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  • Eric J. Cullen

IN MEMORIAM: Barbara Shelley, The First Leading Lady Of British Horror, Passes Away

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Barbara Shelley’s last acting role came in 1989, on the BBC miniseries, The Dark Angel. Before her turn as a television actress, Shelley blazed her path in horror films, earning the well deserved title, First Leading Lady of British Horror.

Getting her start in modeling, Shelley found it difficult to move into acting while still in England. In the mid-1950’s, Barbara Shelley moved to Italy, where she found it easier to transition, securing roles in Italian films such as New Moon (1955) and Nero’s Mistress (1956). It wouldn’t be long before Barbara would move back to England, where she would garner recognition in Cat Girl (1957).

The next year, Shelley began her career at Hammer with The Camp on Blood Island (1958) and Blood of the Vampire (1958). Her more prominent horror roles in films like Village of the Damned (1960), The Shadow of the Cat (1961), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) and Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), would come later in the 1960s. It would be these roles that would cement the name Barbara Shelley, and her legacy, within Hammer Horror history.

After acting in film, Barbara Shelley would turn to roles in television where she would star in series such as The Avengers and Doctor Who. She would act all the way up until 1989, when she would leave acting behind and settle into retirement.

Barbara Shelley was 88 when she passed earlier today.

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