LONDON -- Actress Sarah Churchill, the stunning, auburn-haired daughter of Sir Winston Churchill whose impulsive escapades in her younger days regularly made headlines, died today, a family spokesman said. She was 67.
Miss Churchill died three months after she was stricken with an acute internal condition that failed to respond to treatment, the spokesman said.
Her death followed a poignant scene in her London home late Thursday when her pianist and confidant, Idris Evans, played several songs she had written.
'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.'
Also at the beside were her sister, Mary Soames, last survivor of Sir Winston's four children and wife of Lord Soames, last governor of Rhodesia, her niece Celia Sandys, daughter of Lord Sandys, and her longtime secretary and close friend, Delphine Clues.
Of Churchill's four children, the World War II leader held the highest hopes for Sarah, who was beautiful, witty and talented but who never fulfilled her promise because she also was impulsive and determined and seemed to have, so her friends said, a destructive streak.
Stage-struck as a high-spirited teenager, she landed her first job at age 21 in the chorus line of a touring British musical. She said her parents did not object so long as she did her work well.
A year later she ran off to America to marry Austrian-born vaudeville comedian Vic Oliver, a man 18 years her senior. Churchill tried to stop the marriage, but later relented.
Miss Churchill's acting career took her from small provincial theaters to London's West End and roles on Broadway and in movies. But it was interrupted during World War II, when she enlisted as an intelligence officer with the Royal Air Force Woman's Auxiliary.
When her father became prime minister and Britain's wartime leader he made her a personal aide. While often at odds with his errant daughter, Churchill admired her tenacious qualities and nicknamed her 'Mule.'
Along with her mother's finely boned good looks and flashing green eyes, she inherited her father's stubborness, individuality and a refusal to bow to fate. These were to lead to an increasingly tempestuous life.
Four years after her 1945 divorce from Oliver, Miss Churchill married Antony Beauchamp, a handsome society photographer, and they moved to the United States where her second career took off as a television andmovie star.
She danced with Fred Astaire and starred in a television spectacular of 'Hamlet' with Maurice Evans as Hamlet.
Beauchamp committed suicide in 1957 and Miss Churchill's brushes with the law both in America and Britain became more frequent.
She was often in London courts on alcohol-related charges and in early 1958 got into a brawl with police who were called by neighbors to her home in Malibu, Calif.
Miss Churchill later compared this period of her life to a 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 Whitehall while her father was head of the Royal Navy in World War I. She grew up at the Churchill country estate at Chartwell outside London.
Her playmates were royalty and prime ministers were visiting 'uncles.'
When she was 10 years old, 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.
Since then, she had divided her time between London and the United States. Attempted stage comebacks were not successful and she devoted herself mainly to writing, painting and planning a cabaret act. She published an autobiography, 'Keep on Dancing.'
Miss Churchill's elder brother Randolph, died in 1968, and her sister Diana committed suicide in 1963.