938 Lorelei Karen Von Singall
1940 Cue for Passion Vivienne Ames
1942 The Cat Screams Gwen Reid
1942 The Doughgirls Nan
1949 The Closing Door Norma Trahern


Year Film Role Notes
1936 The Man I Marry Rena Allen Film debut
1937 As Good as Married Sylvia Parker
1937 Top of the Town Diana Borden
1938 Holiday Julia Seton
1939 One Hour to Live Muriel Vance
1940 Moon Over Burma Cynthia Harmon
1940 Irene Lillian
1943 Follies Girl Francine La Rue
1966 Bindle (One of Them Days) American tourist
1974 Juggernaut Mrs. Corrigan
1975 The Romantic Englishwoman 2nd Mealticket Lady


Year Show Role Notes
1951 Sunday Night Theatre Mrs. Chisholm
1954 Colonel March of Scotland Yard ("The Abominable Snowman") Mary Gray
1956 The Adventures of Aggie Mrs. de Witt
1956 The Adventures of Robin Hood Prince John's Wife
1956 Colonel March of Scotland Yard ("The Case of the Kidnapped Poodle") Mrs. Linda Brewster
1958 ITV Play of the Week ("The Myth Makers") Mrs. Brawley
1959 The Third Man Miss Nolan
1959 ITV Play of the Week ("The Last Hours") Eleanor
1959 ITV Play of the Week ("The Winner") Irma Mahler
1959 Armchair Theatre
1962 The Saint Maude Inverest
1964 Emergency – Ward 10 Lydia Stock 5 episodes
1966 Play of the Month Mrs. Markham
1968 Boy Meets Girl Mrs. Bloemendal
1969 Strange Report Miss Gray
1981 Brideshead Revisited Mrs. Stuyvesant-Oglander


  1. ^ Harrison, Paul (February 27, 1937). "Doris Nolan Seeks Film Stardom of Her Own". The Winnipeg Tribune. Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 19. Retrieved October 31, 2016 – via  
  2. ^ Slide 1999, pp. 88–89
  3. ^ Slide 1999, pp. 90–91
  4. ^ Baker 1987, p. 34
  5. ^ Slide 1999, p. 90
  6. ^ Slide 1999, pp. 93–101
  7. ^ Slide 1999, pp. 106–107
  8. ^ Slide 1999, pp. 103–104
  9. ^ Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries, Paul Donnelley, Omnibus Press, 2000, pp. 315-6

Works citedEdit

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