Hammer leading lady Barbara Shelley dies

Star had been hospitalised with Covid-19

by Jennie Kermode

Barbara Shelley in Dracula: Prince Of Darkness
Barbara Shelley in Dracula: Prince Of Darkness

Hammer Horror was known for its leading ladies but few put across as much force of personality as Barbara Shelley. Now the much loved actress has died, aged 88, after contracting Covid-19 in the run-up to Christmas and developing a secondary infection.

The London-born star, who began her career as a model, worked with Hammer during its heyday in the Sixties, on films including The Gorgon, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, Dracula: Prince Of Darkness and Quatermass And The Pit. She enjoyed a wider range of roles than most of her contemporaries, playing heroines and villains, vulnerable upper class ladies and capable scientists, always bringing a keen intelligence to her work. She had a passion for science fiction and horror and described Hammer as a family, considering herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She continued to attend related events and meet fans right up until 2019, despite suffering a stroke in 2007.

Alongside her genre appearances, Shelley worked extensively in television, including Blake's 7, The Avengers, Doctor Who and The Borgias. She made a memorable Flavia in the BBC's take on Rupert Of Hentzau, and also worked on the stage, performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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