Actress Dinah Sheridan dies at 92

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Dinah Sheridan
Image caption,
Dinah Sheridan appeared in the 1994 TV sitcom All Night Long, which was set in an all night bakery

Actress Dinah Sheridan, who appeared in classic British films including The Railway Children and Genevieve, has died at the age of 92.

Sheridan, who played the mother in The Railway Children, also had roles in The Mirror Crack'd and the BBC sitcoms Don't Wait Up and All Night Long.

She played Chancellor Flavia in the 1983 Doctor Who film The Five Doctors.

The actress died peacefully at her home in Northwood, Middlesex, surrounded by her family on Sunday, her agent said.

Born Dinah Mec to a German mother and Russian father in 1920, she picked the name Sheridan out of the phone book.

Image caption,
Sheridan (right), appeared with Ann Todd in the 1952 David Lean film The Sound Barrier

Her birth name was pronounced "mess" and she did not want to give newspaper critics any ammunition, she said.

She landed her first film role at the age of 15 but put her acting career on hold to become an ambulance driver at the start of World War II.

In 1942, she married the actor Jimmy Hanley and the couple had three children.

Her son Jeremy went on to be Conservative Party chairman in the 1990s and his sister Jenny was an actress and presenter, hosting the ITV children's show Magpie. Another daughter, born in 1944, lived for just three days.

Sheridan and Hanley appeared in a string of films together but the actress left her husband in 1949. She enjoyed further screen success with the comedy Genevieve in 1953.

On marrying the head of the Rank organisation John Davis in 1954, he demanded that she give up acting to look after their children. But the marriage soon became difficult and they divorced 11 years later after Sheridan suffered a breakdown.

Image caption,
Don't Wait Up, a sitcom starring Nigel Havers and Tony Britton, ran for six series in the 1980s

Her stage and screen career resumed, leading to the role in The Railway Children in 1970.

"She practically played herself as the mother in that film, except in real life she has been much more smiling, even though she hasn't had much to smile about at times," her son Jeremy once told an interviewer.

In the 1980s, she became familiar alongside Nigel Havers and Tony Britton in the domestic sitcom Don't Wait Up, while in 1984 she appeared with Keith Barron in the bakery-set TV comedy All Night Long.

Meanwhile, two years into a relationship with actor Jack Merivale, he was diagnosed with a kidney disease and she cared for him for 21 years until his death in 1990.

Her fourth husband was the Californian businessman Aubrey Ison, who died in 2007.

"I've had a very strange life," she once said. "Whenever I've married, I've married for life. But things have gone desperately wrong."

In 1999, both The Railway Children and Genevieve were named on a list of the top 100 British films of all time, as voted for by a panel of more than 1,000 actors, producers, writers and directors.

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