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The Times (25/Aug/1976) - Obituary: Miss Phyllis Konstam

(c) The Times (25/Aug/1976)


Miss Phyllis Konstam, the actress, wife of Mr H. W. Austin, the well-known tennis player, died in Somerset on August 20 at the age of 69.

The daughter of Alfred Kohn-stamm, she was born on April 14, 1907, and educated at God-stowe School and Bayford House School. Early in life she was drawn to the stage and studied in Paris with that career in mind. An attractive and intelligent actress she made many appearances in the West End theatre in the 1920s and 1930s. She made her debut in 1925 as Abigail in The Jew of Malta at the Q Theatre and after several other London engagements was seen at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1927 in a revival of Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem in which her playing of Dorinda was praised as "a pretty essay in the quiet development of a minx". This was an interesting production for the cast included Dame Edith Evans as Mrs Sullen, George Hayes and Carleton Hobbs as Archer and Aimwell and Miles Malleson as Scrub. She went to New York in 1929 to appear as Sylvia Armitage in Murder on the Second Floor. It was in this play that Sir Laurence Olivier made his first American appearance.

In 1935 three Shaw plays were put on in which Miss Konstam played Lina in Misalliance, Dora in Fanny's First Play, and Ann in Man and Superman; and two years later she had parts in the OUDS production of Twelfth Night — she was Olivia — and in a Vernon Sylvaine farce A Spot of Bother at the Strand Theatre. The cast was headed by Alfred Dravton and Robertson Hafe.

She appeared in both silent and talking pictures, more than once under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. She was Dulcie Markham in his Murder (1930) and in a film of John Galsworthy's The Skin Game in the following year she took the part of Chloe Hornblower. The cast included Edmund Gwenn — who played Horn-blower as he had done in the earlier film version of the play — Frank Lawton, Jill Esmond and Edward Chapman.

She married Mr Austin in 1931 and subsequently shared his close involvement in the work of the Oxford Group/Moral Rearmament generally and in particular in the productions sympathetic to MRA at the Westminster Theatre of which she was a trustee.

She travelled widely and the films in which she took part had been shown in many .countries. The Voice of the Hurricane, in which she starred, and which concerns the problems of racial conflict, is currently being shown in South Africa. With Mr Austin she was joint author of A Mixed Double.

She is survived by her husband and two children.