the chameleons: Flora Robson

Flora Robson

Flora Robson (1902–1984) had a fifty year career in the movies: her IMDb filmography credits her with her first role in 1931 and her last – a Stygian Witch in Clash of the Titans – in 1981.

Lacking the glamorous looks of a leading lady (with her high forehead, wide mouth and imposing nose), she specialised in character roles including: an aged Roman empress (at thirty-five); Queen Elizabeth I (twice); Cleopatra’s nubian servant; a mulatto; and a Chinese empress.

She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Saratoga Trunk (1945).

The characters

Clash of the Titans (1981): She played a Stygian Witch. Coming soon …

55 Days at Peking (1963): She played the Chinese Empress Dowager Tzu-Hsi (Cixi) in this all-star, politically incorrect and historically inaccurate epic of a movie set at the time of the Boxer Rising. Mario Van Riel was the makeup artist.

Saraband for Dead Lovers (1947): A doomed romance – Sophia Dorothea of Celle fell in love with a dashing Swedish count but unfortunately she was already married to the future King George I. Flora Robson played the Countess Clara Platen. Harry Frampton and Ernest Taylor were the makeup artists.

Saratoga Trunk (1945): She played Angelique Buiton, Ingrid Bergman’s mulatto servant. Perc Westmore was the makeup artist.

Caesar and Cleopatra (1945): She played Ftatateeta, Cleopatra’s Nubian servant. George Blackler was the makeup artist.

The Sea Hawk (1940): Errol Flynn made an unlikely privateer – but possibly not as unlikely as his Earl of Essex – while Flora Robson played Queen Elizabeth I for a second time. Perc Westmore was the makeup artist.

Invisible Stripes (1939): Cliff Taylor (George Raft) is welcomed home by his mother (Flora Robson) and tries to go straight. There was an age difference of one year between George Raft and Flora Robson. Perc Westmore was the makeup artist.

Fire over England (1937): She played Queen Elizabeth I at the time of the Spanish Armada. If anyone knows who was responsible for Flora Robson’s makeup, which clearly included a prosthetic nose, please email themakeupgallery.

I, Claudius (unfinished 1937): At the age of thirty-five she played the ancient Livia in this ‘epic thart never was’; I’m not sure if scenes with the younger Livia were ever shot or if they just didn’t survive. George Blackler was the makeup artist; Flora’s makeup used cotton-wool eye-bags, colloidion, and latex.