Actress Sarah Churchill, Sir Winston's beautiful, hard-living daughter who...

Sept. 24, 1982
share with facebook
share with twitter

LONDON -- Actress Sarah Churchill, Sir Winston's beautiful, hard-living daughter who once said she burned her 'scandals at both ends' died Friday, a family spokesman said. She was 67.

She had been ill for three months with an acute internal condition that failed to respond to treatment, the spokesman said.

With her in her London home Thursday night as she was sinking into a final coma was her pianist and confidant, Idris Evans, who played at her bedside some of the songs she had herself written.

One line Evans sang went:

'Though I lose you I'll hold on to the dream.'

He said later that it was from a song she composed while she was playing in Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' and had been given permission by the producer to sing it to her father who was in the audience.

'The nurse said that when she heard the song she smiled faintly,' Evans said, 'then fell into the coma again and never opened her eyes. She had been fading away for months.' Of all his four children, Sir Winston held the highest hopes for Sarah, who was witty and talented but who never fulfilled her promise because she seemed to have, so her friends said, a destructive streak.

Churchill, in affectionate exasperation, nicknamed her 'Mule.'

Sarah was stagestruck and at 21 got a job as a chorus girl, where she stood out with her red hair, long legs and green eyes.

She was a competent actress and had rewarding roles all the way from provincial theaters to London's West End. She also appeared in films but real stardom eluded her even though she partnered with Fred Astaire in one musical and starred with Maurice Evans in 'Hamlet' on American television.

Though she claimed her parents did not object to her career, Sir Winston was far from overjoyed.

In 1936 she married Austrian-born comedian Vic Oliver -- 18 years her senior. She refused to listen to her parents, who said he was obviously wrong for her. The Oliver marriage ended in divorce as Sir Winston had predicted.

When her father became Britain's World War II leader, Sarah enlisted as an intelligence officer with the Royal Air Force Woman's Auxiliary and Churchill made her his personal aide.

After the divorce from Oliver, she married Antony Beauchamp, a handsome society photographer, and they moved to the United States where she resumed her show business career.

Beauchamp committed suicide in 1957 and Miss Churchill began to appear in London courts on alcohol-related charges. In 1958 she got into a brawl with police who were called by neighbors to her home in Malibu, Calif.

She later described this period while discussing a stage role she was playing as a dissipated beauty:

'At least we have one thing in common -- we know how to burn our scandals at both ends.'

Miss Churchill was born Oct. 7, 1914 at Admiralty House in London while her father was World War I Navy Minister.

She grew up at the Churchill country estate at Chartwell, where her playmates were royalty and prime ministers were visiting 'uncles.' When she was 10, Churchill became Chancellor of the Exchequer and the family moved to No. 11 Downing Street, next door to the house he was to occupy as prime minister.

Miss Churchill married for the third time in 1962, to the 23rd Baron Audley, but he died within a year.

After that she divided her time between London and the United States. Attempted stage comebacks were unsuccessful and she devoted herself mainly to writing, painting and planning a cabaret act. She published an autobiography, 'Keep on Dancing' and two books of verse.

Her sister Diana committed suicide in 1963 and her elder brother, Randolph, died in 1968.

At her bedside Thursday with Evans were her sister, Mary Soames, her niece, Celia Sandys, and her longtime secretary and close friend, Delphine Clues.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories