The always electric and captivating Susannah York, 72, died earlier today from cancer. I fell in love with her performance as Meg, the daughter of Paul Scofield‘s Sir Thomas More, in Fred Zinneman‘s A Man For All Seasons (’66), and was pretty much hooked from then on. One of her best scenes in that film begins around the 2:20 mark.
York’s eyes were wonderful. Gleaming, teasing. They always knew. And then you add that delicious smile. She always conveyed adult intrigue, exceptional perception. At times a certain melancholy crept into her features, but it was always mitigated by hints of need, playful intelligence and, of course, erotic insinuation.
Born in 1939, York enjoyed an unusually long run — 18 years — in first-rate films of her day. The list began with Ronald Neame‘s Tunes of Glory (’60) and continued with John Huston‘s Freud (’62), Tony Richardson‘s Tom Jones (’63), A Man For All Seasons, Robert Aldrich‘s The Killing of Sister George (’68), Sydney Pollack‘s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (’69 — Best Supporting Actress nominated), Robert Altman‘s Images (’72 — Best Actress, Cannes Film Festival), Jerzy Skolimowski‘s The Shout, and — the end of the really good stuff — Daryl Duke‘s The Silent Partner (’78).
For some reason my two favorite York performances after A Man For All Seasons were in The Shout (a strong sexual current with Alan Bates , or so I recall) and — don’t laugh — Kaleidoscope with Warren Beatty.
I’m sorry she’s gone — 72 is far from elderly — but for actresses of York’s calibre quality of achievement is as important, perhaps more so, than the number of years spent on the planet.