I have written about some of the stars of the St Trinians films, but of course they would be nothing without the delinquent schoolgirls. Some of the young girls did go on to become stars, including in the Carry On films. ‘Blue Murder’ features both Dilys Laye and Rosalind Knight as sixth formers. Dilys went on to feature in four Carry On films among many others; while Rosalind was in Carry on Teacher and Nurse. Rosalind (the daughter of Powell and Pressburger actor Esmond Knight) also had a distinguished theatre career and seems to have rarely been out of work. Back in the 1990s, I blush to say that I never realised that it was Rosalind playing landlady Beryl in the sitcom ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’. A huge “penny drop” moment when I found this out years later. Barbara Windsor also had an uncredited role as a St Trinians pupil before her career took off.
I went on the ever-helpful IMDB website, and I looked at all of the schoolgirls credited in ‘Belles’ and ‘Blue Murder’. By clicking onto their names, you can then get to see a page dedicated to that particular actress. This lists all of their film and television roles. This made for an interesting bit of analysis. Of 22 young actresses credited with a St Trinians pupil role:
· 7 had careers that stretched out towards the end of the 20th century, or had further roles that increased their level of fame. These girls include Dilys and Rosalind, as well as Patricia Lawrence and Vivienne Martin, who both had busy television careers well into the 1990s. I also include Sabrina in this list, who was more of a glamour girl than an actress.
· 7 appear not have pursued an acting career at all. There are four who have a St Trinian’s film as their only credit, while the others only appeared in a couple of other films while they were still children. I would guess that these were ‘extra pocket money’ actresses rather than people with a strong attraction to the profession.
· 8 took their acting careers a little bit further, only for them to end later on. I have identified at least 4 who carried on until the 1960s. This will have been the decade when they hit their 30s. The explanation that I would guess at is that they chose marriage and children over career. One sad exception is Belinda Lee, who had a busy and promising career until she was killed in a road accident in the US in 1961. She was just 25 years old.
The rest however serve to illustrate contemporary society and an emphasis that can be seen in the films themselves. In the St Trinians films there are two sets of girls: the young delinquents with plaits and a wild look in their eye; and the sixth form sirens. They are eligible to join Flash Harry’s marriage bureau, where the aim is to snare a rich husband and take him for every penny. A demonstration of the narrow opportunities seemingly available to women then, that this should be their best chance of becoming rich and powerful. Girls had to expect marriage and children to take precedence over any other opportunity. And so, I presume that when the retiring actresses left their profession, it was pressure of society that won out over personal ambition.
Those St Trinians girls were not quite so progressive as they seem.