Whitelaw, Billie (actress)
Billie Whitelaw was an English actress who performed in many plays, television shows and films and who worked extensively with playwright Samuel Beckett.
Billie Whitelaw was born on 6 June 1932 to a working-class family in Coventry. The family moved to Bradford during World War II to escape the bombings and stayed once the war was over. Billie started her acting career in the early 1940s performing on radio programmes. She went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Whitelaw made her formal stage debut in 1950 when she performed in the play Pink String and Sealing Wax. Her first television performance was in 1952 when she played the maid in the BBC adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale, The Secret Garden. Her film debut came a year later in 1953 when she played a waitress in the movie The Fake. Whitelaw had many minor roles during her early career, but she eventually started landing larger parts and established her name in the industry.
In 1963, Whitelaw met Samuel Beckett when she performed in the English-adaptation of his work Play. Whitelaw and Beckett went on to have a close professional relationship for over 25 years until his death in 1989. During that time, she performed in about 13 of Beckett’s plays and films, including Play, Not I, Footfalls and Rockaby.
Billie Whitelaw passed away on 21 December 2014 at the age of 82.
This collection contains scripts annotated by Billie Whitelaw, notebooks and correspondence relating to her theatrical work with Samuel Beckett. It also includes a telephone recording of Beckett reading from and discussing his play Rockaby.
- A full description is available on our online database.
- A handlist for the whole collection can be found here.
- See also Billie Whitelaw’s 1995 autobiography, Billie Whitelaw: …who he?.
- The theatrical papers of Samuel Beckett’s favourite actress were acquired by the University at auction in December 2014, with the generous support of the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of National Libraries.