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Virginia Maskell: Wikis


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Virginia Elizabeth Maskell[1] (27 February 1936 in Shepherd's Bush – 25 January 1968 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital), was an English actress.



After the outbreak of World War II, 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 starred in TV parts mainly playing demure young lasses 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 hopscotching between the theatre and the screen in 1958, her next major film was Director Pat Jackson's comedy Virgin Island (1958). She resultantly won a British Lion contract and went on to appear 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' wife in Only Two Can Play (1962), which the actor tried to get her fired from when cast, unconvinced she could manage a credible Welsh accent and asked for her dismissal - though it was suspected that his ulterior motive was part of a campaign to replace Maskell with Welsh born actress Siân Phillips[2].

She took a break from acting from 1962 to concentrate on her family, other than occasional TV appearances in such popular series as Danger Man and The Prisoner, but returned after the birth of her second son to shoot Interlude in the summer of 1967.

Maskell died of a drug overdose at the age of 31 in Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Interlude was released posthumously, 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 hospitalised at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for six weeks. She was released three weeks before Christmas 1967 for the holiday period[3]

On 24 January 1968 she took an overdose of antidepressants and barbiturates which she had obtained from her doctor the previous day, and drove from her home at Princes Risborough. She was found by police collapsed in a nearby wooded area on the Chiltern Hills the next day suffering from acute hypothermia from the severely cold night. Although revived briefly, she died shortly after at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Her funeral was held on Thursday 1 February 1968. The coroner Dr Pim excluded a note which "consisted of a hasty message of love and despair" written on a scrap of paper torn from a sheet, and the writing was such that he believed she was under the influence of the tablets when she wrote it. Dr Pim concluded "I cannot concede it was her intention she should be found alive", and recorded a verdict that she took her own life[4]


  • ""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."


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