Some actors join soap operas in order to hone their craft and learn the tricks of the trade. Others are already established star’s from either the silver screen or graduates of primetime programs who are either looking for a challenge or wanting to re-establish their presence in the acting world. And some come bearing previously won titles. This particular soap star was once known as The British Bombshell.
All of these actresses are either currently starring in, or are alums of, one of the four remaining daytime soaps – The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of our Lives, General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless. But only one of them can claim that her work in feature films earned her the moniker of The British Bombshell.
But who can that actress be? Is it Lesley-Anne Down (ex-Jackie Marone, B&B), Jane Windsor (ex-Emma Donovan, DAYS), Anna Lee (ex-Lila Quartermaine, GH), or Tracey Bregman (Lauren Fenmore Baldwin, Y&R)?
By the time she turned 15, Down had already launched a successful film career in her native Britain. By the time she had joined the cast of Upstairs, Downstairs – a television serial and global sensation – Down’s prowess as a performer resulted in the press claiming she would emerge as the next Elizabeth Taylor. But they never did call her The British Bombshell.
Windsor was born and raised in London, England, but she didn’t begin her acting career until she had emigrated to the United States. Her first professional job was playing DAYS’ psychotic Emma Donovan – Shane’s wife and a constant spoiler in his romance with Kimberly Brady. Subsequently, Windsor became a frequent guest on primetime programs but she never did appear on the silver screen.
Though born in Munich, Germany, Bregman spent the first 10 years of her life being reared in Great Britain. She and her family relocated to California in 1973, and five years later, Bregman began to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She subsequently appeared in feature films such as Happy Birthday to Me and The Concrete Jungle and daytime soaps like DAYS and Y&R. But she is not today’s featured star.
Joan Boniface Winnifrith was born in Ightham, Kent in 1913 and, thanks to encouragement from her father, she pursued a career as an actress – and adopted the stage name, Anna Lee.
Lee made her professional debut with a bit part in the musical comedy His Lordship. Minor roles (usually uncredited) followed though she became a more prominent leading lady as the 1930s wore on.
In 1934, Lee signed a contract with Gainsborough Pictures, the biggest British production company of the era. While employed there, Lee appeared in prestigious pictures such as King Solomon’s Mines and she even met her first husband, director Robert Stevenson.
Once the petite, fair-haired Lee emigrated to the U.S. – and joined John Ford’s stable of repertory players – she was labeled by her new studio as The British Bombshell.
So, if you guessed that the soap star in question was Anna Lee – who spent the final 25 years of her life portraying GH’s Lila Quartermaine (even after a neurological illness robbed her of the use of one leg and a car accident the other), then you were absolutely correct!