Sunday 16 August 2015

Whatever Happened To ... Susan Shaw?

I must level with you from the start, this blog is probably going to be quite a sad one, but it's a story well worth telling. Susan Shaw only appeared in one Carry On and in that film, Carry On Nurse, she only featured in a few scenes. Shaw played Jane Bishop, wife of main character Bernie Bishop, the boxer with the broken hand so beautifully played by the wonderful Kenneth Connor.

Susan Shaw worked well with Connor and they made a very believable husband and wife. She was frightened for her husband, worried that his job as a boxer would seriously damage his health. Things ended happily for them and Kenneth's real life son Jeremy made a cameo appearance at the age of three playing Bernie's son. It is obvious from Shaw's performance in Nurse that she was a good actress. 

So what happened to Susan Shaw's promising life and career that lead to her sad, early death at the age of just 49 in 1978? 

Susan Shaw was born on 27 August 1929 in London. The name she became known for was a stage name, she was actually born Patsy Sloots. Shaw began her film career in 1946 and became the latest in a long line of Rank Starlets, signed as she was to the Rank Organisation. She was a pin up, featuring in many glossy publicity photographs and training at the so-called Charm School. 

Shaw found fame early on in life, starring in three of the famous post-war film comedies with the Huggetts. The Huggetts were a working class London-based family and each film followed their ups and downs. Shaw was cast as their daughter Susan and starred alongside the likes of Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Diana Dors, Jimmy Hanley and a young Petula Clark.

Building on this success, Shaw went on to appear in many more films during the late 1940s and 1950s. Among them were: London Town in 1946 (starring Sid Field and Kay Kendall); It Always Rains on Sunday in 1947 (starring Googie Withers); Marry Me! in 1949 (with Derek Bond, David Tomlinson and directed by Betty Box); Pool of London in 1951 (with Bonar Colleano, Renee Asherson, Leslie Phillips and James Robertson Justice) and The Good Die Young in 1954, with a cast that included Joan Collins, Stanley Baker and Laurence Harvey.

Having risen to prominence as a young leading lady in British film, what went wrong by the end of the 1950s? Susan Shaw first married the German actor Albert Lieven in 1949 but this marriage ended in divorce in 1953. A year later, she married the actor Bonar Colleano, who Susan had met in 1951 whilst filmed Pool of London. Colleano was a rising star in British film and a close friend of future Carry On legend Sid James. Shaw and Colleano settled into married life and soon Susan had given birth to a son, Mark. 

Tragedy struck in 1958 when Bonar was killed in a road traffic accident at the age of just 34. As a result of this, Susan Shaw struggled to work and look after her young son. Sadly, she developed a drinking problem. Shaw's last credited appearance came in 1963 in a film called The Switch. 

As far as I can find, from then on Susan Shaw's acting career seemed to come to a complete halt. By the 1970s her alcoholism has taken hold. Susan Shaw passed away on 27 November 1978. She died from cirrhosis of the liver at just 49 years of age. 

It came to light after her death that Susan died in poverty. Her subsequent funeral was paid for by the Rank Organisation. What a sad end for someone who showed such promise and talent. 

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  1. Always sad to hear a story like that. Too many of the actors/actresses I enjoyed in films have suffered bad luck, hardship and even premature death.

  2. Always sad to hear a story like that. Too many of the actors/actresses I enjoyed in films have suffered bad luck, hardship and even premature death.

  3. very sad a lot of actors seemed to suffer an early death from alcoholism or Suicide or just plain Unlucky,God Bless her.

  4. I saw her for the first time today in a film called Quartette which was a series of 4 short stories. She appwared in The Kite opposite george cole. I thought she was so beautiful and was sad to read of her alcoholism due to loss of husband and things getting too much for her. I shall try and find and watch some of her other film roles if i can. RIP X

  5. What a sad ending for such a promising start in life. I wonder if she never recovered from the tragedy of losing her husband? Life can be very moment it seems like you have it all, and then it can all be taken away in an instant. God Bless you Susan, xx

    1. Sadly she never recovered from losing her husband,. alcohol is a viscous illness which has no barrier's!

  6. God bless you susan an pls help people with the same difficuty may god bless you an keep you always x good night love x gordon

  7. She was the genuine girl next door and so good at playing the young working class girl with manners and common sense. I never dreamed that she had met such a tragic end - alone and penniless.