Norma Ann Sykes (19 May 1936 – 24 November 2016), better known as Sabrina or Sabby, was a 1950s English glamour model who progressed to a minor film career.[1]: 128 [2]

Sabrina in London, 1955
Norma Ann Sykes

(1936-05-19)19 May 1936
Stockport, Cheshire, England
Died24 November 2016(2016-11-24) (aged 80)
Other namesSabby
  • Model
  • actress
  • singer
Harold Melsheimer
(m. 1967; div. 1974)
WebsiteEncyclopedia Sabrina -

Sabrina was one of "a host of exotic, glamorous (British) starlets ... modelled on the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Lana Turner"; others included Diana Dors, Belinda Lee, Shirley Eaton and Sandra Dorne.[3]

Early life and career Edit

Sabrina was born on 19 May 1936 at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Cheshire,[4][unreliable source?] to Walter and Annie Sykes. She lived in Buckingham Street, Heaviley, for about 13 years and attended St George's School there,[5][unreliable source?] before moving with her mother to Blackpool.[6] She spent some time in hospital with rheumatic fever. At the age of 16, she moved to London,[7] where she worked as a waitress and did some nude modelling, posing for Russell Gay[8] in a photoshoot that led to her appearance on the five of spades in a deck of nude playing cards.[9]

In 1955, she was chosen to play a dumb blonde in Arthur Askey's new television series Before Your Very Eyes (BBC 1952–56, ITV 1956–58). The show ran from 18 February 1955 to 20 April 1956, and made Sabrina a household name.[1]: 128  She was promoted by the BBC as "the bosomy blonde who didn't talk", but surviving kinescope episodes show quite clearly that she did.[10][11][12]

Around July 1955, James Beney, of Walton Films, released a 100-foot, 9.5 mm short glamour film, "At Home with Sabrina".[5][13][better source needed]

Goodnight with Sabrina (c.1958, 3:49 mins) is included with Beat Girl (1960), remastered in 2016 by BFI Flipside.[14][15][16]

She made her film debut as Trixie in Stock Car, a Wolf Rilla-directed drama, in 1955. She then appeared in a small role in the 1956 film Ramsbottom Rides Again.[17] In her third film, Blue Murder at St Trinian's (1957), she had a non-speaking role in which, despite sharing equal billing with the star Alastair Sim on posters and appearing in many publicity stills in school uniform, she was required only to sit up in bed wearing a nightdress, reading a book, while the action took place around her.[1]: 129 

Sabrina's penultimate film role was in the western The Phantom Gunslinger (1970),[18][a] in which she starred alongside Troy Donahue. Her final film was the horror movie The Ice House (1969), in which she replaced Jayne Mansfield, who had died in a car crash two years earlier.

Personal life Edit

In 1958, she was awarded an honorary D.Litt. by the University of Leeds.[19] On 27 November 1967 Sabrina married Dr. Harold Melsheimer (born 11 June 1927 in Germany), a Hollywood gynaecologist and obstetrician. They divorced ten years later.[20]

In 2007, there were newspaper reports that Sabrina had become a hermit, "living in squalor" in a Spanish-style house on a street known as 'Smog Central', under the flightpath of Burbank Airport.[20] Sabrina admitted that she was confined to the house due to back problems, but denied living in squalor.[21]

Having suffered from ill health for many years, partly owing to botched back surgery, she died of blood poisoning in 2016, at the age of 80.[22][23]

Cultural impact Edit

  • The comedy series The Goon Show contains numerous references to Sabrina's bosom, such as "By the measurements of Sabrina!" and "By the sweaters of Sabrina!"[24]
  • In "The Scandal Magazine", an episode of the radio programme Hancock's Half Hour, Sid James plays the editor of a sleazy gossip magazine that has carried an embarrassing story about Tony Hancock. James tells Hancock that his readers "will believe anything. ... If I told them that Sabrina was Arthur Askey's mother, they'd believe me." Hancock replies, "Well, I don't", pauses and asks, "She's not, is she?" James says emphatically "No", but Hancock reflects, "Mind you, there is a resemblance ..."
  • Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable contains a definition for "Hunchfront of Lime Grove," "a somewhat unappealing nickname given to the generously endowed starlet known as Sabrina."[25][26]
  • In the 1950s members of the Royal Air Force dubbed parts of the Hawker Hunter jet fighter plane "Sabrinas" owing to two large cartridge collection pods on the underside of the aircraft.[27] Similarly, in the late 1950s, when ERF, a British firm that made lorries (trucks), produced a semi-forward control heavy goods vehicle (HGV) with a short protruding bonnet, these vehicles were nicknamed "Sabrinas" because they had "a little more in front".
  • The 1959 Triumph TR3S 1985 cc iron-block alloy-headed engine was called "Sabrina" because of its dome-shaped cam covers.[28]
  • In 1974, the British motoring press gave the name "Sabrinas" to the oversized pairs of protruding rubber bumper blocks (see dagmar bumpers) added to the MG MGB, Midget and Triumph TR6 sports cars, when U.S. safety regulations mandated sturdier impact protection. The name stuck and is used around the world.[29]

Television appearances Edit

Acting credits Edit

Notes Edit

  1. ^ Although it was not released until 1970, the film was produced in 1967.

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c Davenport-Hines, Richard (2012). An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-743586-9.
  2. ^ "Norma Sykes Stock Photos and Pictures – Getty Images". Getty Images. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  3. ^ Cook, Pam (2001). "The Trouble with Sex: Diana Dors and the Blonde Bombshell Phenomenon". In Babington, Bruce (ed.). British Stars and Stardom. Manchester University Press. pp. 167–178.
  4. ^ "Dr Harold Melsheimer & Sabrina Divorced, Joint Family Tree & History". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  5. ^ a b Newnham, Grahame L. "WHO REMEMBERS SABRINA?". Grahame N's Web Pages. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  6. ^ Holmes, Su (1 November 2015). Entertaining Television: The BBC and Popular Television Culture in the 1950s. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781526101600. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  7. ^ Day, Jim. "Road less travelled". Grahame Rhodes Jazz. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Photographer Russell Gay". Pamela Green. 19 February 2019.
  9. ^ "The Sabrina Naughty Nudie Cards". Encyclopedia Sabrina. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  10. ^ Holmes, Su (2011). "Whoever Heard of Anyone Being a Screaming Success for Doing Nothing?" (PDF). Media History. 17 (1): 33–48. doi:10.1080/13688804.2011.532376. S2CID 54762761.
  11. ^ Kynaston, David (2 November 2009). Family Britain, 1951–1957. A&C Black. ISBN 9781408803493. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  12. ^ "Sabrina, the Blackpool Celebrity - 1956 Premium Photographic Print by Ken Russell at". Archived from the original on 30 January 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2017.[better source needed]
  13. ^ "02 – May – 2009 – shadowplay". Retrieved 30 January 2017.[dead link]
  14. ^ "Beat Girl" (PDF). British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  15. ^ "Beat Girl Blu-ray – Edmond T. Gréville". DVD Beaver. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  16. ^ "SHE NEARLY CAUSED RIOT". Perth, Western Australia: Mirror. 19 November 1955. p. 3.
  17. ^ Heilbron, Hilary (22 October 2012). Rose Heilbron: Legal Pioneer of the 20th Century: Inspiring Advocate who Became England's First Woman Judge. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781782250289. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  18. ^ "The Phantom Gunslinger (1967)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 5 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Sabrina, model and sex symbol – obituary". The Telegraph. 9 October 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  20. ^ a b "Fifties Pin-Up Star Now Living in Squalor". Manchester Evening News. 4 September 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  21. ^ "Encyclopedia Sabrina". Encyclopedia Sabrina.[not specific enough to verify]
  22. ^ "Obituary Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes)". The Sunday Times. 7 October 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  23. ^ "Tributes to Sabrina". Encyclopedia Sabrina. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Sabrina Sounds". The Encyclopaedia Sabrina. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  25. ^ Willey, Russ, ed. (2011). "Hunchfront of Lime Grove". Brewer's Dictionary of London Phrase & Fable. Oxford Reference. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199916214.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-991621-4.
  26. ^ Hensher, Philip (24 October 2009). "Voices of change". The Spectator. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  27. ^ Griffin, David. J. (2006). Hawker Hunter 1951 to 2007. Lulu Enterprises. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-4303-0593-4.
  28. ^ Heseltine, Richard (7 July 2014). "Triumph TR2/3". Motor Sport Magazine. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  29. ^ Clausager, Anders D. (1994). Original MGB. Bay View Books. p. 25.
  30. ^ "Double Your Money – A Cherished Television Review". Cherished Television. Archived from the original on 19 May 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  31. ^ Mobberley, Martin (23 July 2013). It Came From Outer Space Wearing an RAF Blazer!: A Fan's Biography of Sir Patrick Moore. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9783319006093. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  32. ^ "Goodnight with Sabrina". Internet Movie Database. 1 January 2000. Retrieved 30 January 2017.

External links Edit