Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Versatile Star Shows Darker Side of Talent

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Versatile Star Shows Darker Side of Talent

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

Patricia Highsmith was an American novelist ( born Texas 1921, grew up New York, died Switzerland 1995 ( who wrote the kind of books you can't put down. Taut plots, crisp prose, believable characters and spine-chilling psychological scenarios were her stock in trade.

Alfred Hitchcock was so impressed with her first novel, Strangers On A Train, published in 1950, that he turned it into a film which came out the following year.

It tells of two men who meet on a long rail journey and start to moan, one about his wife and the other about his dad. One suggests they could do each other a favour by removing the person in question. Nothing would link either of them to the respective crime. They would, in the twisted rationale of the underworld, be the perfect murders.

The story reaches the Theatre Royal next week in an adaptation directed by Robin Herford, which augurs well because his production of The Woman In Black ( a stage thriller par excellence ( is still running in the West End after 17 years.

Then there's a classy cast headed ( at least in experience terms ( by Colin Baker (a former Doctor Who) and Anita Harris.

It's intriguing to imagine a lunch date between Ms Highsmith and Ms Harris. The former's unhappy childhood (her mother, it is said, had tried to abort her by drinking turps) may account for her mastery of the dark yarn and the glum face which accompanies website biographies. The latter is sunshine personified, cheery star of pop, panto and much else.

The CV is, in fact, extraordinary. The hard-working entertainer was born in wartime Somerset in 1942 and won a talent competition at the age of three. Music, dance, drama ( she excelled at it all. A leggy chorus girl in Las Vegas while still in her teens, she conquered the pop world in the 1960s with hits including Just Loving You and became a familiar face on TV.

She has featured in umpteen plays, made a successful fitness video and has awards and prizes in abundance. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a darling of the Carry On fans and a popular after-dinner speaker.

Next week in Newcastle, cast as the wife of an intended murder victim, she will be saving her smiles for off-stage moments. …

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