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New York Times (18/Apr/2008) - Hazel Court, 82, Screaming Horror-Film Star, Dies

(c) The New York Times (18/Apr/2008)

Hazel Court, 82, Screaming Horror-Film Star, Dies

Hazel Court, a British actress who began as a popular ingénue and became a cult figure as a “scream queen” in horror films on both sides of the Atlantic, died on Tuesday in Lake Tahoe, Calif. She was 82 and lived in Lake Tahoe.

The cause was a heart attack, said her daughter Sally Walsh.

A redheaded, leggy, green-eyed beauty who was a busy film actress and a pinup girl in England in the 1950s, and who went on to make dozens of guest appearances on American television, Ms. Court had a long and varied professional life, including a second career as a sculptor. But she became best known for showing considerable cleavage and screaming bloody murder in movies like “Devil Girl From Mars” (1954), “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957), “Doctor Blood’s Coffin” (1961) and Roger Corman’s treatments of three works by Edgar Allan Poe: “Premature Burial” (1962), “The Raven” (1963) and “The Masque of the Red Death” (1964). In the last two, her best-known films, she co-starred with Vincent Price.

Her scream-queen roles continued to bring her fan mail — up to 100 letters a month, Ms. Walsh said — until her death.

“She knew it wasn’t serious acting,” Ms. Walsh said. “She and Vincent were extremely close, and they found humor in everything. They had a ton of fun, and they didn’t take the movies seriously. But she took her fan mail seriously. She was amazed by and touched by it, and she answered every one.”

Ms. Court was born in Sutton Coldfield, outside Birmingham, England, on Feb. 10, 1926. She began acting on stage as a teenager and first appeared on screen in an uncredited bit part in the 1944 film “Champagne Charlie.”

Over the next decade and a half she graduated to featured roles and then to leads, marrying her first husband, the actor Dermot Walsh, along the way. They divorced in 1963, and she later married Don Taylor, the American actor and director, who died in 1998.

In addition to Ms. Walsh, of Los Angeles, she is survived by another daughter, Courtney Taylor of Ojai, Calif.; a son, Jonathan Taylor of Reno, Nev.; and two stepdaughters, Avery Taylor of San Francisco and Anne Taylor Fleming of Los Angeles.

Ms. Court first visited the United States in 1958, when CBS imported a television series filmed in London, a crosscultural situation comedy called “Dick and the Duchess,” in which she starred with Patrick O’Neal as an English girl married to an American man. She also filmed the first of four episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”

Ms. Court eventually relocated to Los Angeles. From 1962 to 1972 she appeared frequently on network television series.

Her acting career ended in the 1970s. In its place she took up stone sculpturing, studying in Italy and accepting and completing commissions that included one for the library at Pennsylvania State University.

She also wrote an autobiography, “Hazel Court: Horror Queen,” to be published this month by an English publisher, Tomahawk Press. In the book, she wrote that though she might have achieved renown as an actress who shrieked and bled with abandon, she always retained the ladylike primness with which she was raised.

“Just in case I should pop off to Heaven in the night, I always remember to wash up, punch up the cushions, and straighten up after a dinner party,” she wrote. “I wouldn’t want everyone to come in and find it a mess. It’s very English of me.”