Monday, 29 November 2010

Ingrid Pitt R.I.P.

What are your thoughts about the actress Ingrid Pitt who has died in the last few days? I ask because I believe you knew her. - Mair Jones

Ingrid Pitt (originally Ingoushka Petrov or Natasha Petrovna) was born on 21 November 1937 in Warsaw, Poland to a German father and a Polish mother. She became an actress probaby best known for her work in Hammer Films, having made her debut in Doctor Zhivago in 1965 playing a minor role. Inevitably, Ingrid Pitt will always be associated with the roles of Carmilla in The Vampire Lovers (1970), a film based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's novella, and Countess Dracula (1971) in the film of the same name loosely based on the life of Countess Erzsébet Báthory (7 August 1560 – 21 August 1614).

Ingrid was sometimes an invited guest at my live appearances before large television studio audiences where aspects of the supernatural were under discussion. I remember her sitting immediately before me in the front row, frequently conservatively attired, occasionally wearing a tweed suit, her eyes fixing me intently throughout. We would have refreshment together afterwards in the green room, and that is how we became acquainted. We worked on a couple of projects for television when I was still based in London. I did just one more project with her after I had removed approximately a hundred or so miles from the capital, and recall one day complimenting her as she arrived at the medieval prison location on the south bank of the River Thames (which provided one of the many sets for that particular film documentary made over a number of months). I will never forget the look of utter astonishment in her green-blue eyes before her features relaxed and she smiled at me. Perhaps compliments had dried up by then, but she had been a most striking looking actress in her day. Moreover, I was hidden in the shadows behind the studio lights and might not have been immediately recognisable to her.

She always kept me informed about her ventures and sent me her books and magazines from time to time. These publications seemed mostly to concentrate on the theme which had brought her fame in the 1970s. I was invited to a number of her gothic parties in the west country. The sadness in her eyes always struck me as hiding some deep-rooted tragedy in her past, and I nearly mentioned this to her on one occasion, but decided against it. Some things are better left. What was obvious about Ingrid was her intelligence and dedication. She was a natural storyteller and charmed audiences with personal appearances at retrospective screenings and other events. She lived in Argentina for a while and was a friend of Isobel Perón, the third wife of the former dictator and president, Juan Perón.

Ingrid died in a south London hospital on 23 November 2010, two days after her seventy-third birthday, having collapsed a few days earlier. There are not many left from that epoch of Hammer Films which those of a certain generation remember with relish. What I like about these films is that ultimately they are morality tales where faith and the existence of things supernatural are to the forefront. Ingrid played her part in all that for which we should be grateful.

Our deepest sympathy is extended to Steffanie, Ingrid's daughter, who has confirmed that her mother suffered with heart problems, probably the cause of her death, and had not been in good health for at least a couple of years. May she now rest in peace.