Actress Jill Balcon dies aged 84

By Jessica Elgot, July 23, 2009
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The Jewish actress Jill Balcon, the daughter of film producer Sir Michael Balcon, wife of Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis and mother of actor Daniel Day-Lewis has died at the age of 84.

Jill Balcon was the daughter of eminent film producer Sir Michael Balcon who was the head of Ealing Studios and her paternal grandparents were Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe.

It was at boarding school at Rodean where she first saw her future husband, the future Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis. She was 12, and he came to give a reading at school assembly.

She began working on BBC Radio, and the medium became her first love. She continued her career in acting on stage and screen, notably playing Madeline Bray in her father’s screen adaptation of Nicholas Nickelby and was a memorable Lady Bracknell in the recent film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband in 1999 alongside Cate Blanchett and Rupert Everett.

But she remained committed to radio, and highly sought-after for radio plays and poetry readings.

She married Cecil Day-Lewis at the age of 25, when he was 46. He left behind a wife of 20 years, Mary King, and a mistress, the novelist Rosamund Lehmann, to marry Jill.

The couple had two children, Tamsin and Daniel. Her son, Daniel Day-Lewis has followed in his mother’s thespian footsteps, but preferring the camera to the radio mic, he won an Oscar for his performance in There Will Be Blood in 2007. Her daughter Tamsin is a documentary filmmaker.

    Last updated: 10:04am, August 3 2009