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Mary Ure extended biography
Written by: Suz
Date: Monday, October 6, 2008

Eileen Mary Ure was born on February 18, 1933 in Glasgow, Scotland to Colin McGregor Ure (a civil engineer) and the former Edith Swinburne. She was the granddaughter of the Lord Provost of Glasgow. Her basic schooling was at the Mount School in York, England. Her first performance on stage was as the Virgin Mary in a revival of the Cycle of Mystery Plays, from the Middle Ages. The new producers, impressed with her performance sent her to study at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art in London.

In 1954, she made her professional stage debut in Manchester and then went on to London to star in Jean Anouilh's "Time Remembered". In 1955, she played Ophelia with Paul Scofield in Hamlet and went on to play Desdemona and Titania.

She met John Osborne in 1956 during a production of "A View from the Bridge" in which she had a Brooklyn accent. She married Osborne in 1957 and went to New York to star in the production of Look Back in Anger in 1958 which won her a Tony award nomination for Best Dramatic Actress. She had received rave reviews for the Broadway production as one read, "As the tormented wife, Mary Ure succeeds in retaining the pride of an intelligent young woman by filling her silences with unspoken vitality, by being alive and by glowing with youth in every sequence." It later became a film starring Mary Ure and Richard Burton.

She met Robert Shaw around 1959, had an affair with him and they would later marry on April 13, 1963. They would have four children together and a very happy marriage, as Mary was quoted as saying, "a gloriously loving, combative, thoroughly agreeable to us disagreeable relationship." I found it both amusing and moving to read a copy of The Flag recently as it was obvious who Robert Shaw was thinking of when he wrote it, I believe on the set of Battle of the Bulge if I'm not mistaken. It is even dedicated to Mary.

Mary Ure starred in Sons and Lovers in 1960 and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as well as an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She did a few plays in London during the 1960's, in Arthur Miller's The Crucible and in New York starring with Vivien Leigh in Duel of Angels. She starred in The Luck of Ginger Coffey with her husband Robert Shaw in 1964 and they also made Custer of the West in 1967. In 1971, Mary and Robert would co-star in Harold Pinter's Old Times on Broadway. She was in Where Eagles Dare (my personal favourite along with Ginger Coffey) a year later with Burton again and Clint Eastwood.

In April of 1975, she made a return to the stage in The Exorcism with Honor Blackman in London. Tragically, she died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills after opening night. Much speculation has been made in the press about her death being suicidal but my rather well researched conclusion (and it is only speculation might I add as I neither knew Robert Shaw or Mary Ure and neither did most of the people who have written about them) is that it was a severe case of opening night nerves (also mentioned by fellow actors during rehearsals as well as her husband), as she made a return to her career after taking so much time out to raise their family.

It's all sensationalism or as Mary once said about Robert in an interview, "They never print how nice he is." The sad thing is that these people are no longer living and cannot defend themselves.

User Comments:

Valerie (2010-05-05)
I think you should mention that Osborne wrote the play "Look Back in Anger". Other than that, a good, brief account!
keith 23/10/10 (2010-10-23)
Two great actors of the period,both very underestimated in their acting ability by modern day audiences A good interesting account of them both.
Michael H Majer (2010-11-22)
A stunningly lovely woman in all ways. What a tragic loss she was to us. We know that son Ian is now an actor but I wonder what became of son Colin and daughters Hanna and Lizzy.
Binny (2012-01-02)
I got to know about her after reading the magnificent text Sons and Lovers by Lawrence, that made me watch the 1960 movie.
Tonyt  (2012-11-02)
What a fantastic actress and charismatic women
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