Joan Sterndale-Bennett

Joan Sterndale-Bennett (5 March 1914 – 27 March 1996) was a British stage and film actress, best known as a character comedian for her work at the Players' Theatre in London.


Born into a musical family, her father Thomas Case Sterndale Bennett was a songwriter, entertainer and a grandson of the composer William Sterndale Bennett.[1] Her mother Christine Bywater was a professional oratorio singer.

After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and later with the American choreographer Buddy Bradley, she started with repertory in 1933 in Strange Orchestra at Worthing before moving to London's West End.[2] From 1938 she appeared in the Herbert Farjeon reviews Nine Sharp, Diversion, Light and Shade, In Town Again and the pantomime The Glass Slipper. In that same year at the invitation of Leonard Sachs she joined the Players Theatre which was to be the start of a forty-year association at the home of traditional music hall in London and which provided her with a platform to excel in that special direct relationship between the performer and audiences.

In 1943 she made her film debut taking small parts in Anthony Asquith's We Dive at Dawn and as Rose in Bernard Miles's Tawny Pipit.[3] In 1951, in collaboration with Hattie Jacques, she adapted Ali Baba, or, the Thirty-Nine Thieves and later wrote a Victorian pantomime based on Riquet with a Tuft as a special show for the Festival of Britain.

After four years starring as the French schoolmistress in the musical The Boy Friend she made her Broadway debut at the Strollers Theatre Club in 1961 in Time, Gentlemen Please in which she was hailed as Britain's answer to Ethel Merman.[4][5] In 1966 she gave a critically acclaimed performance as Mrs Banks in Barefoot in the Park to be followed by the long running comedy No Sex Please, We're British in London and South Africa. The BBC TV production in 1973 of The Noble Spaniard by Somerset Maughan saw her starring alongside Margaret Rutherford and Kenneth Williams. [6] Returning to her roots she regularly appeared in the BBC TV series The Good Old Days based on the formula used at the Players Theatre compered by Leonard Sachs.[7]

Prone to stage fright which was never apparent to her audiences, she declined several professional opportunities which might well have secured her greater recognition, as her abilities deserved. One critic remarked that, like so many actors, she suffered anguish behind the clown's mask.

She was briefly married to the actor John Barron during the Second World War.[2] She had no children. She retired early to become something of a recluse living with her stepmother Mary Maskelyne, a member of the famous illusionist family and later wardrobe mistress at the Players Theatre.

Selected plays and musicalsEdit

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ "Joan Sterndale-Bennett | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos". AllMovie.
  2. ^ a b "OBITUARY : Joan Sterndale Bennett". The Independent. April 30, 1996.
  3. ^ "Joan Sterndale-Bennett". BFI.
  4. ^ "Production of The Boy Friend | Theatricalia".
  5. ^ "Joan Sterndale Bennett Theatre Credits, News, Bio and Photos".
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Joan Sterndale-Bennett".

External linksEdit