Jean Marsh

Jean Lyndsey Torren Marsh OBE (born 1 July 1934) is an English actress and writer. She co-created and starred in the ITV series Upstairs, Downstairs (1971–75), for which she won the 1975 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as Rose Buck. She later reprised the role in the BBC's revival of the series (2010–12).

Jean Marsh

Jean Lyndsey Torren Marsh

(1934-07-01) 1 July 1934 (age 87)
OccupationActress, writer
Years active1953–2014
(m. 1955; div. 1960)

Marsh also co-created the television series The House of Eliott in 1991. Her film appearances include Cleopatra (1963), Frenzy (1972), The Changeling (1980), Return to Oz (1985), Willow (1988), Fatherland (1994) and Monarch (2000).

Early lifeEdit

Marsh was born and raised in Stoke Newington, London,[1] the daughter of Emmeline Susannah Nightingale Poppy (née Bexley), a bar employee and dresser for the theatre, and Henry Charles John Marsh, an outdoor maintenance man and printer's assistant.[citation needed]


During the 1950s and 1960s Marsh made many appearances on British and American television, including an episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Lonely" (1959), in which she portrayed a lifelike robot; The Moon and Sixpence (1959) opposite Laurence Olivier and Denholm Elliott; The Wonderful World of Disney (1961); Gideon's Way (1965); I Spy (1967); in four episodes of The Saint (1964–1968); and one episode of UFO ("Exposed", 1970). She was also a regular in the ITV series The Informer (1966–67) starring Ian Hendry.

Marsh has appeared several times in the BBC series Doctor Who. She first appeared alongside William Hartnell in the 1965 serial The Crusade as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in 9 episodes of the 12-part serial The Daleks' Master Plan. Marsh reprised the role in the audio plays Home Truths (2008), The Drowned World (2009), The Guardian of the Solar System (2010), The Five Companions (2011), The Anachronauts (2012), An Ordinary Life (2014) and The Sontarans (2016). She also appeared in the 1989 television serial Battlefield as Morgana Le Fay, as well as the 2007 audio play The Wishing Beast. She made an un-billed cameo appearance in the 2013 docudrama about Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time.

She featured as Bertha Mason Rochester in the George C. Scott-Susannah York version of Jane Eyre, directed by Delbert Mann. The film was released theatrically in the United Kingdom in 1970 and shown in the United States on NBC television in 1971.

Marsh's 2000 film about the death of Henry VIII, Monarch, was re-released in cinemas in 2014.

With Eileen Atkins, Marsh created the British period drama Upstairs, Downstairs and played the role of the house parlourmaid Rose Buck for the duration of the series, from 1971 until 1975. The programme was internationally popular and received numerous awards including two BAFTA awards, two Royal Television Society awards, eight Emmys and a Golden Globe. Marsh received a Royal Television Society award in 1971 and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her role in 1975, and was nominated for the same award on three further occasions – 1974, 1976, and (for the show's revival) in 2011. She also received awards from the American Drama Centre and American Drama Critics Circle for the role, and two Golden Globe Award nominations.

She and Atkins created another television series, The House of Eliott, three series of which were broadcast between 1991 and 1994. This time, Marsh did not act in the series, but she did write some of the episodes.

Marsh's film credits include the Tony Hancock film The Rebel (1961), Cleopatra (1963) as Octavia, Unearthly Stranger (1964), Charlie Bubbles (1967), The Limbo Line (1968), Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972),[1] Dark Places (1973), The Eagle Has Landed (1976),[1] The Changeling (1980) and the fantasy films Return to Oz (1985)[1] and Willow (1988).[1] In 1994, she starred in a villain role in the Nickelodeon/Thames Television remake of The Tomorrow People. Her television films include Goliath Awaits (1981), See China and Die (1981), Master of the Game (1984), The Corsican Brothers (1985), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1989), Fatherland (1994) for which she won a CableACE award for supporting actress, and The Pale Horse (1997). From 1982 to 1983, she portrayed the part of Roz Keith in the American sitcom 9 to 5.

Marsh served as the presenter for International Animation Festival, an American public television series featuring award-winning animated short films from around the world. The thirteen-part series was originally broadcast in 1975 on PBS.[2]

From 2000 until 2002, Marsh appeared in The Ghost Hunter. Her many stage credits included the West End stage revival of Boeing Boeing at the Comedy Theatre in 2007 and in Peter Hall's production of The Portrait of a Lady in 2008. She made an appearance in the 2008 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility; played the recurring character Lizzie Galbraith alongside Joanna Lumley as Davina Jackson (the lead character) in Babycow Productions' Sensitive Skin which aired on BBC Two in 2005 and 2007. She appeared in BBC Four's Crooked House in December 2008 in a role especially written for her by Mark Gatiss.

A three-part revival of Upstairs, Downstairs was commissioned by the BBC with the first episode broadcast on BBC One on 26 December 2010. Marsh reprised her role as Rose Buck, who had returned to London to run an agency for domestic servants after a period spent nursing her mother in Suffolk. Eileen Atkins, who co-created the original series with Marsh, also starred in the revived series. It was set in the same London house as the original ITV series, 165 Eaton Place, resuming in 1936.[citation needed] Subsequently, a six-part second series was commissioned, and began transmission in February 2012 with Marsh's character appearing less frequently due to the stroke suffered by the actress.[3]

Marsh has also written several books: Fiennders Abbey, The House of Eliott, and Iris.[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Marsh was married to the actor Jon Pertwee from 1955 until their divorce in 1960.[5][6][7] She has had relationships with Albert Finney, Kenneth Haigh, and film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg.[8]

On 3 October 2011, the BBC announced that Marsh had suffered a minor stroke and would miss the beginning of the second series of Upstairs, Downstairs.[3] She was ultimately able to appear in only two scenes over the series,[citation needed] and the series was subsequently cancelled.[9]

Marsh was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to drama.[10][11]

Selected filmographyEdit


  • Jean Marsh, The House of Eliott, Sidgwick & Jackson (November 1993), 978-0283061554; St Martin's Press (February 1994), ISBN 978-0-312-10996-7
  • Jean Marsh, Fiennders Keepers, Macmillan (1996), ISBN 978-0-333-63211-6; St Martin's Press (May 1997), ISBN 978-0-312-15528-5
  • Jean Marsh, Iris, St Martin's Press (July 2000), ISBN 978-0-312-26182-5; Macmillan (February 2003), ISBN 978-0-333-71154-5
  • Jean Marsh, Fiennders Abbey, Pan (5 August 2011), ISBN 978-1-4472-0007-9


  1. ^ a b c d e "Jean Marsh". British Film Institute.
  2. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1985). Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials. New York: BASEline. p. 206. ISBN 0918432618.
  3. ^ a b "Jean Marsh to miss start of Upstairs Downstairs". BBC News. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  4. ^ "I'll keep acting forever". Gloucestershire Echo. 27 August 2011. Archived from the original on 25 September 2012.
  5. ^ van Emst, Christine (8 February 2006). "Great in Old Country". Watford Observer. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  6. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: JUN 1955 5f 63 MIDDLESEX S. – Jon D. R. Pertwee = Jeann L. T. Marsh
  7. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: SEP 1960 6a 1385 WYCOMBE – Jon D. R. Pertwee = Ingeborg R. Rhosa
  8. ^ "Upstairs Downstairs' Jean Marsh interview: A touch of class below stairs". The Daily Telegraph. 16 December 2010.
  9. ^ "'Upstairs Downstairs' dropped by BBC — TV News". Digital Spy. 21 April 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  10. ^ "No. 60173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2012. p. 11.
  11. ^ "Kenneth Branagh knighted in Queen's Birthday Honours". BBC News. 15 June 2012.

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