Star Archive

Googie Withers (1917 - 2011)

Googie Withers was never a big star. Her range as an actress was too great for the pigeon-holing necessary for true stardom. Yet, among film buffs her reputation is second to none. No matter what film she appears in, there's always something to keep us watching. 

Georgette Lizette Withers was born in Karachi into an army family. Her unusual pseudonym, given to her by her nanny, means Little Pigeon in Hindi. By 1929 she was in England and on stage. This inevitably lead to work in the booming film industry.

Though she signed on for extra work, the second lead of Michael Powell's The Girl in the Crowd needed to be replaced. In true fairy tale fashion, Googie was plucked from the crowd to replace her. She worked steadily, if unspectacularly, for the next decade in film and on stage. Her work covered most genres, and included playing stooge to Hay, Formby and Askey. She was pretty, hard-working and competent, but was getting a reputation as merely a light comedienne.

In 1942 she got two big breaks: the film One of Our Aircraft is Missing and the play They Came to a City. Michael Powell fought to get her to play the Dutch Resistance worker, convinced she could "go dramatic". Her having a Dutch mother and knowledge of the language also helped. She was utterly convincing. Meanwhile, the J.B. Priestley play They Came to a City ran for two years in the West End. She was now considered a serious actress, and entered the golden period of her career.

In a handful of films in the mid-forties, she portrayed some unforgettable women. Her characters were grown-up and sexual in a way that few women in British cinema have been. Then something dreadful happened - she married John McCallum. 

Of course, it wasn't dreadful for her; their marriage is one of the most enduring in show business. However her career never had the same impetus after her marriage, and the film world sorely missed the zing she could give a decent part. She did fit a few films into her schedule between family life and the stage, but for the most part they weren't worthy of her. Her stage work was more worthwhile, and included a season at Stratford playing Gertrude and Beatrice.

The McCallums spent more and more time in his native Australia, and by the end of the fifties they'd moved permanently. She did come back in the seventies to do two series of TV's dour women's prison saga Within These Walls - just to remind us of what we were missing.

Googie still works occasionally. In 1996 she appeared in the major hit Shine, and in 1998 she starred with her husband in a stage revival of An Ideal Husband. She was made a CBE in the 2001 Birthday Honours List. Her daughter Joanna is a successful actress.

Poster for One of Our Aircraft is MissingPoster for Pink String and Sealing WaxStill from It Always Rains on Sunday


1934 The Girl in the Crowd
1935 The Love Test
1935 Windfall
1935 Her Last Affaire
1935 All at Sea
1935 Dark World
1936 Crown v Stevens
1936 She Knew What She Wanted
1936 Accused
1936 Crime Over London
1937 Action For Slander
1937 The Green Cockatoo
1937 Paradise For Two
1938 Paid in Error
1938 If I Were Boss
1938 Convict 99
1938 The Lady Vanishes
1938 You're the Doctor
1939 Murder in Soho
1939 Trouble Brewing
1939 The Gang's All Here
1939 She Couldn't Say No
1940 Bulldog Sees it Through
1940 Busman's Honeymoon
1941 Jeannie
1942 Back Room Boy
1942 One of Our Aircraft is Missing
1943 The Silver Fleet
1944 On Approval
1944 They Came to a City
1945 Dead of Night
1945 Pink String and Sealing Wax
1945 The Loves of Joanna Godden 
1947 It Always Rains on Sunday
1948 Miranda
1948 Once Upon a Dream
1949 Traveller's Joy
1950 Night and the City
1951 The Magic Box
1951 White Corridors
1951 Lady Godiva Rides Again
1952 Derby Day
1954 Devil On Horseback
1956 Port of Escape
1970 The Nickel Queen (Aus.)
1985 Time After Time (Aus.)
1994 Country Life (Aus.)
1996 Shine (Aus.)

 Googie Withers at Amazon UK

 Googie Withers at Amazon US