Virginia Maskell: British actress (1936 - 1968) | Biography
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Virginia Maskell
British actress

Virginia Maskell

Virginia Maskell
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro British actress
Was Actor
From United Kingdom
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender female
Birth 27 February 1936, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Death 25 January 1968, Aylesbury, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire, South East England (aged 31 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


Virginia Elizabeth Maskell, Lady Shakerley (27 February 1936 – 25 January 1968) was an English actress.


Virginia Maskell was born in Shepherd's Bush, London. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Maskell's family were evacuated to South Africa. After the war she returned to London and entered a convent school, where she developed an interest in acting.

After attending drama school, she featured in television roles mainly playing demure young women in action series such as The Buccaneers and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

She made a minor film debut for director Roy Boulting with Happy Is the Bride (1957), and then began switching between the theatre and the screen. In director Pat Jackson's comedy Virgin Island (US: Our Virgin Island, 1958) she appeared with John Cassavetes and Sidney Poitier. She gained a British Lion contract and appeared in The Man Upstairs (1958) with Richard Attenborough, and as an air-hostess in Jet Storm (1959).

She also made an impact on the stage, in The Catalyst, and in live TV drama. She later starred in Doctor in Love (1960), and as Peter Sellers's wife in Only Two Can Play (1962); Sellers was unconvinced she could manage a credible Welsh accent and asked for her dismissal, though it was suspected that his ulterior motive was to replace Maskell with Welsh born actress Siân Phillips.

She took a break from acting from 1962 to concentrate on her family, other than occasional TV appearances in such series as Danger Man and The Prisoner, but returned after the birth of her second son to shoot Interlude (1968) in the summer of 1967. Interlude was released after she died and she won a posthumous National Board of Review award and a BAFTA nomination for her work in the film.

Maskell was also a poet and an artist.

Personal life

Maskell married Sir Geoffrey Adam Shakerley, 6th Baronet on 3 July 1962. The couple had two sons, the first, Nicholas, born in December 1963.


After the birth of her second son in February 1966, Maskell showed signs of post-natal depression. Following the shooting of Interlude in the summer of 1967, she suffered a severe nervous breakdown and was hospitalized at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for six weeks.

On Wednesday, January 24, 1968, she left home in her car and six hours later her husband reported her missing. Police searched woods 700 feet up in the Chiltern Hills after her car was found a mile from her home. Maskell had apparently wandered through the woods for hours before collapsing where the police eventually found her. She was taken to hospital and given emergency treatment for an overdose of barbiturates, and although doctors revived her, she died the following day.


  • "I love acting, but I also want to be alive. Publicity is like a prison. If you're not careful, you begin to live according to everyone's idea of how you ought to live. Ambition? To be a big, big star...on the stage."


  • Carve Her Name with Pride (1958) - Wren (uncredited)
  • Happy Is the Bride (1958) - Marcia
  • The Man Upstairs (1958) - Helen Grey
  • Virgin Island (1958) - Tina
  • Jet Storm (1959) - Pam Leyton
  • Doctor in Love (1960) - Dr. Nicola Barrington
  • Suspect (1960) - Dr. Lucy Byrne
  • Only Two Can Play (1962) - Jean Lewis
  • The Wild and the Willing (1962) - Virginia Chown
  • The Prisoner Episode One, "Arrival" (1967)
  • Interlude (1968) - Antonia (Last appearance)
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