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Anna Lee

Anna Lee, whose nearly 70-year acting career in movies and television spanned from her breakthrough role in How Green Was My Valley (1941) to an extended run on the TV soap opera General Hospital died Friday, May 14th, 2004 at her home near Beverly Hills with son Jeffrey Byron, 48, by her side.

Miss Lee, who was 91, had been ailing for the past several months. Paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident just a year after she began playing Lila Quartermaine in ABC's General Hospital. Lee acted in a wheelchair for more than two decades until she left the soap last year, Byron said. General Hospital will be featuring Lila's funeral in July. According to Soap Opera Digest, many characters will be affected by her death in deep and far-reaching ways. Also, they will have many former characters returning for her funeral.

The daughter of a clergymen, she was born Joan Boniface Winnifrith in Kent, England and encouraged to pursue an acting career by her father. She studied acting at London's Royal Albert Hall and was known as "the British bombshell" when touring with the London Repertory Theatre. She later began appearing in English films, first as an extra, then working her way up to featured parts and finally earning the unofficial title "Queen of the Quota Quickies."

Lee and her husband, director Robert Stevenson, relocated to Hollywood in the late '30s and Lee began starring in stateside productions as well as becoming a fixture of the John Ford stock company. She appeared in eight films directed by Ford from 1941 - 1966. As her connection to this website, she appeared in 5 John Wayne films:

View her filmography, courtesy of IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase).

Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:

Wholesomely pretty, petite, blond ingenue of British films of the 1930s, then a supporting player and occasional leading lady in Hollywood movies from the 1940s on. Bright-eyed and energetic (and, occasionally, a bit saucy), Lee made her screen debut in Ebb Tide (1932), supported musical star Jessie Matthews in First a Girl (1935), and was a delightful leading lady in The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936), King Solomon's Mines (1937), Young Man's Fancy and Return to Yesterday (both 1939, and directed by then husband Robert Stevenson).

In Hollywood from 1940, she was a demure supporting player in Seven Sinners (1940) but scored heavily as the widowed daughter-in-law of the Welsh coal-mining family in John Ford's How Green Was My Valley (1941). She was the pretty nurse for whom John Wayne and John Carroll competed in Flying Tigers (1942), and performed leadinglady chores in other WW2-themed dramas such as The Commandos Strike at Dawn (1942) and Hangmen Also Die (1943).

After costarring with Boris Karloff in the period melodrama Bedlam (1946), Lee found herself more or less confined to supporting roles-many of them for Director John Ford. Lee has also appeared in many made for-TV movies and has played Lila Quartermaine on the soap opera "General Hospital" since 1978. She was also married to author Robert Nathan. Her daughter, Venetia Stevenson, was an actress who then moved into film and television production. A son, known professionally as Jeffrey Byron, is an actor.

OTHER FILMS INCLUDE: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Fort Apache (1948), Boots Malone (1952), Gideon of Scotland Yard (1958), The Last Hurrah (1958), The Horse Soldiers (1959), Two Rode Together (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Jack the Giant Killer (1962), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), 7 Women (1966), In Like Flint (1967), Star! (1968), Scruples (made for TV) (1981), and Clash (1984).

Maureen O'Hara said of Anna Lee, who starred with Lee in 1941's How Green Was My Valley . "She was beautiful. She came to the United States and immediately everybody fell in love with her." O'Hara said Lee was most effective as an actress in straightforward tales of love and family life. "She made you feel, looking at her, that you belonged to the same family as her," she said.

Lee was married three times, first to Robert Stevenson, the director of films including The Love Bug and Mary Poppins. She was married to George Stafford for two decades and wed writer Robert Nathan in 1970. Nathan died in 1985.

In 1982, Lee received an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire award. She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in January 1993 for her services to film and television industry.

Anna Lee died just a week before she was to have received a daytime Emmy award for "lifetime achievement". Her actor son, Jeffrey Byron, accepted on her behalf at the New York ceremony.

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