JB Fact File: Anna Massey

Jeremy and Anna married May 26, 1958, and were divorced Nov. 9, 1962. Their son, David, was born Aug. 14, 1959.

    

Here are some excerpts about Jeremy from Anna's autobiography, Telling Some Tales:
( Amazon U.S. //  Amazon U.K.)

When I had been in The Reluctant Debutante in New York, I had met briefly with the cast of the Old Vic Theatre, who were performing Troilus and Cressida on Broadway. Jeremy Brett was playing Troilus, and like most of the young girls who came into contact with him, I fell under his spell. At this stage I didn't get to know him well, but his charm and enthusiasm were very powerful attributes. Soon after our meeting, I came back to London and Jeremy remained in New York. ... I was beginning the tortuously long run of Dear Delinquent. There was no time for romance of a serious nature.

However, during the run I did meet up with the dashing Jeremy again. He came to a party that Mother gave ... and the next day ... out of the blue, he said, "You must find somewhere to live where you are not under your mother's dominance." He was quite right.

Jeremy was the most complex of men. He was eccentric and often embarrassing in his outspokenness. ... He saw my difficulties at home and helped me find the initiative to break away. This was some feat, for I was frightened and still needy of the nest for creature comforts.

But I did break away. I found myself a room in Ebury Street. This liberated me to a certain extent, and allowed my romance with Mr. Brett to blossom. But I must stress that our romance was of the purest kind. We could have been in a Jane Austen novel. In fact, I suspect there was quite a bit of play-acting in the air. When Jeremy embarrassed me with his exuberances, I simply thought, "I can change him." What very dangerous territory I was entering.

I think I must have been one of the last virgin brides. It was largely accepted in those days that young girls saved themselves for marriage. I saved myself simply from fear.

I had flirted up until this time, kissed and held hands, and had romantic friendships, but had fled from any serious commitment. It was Jeremy's intuition that had enabled me to break through that barrier and unleash my feelings. He did not know what strong emotions he was releasing.

We had a very big, showy wedding [on May 24, 1958]. ... Of course, it was not entirely a fairytale wedding; my father [actor Raymond Massey] had flown over, and expected to give me away. I was torn in two. My stepfather, Bill, was the one who had paid for the wedding, and it was he who had been around for most of my childhood. But of course, Father was my father, and he had come to play his part. ...

They fought their duel silently with velvet weaponry, and left me to make the choice. I wish I could have been original, and suggest they both take me up the aisle... But I suspect not even that solution would have satisfied them. Finally, there was a scene at Claridge's, where father was staying. I told him that I had decided to ask Bill to give me away. Father blew a gasket, and Dorothy declared that they would leave immediately for the states—the insult was more than Father could bear. ...

If only one of them had whispered to me that they really didn't mind, or had offered to step down—but I was given no such respite. The cloud was cast over the whole proceedings.

The other cloud was caused by my mother telling me on the eve of the great day that she would cancel the whole thing if I wanted her to. She did not want me to marry Jeremy, but had never said so directly. I think by saying that I could get out of it even at this late hour, she showed how deeply she felt about it all. But, I didn't flee like the heroine in Anita Brookner's Hotel du Lac, and the wedding proceeded with pomp and ceremony. Anthony Armstrong Jones took the photographs.

The Bishop of Coventry officiated, and I remember him saying in his address that "Your paths may not always be strewn with roses," and thinking how wrong he was. I was certain that our paths would always be romantic and peaceful.

But the day itself was a very happy one, filled with children and laughter and hope. Jeremy was in Terence Rattigan's Variation on a Theme with Margaret Leighton at the time, and had to leave early for the evening performance. I spent the evening at another theatre with my voice teacher, Iris Warren, until I met Jeremy at the Savoy for our Wedding Night. The world of show business, society, politics and close friends had attended the celebrations, and it was nice to spend some quiet time with Iris before the romantic night ahead of me.

Iris was a renowned teacher, who for many years was to play an important part in my acting life. She delivered me to the Savoy, and I waited for Jeremy in the suite that had been recommended by Moss Hart and his wife, Kitty Carlyle.

Looking back on the episode, I feel that Jeremy and I were like two actors waiting to play the most important romantic scene of their careers. It didn't feel completely real. However, the weekend passed very happily, and Jeremy played his part with tenderness and understanding. The bride was radiantly content.

When The Elder Statesmanfinished, I found out that I was pregnant. Jeremy was working, so I spent a lot of my pregnancy alone. I remember it as one of the calmest periods of my life.

David was born three days after my twenty-second birthday. We were thrilled with him. But when he was just three months old, Jeremy's mother was tragically killed in a car crash in the Welsh mountains. It was the most enormous shock for Jeremy, and from this time on, our marriage suffered greatly. I was filming Peeping Tom, and was not around to give him essential support. But, looking back, I doubt that I would have been of much help. His mother's death released Jeremy from past restraints. He changed, and our relationship never really recovered.

...After the filming of Peeping Tom, I was at home enjoying my new son and trying not to dwell on my marriage, which was not in a good state. I kept all my fears and doubts about this to myself, for there was no one I could comfortably confide in. I dreaded Mother, or Bill, or Nanny saying "I told you so." I kept hoping that perhaps everything would work out in some magical way.

I think that one of the main problems was that Jeremy had released enormous passions in me, and these were a great and insurmountable burden for him. He had really wanted to make the marriage work, but my emotional demands were too much for him. We both needed to talk to someone, but in those days, that was not easy like it is today. So we battled on, each of us growing unhappier as the days went by.

In the spring of 1959, I was asked to play the role of Ralph Richardson’s daughter in
Enid Bagnold’s The Last Joke. ...I felt very torn. Part of me wanted to be at home with
my son, and the actress in me wanted the challenge and excitement of acting with
Ralph and John Gielgud.  The actress won. It was during The Last Joke that Jeremy left
me. I was devastated. I could hardly summon the will or the energy to go to the
theatre each night. ... Soon after The Last Joke ended,   Jeremy returned. It was a
fragile reunion, and I felt I was being tested.I desperately wanted to make the marriage
work, although I don't think Jeremy was very hopeful.

In the late autumn of 1960 I was asked to audition for ... The Miracle Worker.  I didn't
think I stood a chance ... and was told fairly quickly that I had not got the part, and
Jeremy and I planned a trip to Tenerife to try to patch up our marriage. As we walked
into our room at the hotel, the telephone rang. ... They wanted me to play Annie Sullivan
after all. ... In the end it was decided that I would stay for a week in Tenerife and
return for rehearsals. This was the death knell for my marriage, but also the turning
point of my career. ... It was during this run that Jeremy left me for good.  He had gone
to Switzerland for a holiday, and when he came home, he told me tha the had found
someone else, a man he had met in Montreux.  It was the most enormous shock, but
somehow, deep down,  I had suspected it.  In a way, it was almost a great relief.
Jeremy was honest with me, and told me as gently as he could. We parted, and
David,Nanny (who had come to live with us when David was born), and I were
on our own. ...
 [Months go by] I met up with Jeremy once or twice, and, against everyone's advice, we decided to get back together. It seemed only right to try again, now that I knew everything. The reconciliation lasted six weeks. There were no rows, but we realised we were really ill-suited as partners. ... He was a kind man but always in flight, and so, to my enormous reliefe, he took wing once more, this time never to return. A chapter was closed.

We went through an amicable divorce, managing -- against the lawyers’ wishes -- to stay in touch and remain friends. We felt that, for David, this was absolutely essential. And indeed I always knew that Jeremy would be there for us if we were ever in great trouble. He was a gentle and caring person.

I shall never regret my first marriage, but I will regret that Jeremy had been forced to feel guilty. We were living in 1962. A year later, the Wolfenden Report was published. Perceptions were changed forever. I hope that he had felt released from the tension and pain that had haunted him.

~~~

In 1993 my mother died and two years later Jeremy suffered a massive and fatal heart attack. He had been fighting ill health and mental battles for the last years of his life, but even so his death came as a shock to us all. I was telephoned early one morning, and went immediately to tell David in person. He was devoted to his father, and had been a wonderful support to him throughout his troubles. I often wished that I could have shared some of the burden with him, but I was the last person in the world who could take on that role. No son could have done more for their father than David did, and he was completely shattered by the news. ...

... The funeral was a moving occasion, and all Jeremy's close friends came, and one realised what a loved person he was. People had found comfort and warmth in his company, even though at times he behaved most strangely, for his manic depression was so severe that there were periods when he went completely out of control. But throughout all his troubles not one friend had deserted him. This must illustrate the magnetic qualities that he possessed.

I shall never forget his insight, the way he had seen instantly that I needed to leave home in order to gain some independence all those years ago when we had just met. But all these uncanny perceptions were mixed with restlessness. He was so often driven, and inhabited a world of fantasy in order not to have to face his earthly demons.

Until the last 10 years of his life I had seen him at the odd family event, and we had always managed to remain on friendly terms, which we both felt was important for David, but in the later years, I found his delusions harder to accept and I stepped into the background.

However when I married Uri, he had been genuinely delighted, and sent us the most beautiful bottles of bath essence from Penhaligon's, and insisted on giving us a box to see his quite brilliant performance of Sherlock Holmes at Wyndham's Theatre, with champagne served at the interval.

That sums up Jeremy perfectly -- generous, warm, larger than life and often quite crazy. A light went out in many people's lives when he died, for he was one of life's true originals. It took David a very long time to recover. His sense of loss was deep.