Midland TV Times – Nyree Dawn Porter 1968

MIDLAND TV Times
Ninepence    Sept 21-27

What makes Nyree Dawn Porter run away from herself?
Paradise in Danger – Gavin Maxwell’s fight for survival
Engelbert Humperdinck lives his wildest dream
Win Barry Bucknell plus £1,000 plus a country cottage

Introducing… the first Englishman to set foot on the moon

INSIDE: 27 – page guide to all ITV programmes

The fateful year of the little white star-shaped flower

This is the year of star destiny for Nyree Dawn Porter – the girl of many moods and many faces, an actress of many parts on her way to the top. At present, she is on both major channels at once, in ITV’s new comedy series, Never A Cross Word and BBC1’s re-showing of last year’s BBC2 Forsyte Saga. In one, she is the twitter-brained Deirdre. In the other, she is the aloof Irene. INNES GORDON discovers that neither image really fits the girl born with a Maori name which means ‘Little White Star-shaped Flower’.

HER beauty is not without flaws. Her shoulders, for instance, are too sloping, her hips unfashionably wide. But Nyree Dawn Porter admits the imperfections. Indeed, she will draw attention to them.

But to millions of men, she is television’s, dream woman. To millions of wives, she represents the kind of woman they pray their husbands will never meet.

When Nyree performed a striptease on TV – as Deirdre, the scatter-brained wife in Never a Cross Word – the collective heavy breathing of male viewers was almost audible. Donald Churchill, scriptwriter of the series, said enthusiastically: “She’s a great stripper. Even at 9.30 in the morning at rehearsals, she did it with a kind of joy.”

But Nyree’s effect on men goes further than the enraptured viewer: An ITV executive boasted to a friend: “I came up in the lift with Nyree Dawn Porter. It has made my day.”

Another ITV man, pointing out the room where she was rehearsing, declared possessively: “Nyree’s looking particularly gorgeous today.”

This is a big year for the New Zealand actress. For she is to be seen on both major channels – in ITV’s Never a Cross Word, and on BBC1 in a new showing of the marathon BBC2 serial, The Forsyte Saga. It is also a fateful year for 32-year-old Nyree, acclaimed by BBC2 audiences last year. She could now become one of the biggest show-business names.

Already she is established as the latest sex-symbol. But her appeal is different, of course, from the pouting sultriness of Dors, or the moist-lipped provocativeness of Monroe. Nyree’s sex appeal is no blatant, calculated challenge to masculinity. It is more a quietly inherent quality. Her beautifully sculpted face and delicate fragility make men want to protect and cosset her. She seems, also, more attainable.

Yet Nyree does not behave like a sex symbol. Publicity tends to embarrass her. Her clothes are simple and feminine, never exotic or trendy. She makes no Sunday newspaper confessions, displays no ostentation.

She doesn’t own a car and has never, in fact, learned to drive. She is never photographed in scandalously low-cut dresses at premieres. Nyree says that she prefers to spend evenings with her husband, actor Bryon O’Leary, at their unremarkable flat in an unremarkable road in North London’s Kilburn.

Actors who have worked with her say that she is pleasant and professional. Nyree is punctual, knows her lines, works hard and is not temperamental. It is fruitless to seek critics of her.

Paul Daneman, her co-star in Never a Cross Word, said: “Nyree is one of the most unselfish actresses I’ve come across in a profession not distinguished for unselfish people.”

Wendy Craig, who co-starred with Nyree in A Couple of Dry Martinis, said: “She’s an eccentric in that she is about the calmest person I ever met in a rather insane theatrical world.”

Kenneth More, one of the stars of The Forsyte Saga, said: “Nyree’s the sort of girl it’s impossible to quarrel with .”

But what really goes on behind the cool, unfurrowed brows, the lovely unlined face? Most people insist that Nyree Dawn Porter is simply a nice, rather shy, very ordinary person. There is no more to her. Bryon O’Leary explained: “We’re just ordinary people who happen to be in the entertainment business.”

An actress said: “Nyree reminds me of a beautiful, empty perfume bottle.”

But Kenneth More added: “She’s serene. But underneath that serenity I think she is a very frightened girl. Nyree’s frightened of everything and everybody. She’s a very nice girl who has been given this lovely face, and she’s constantly struggling to back up this beauty.”

“Frightened” is not a word Nyree would accept. But she is certainly a worrier. She admitted it during a rehearsal for Never a Cross Word.

She even worried until she had obtained her director’s permission to give an interview, although she was not required for some scenes at the time.

Smoking steadily through a holder, and as serene as ever, she talked about herself.

Nyree worries about her looks. She said: “If you have looks like mine people tend to think you must be half-witted. It’s extremely hurtful to be told in a certain tone of voice how pretty you are. It’s like being told you’re redundant. You have to fight to avoid being typecast in dumb-blonde parts.”

Nyree worries about her acting. She said: “I want to be perfect in a part and I know perfection is unattainable. But I worry all the same trying to reach it.”

Nyree worries about failing to communicate. She explained: “Bryon says I have a mind like a cricket – my thoughts dart about. But because I’m lazy, I don’t explain things properly.”

Nyree worries most of all, that she is not doing something worthwhile apart from acting. She is a woman who has yet to find a cause.

Although Nyree claims that bigotry and intolerance are her great hates, she has never marched, protested, demonstrated, signed letters to The Times or sat on committees. That, she said, is not her style.

But making donations to charities is not enough; Nyree said: “I would like to do something for old people. I see them struggling with parcels, trying to climb on buses. They need help in so many ways.”

She wants to help on a personal basis rather than in a national campaign, and she feels guilty

Photo caption –
“Underneath that serenity,” says one of Nyree Dawn Porter’s co-stars, “She’s a very frightened girl.”

Sex appeal […] bathing beauty – that’s the girl the critics

that she has not yet d […]

Nyree’s concern for […] stems for her affection f […] New Zealand. Her gran […] eighties, represented stab […] when she saw her parents […] up.

Her parents’ divorce […] appreciate all the more […] every day to a happy home […]

Those early years of […] perhaps, why Nyree sees […] from herself.

Nyree’s road to fame has been a long one. It began in the New Zealand seaside town of Napier, where she was born.

Napier has a population of 33,000 and is best known for an earthquake in 1932 [1931] which killed more than 200 people, for sunshine, apples, wine, performing dolphins and . . . for Nyree Dawn Porter.

Nyree’s grandmother, known to everyone as Old Gum, a pet name Nyree gave her, is a hardy, humorous woman. She was orphaned at four, started work at 12 and now lives alone in Napier. Nyree said: “Whenever I wanted to run away from home – and that happened roughly every week from the time I was nine, Old Gum was always there.”

It was to her grandmother that Nyree turned after her parents’ divorce. Nyree, aged 14, was removed from the court-room at Napier by order of the judge.

Nyree’s father, 59-year-old Ken Porter, owns two butcher’s shops in Napier. And is president of a local businessmen’s club. He said: “Nyree was stretched between two parents who weren’t very happy. I came up from nothing and made my mark in this town. But, I’ll tell you, Nyree had more guts than me,” The Forsyte Saga has already been seen in New Zealand. Mr. Porter said proudly: “They call me Mr. Forsyte at the club. Everyone talks about Nyree. Today, she’s mature, a woman of the world. But she hasn’t let success and money go to her head.

“We ring each other every three months and she’s always asking when I’m going to London again.” The last time Mr. Porter visited his daughter, was in 1961.

Nyree’s mother, Edna Porter, who now lives alone in Napier, chose Nyree’s real name Ngaire, which is Maori for “Little White Star- shaped Flower.” Nyree simplified the spelling after coming to England.

IT was Edna Porter who launched Nyree into show-business. Edna put her daughter on the stage as a dancer at three-and-a-half, into a junior bathing beauty contest – which she won – at ten, and into countless small-town amateur productions.

She made all Nyree’s clothes. Nyree recalls: “Everything I had was so beautiful. I used to long for a tatty old school uniform.”

Edna Porter sent Nyree to voice-training sessions and dancing classes. Constance McDonald, who has been teaching dancing in Napier since 1925, said: “She’s the only pupil I ever had who passed all her elementary exams with honours. She was a lovely girl, and there was always fun in the studios with her. I wanted Nyree to be my assistant but her mother didn’t think the money was good enough.”

At 17, Nyree had her own small dancing school. Today she says, almost wistfully: “I think I did some good with those children.” She gave up the school to join a professional stage company in The Solid Gold Cadillac.

Richard Campion, its producer, said: “I was looking for a glamorous model type. I searched high and low in the cities without success until Nyree was suggested. We sent her the fare to Auckland and had a look at her. She got the job on the spot, ahead of 20 other girls. I didn’t give her an audition until afterwards.

“I always liked Nyree’s openness and simplicity. Once when we were on the road she asked if we could stop at some small town so she could meet her best friend. A Maori girl stepped on to our bus.”

Nyree appeared in several plays, and then came to England ten years ago after winning a talent contest sponsored by a New Zealand film magazine.

John Fairclough, who has an electrical shop in Napier, persuaded Nyree to enter the competition. He said: “She didn’t think she had much of a chance. But I realised she was the type and had the talent they were looking for – sex appeal.”

Nyree stresses that this was a talent contest – to find a potential film star – and not a bathing beauty contest as many show-business columns have reported. She explained: “I was never a bathing beauty. How could I be with my kind of figure?”

The prize included a visit to America, three weeks in England and a screen test. But Nyree never had the test because of an economy programme at the studios. And she has made only two films.

Edna Tromans, a film company publicist who was given the job of chaperoning Nyree during those first three weeks, said: “I had been dreading it. But Nyree had terrific zest and a great sense of comedy. She took her looks for granted.

“She had a slightly nutty quality I liked. One evening, we were going to a first night in a chauffeur-driven Rolls. Nyree was rigged out in

Photo captions –
NYREE DAWN PORTER – the TV Times dossier

THE CHILD. Born January 22, 1936, in Napier, New Zealand. Started dancing at three. In 1954, won Solo Seal and Advanced Certificate of the Royal Academy of Dancing in Napier.

THE SMALL TOWN GIRL. With her grandmother, centre, nicknamed “Old Gum,” at Hastings Agricultural Show, outside Napier. Her grandmother was the focal point of Nyree’s life as a child. She still has a great influence on her outlook.

THE YOUNG ACTRESS. Nyree in a repertory production of Merchant of Venice. Up to 15, was small for age, but suddenly shot to 5ft. 5½ins. Too tall for ballet. Went into repertory, appearing in everything from Shakespeare to revue.

THE TROUPER. Aged 21. In revue with the New Zealand players. Hired for glamorous looks. Nyree proved that she was also an intelligent, versatile actress.

THE BRIDE. 1958. Nyree married New Zealand actor Bryon O’Leary in her home town. Meant to be a quiet family occasion. But Nyree and her father had to fight their way into church through crowds. Shortly afterwards, Nyree won “Miss Cinema” title. She then came to England – and stardom.

hailed as another Marilyn Munroe

a tiara and the lot. We were both starving so we pulled up, bought two huge helpings of fish and chips and ate them in the back of the Rolls.

“She hasn’t changed. Whenever I meet Nyree she’s always in a great hurry to get home to Bryon. He’s a great cook.”

Nyree also cooks, and is quietly boastful about her sponge cakes.

She married Bryon shortly before leaving New Zealand. He comes from Waipukurau, 50 miles south of Napier, and played opposite her in The Solid Gold Cadillac.

BRYON followed Nyree to London and they decided to stay in England. Nyree went into repertory at Leatherhead, Surrey. She reached the West End in 1960 in a revue called Look Who’s Here. Critics declared that Nyree was another Marilyn Monroe and sprinkled their copy with references to slipping shoulder straps, thin black dresses and sex appeal.

In almost every part that followed, Nyree’s looks dominated her notices. She became worried about the danger of type-casting, and would have preferred more attention to her acting.

Illnesses, ranging from jaundice to a slipped disc, and a recurrence of back trouble from an old dancing injury, interfered with her career. But by 1964, Nyree was averaging an appearance every month on television and she was strongly tipped for the role that Diana Rigg eventually won in The Avengers.

Nyree was certainly considered for the part, although memories of the discussions about it at the time have become blurred. One company executive said: “My recollection is that Nyree turned down the suggestion.” Another said: “Diana was the best girl for the part and I don’t think Nyree was really in the running.”

Nyree is also vague, but said: “I’m not sorry I didn’t have the part. I wouldn’t have been keen on a long run in a role which allowed so little scope to develop the character.” As things turned out, The Forsyte Saga was to give her greater opportunities.

Nyree and Bryon say that they aren’t worried that Nyree’s success has been greater than Bryon’s. He is at present a dancer in the stage musical, Man from La Mancha.

Wendy Craig said: “Nyree and Bryon have a very good relationship. He mothers her and she’s the sort who demands it. Nyree has a very happy marriage, a sort of oasis there in Kilburn. The couple seem complete within themselves.”

Nyree melts when Bryon is present. She will look to him to answer questions. She said: “I was terribly insecure before I met him. I feel more secure and happier than 10 years ago.”

The couple have no children yet. Nyree had a miscarriage when three months pregnant. That was while she was working at Leatherhead.

Now she says: “I want to have a baby.” She talks of “when” she has a child, rather than “if.” And, thinking possibly of her own child-hood, Nyree says she would tend to be over-indulgent as a parent. The O’Leary flat is in a modest block in a pleasant tree-lined road near Maida Vale Underground station. It is furnished comfortably but with a lack of character which suggests they have not decided whether to stay.

Merle, Nyree’s sister, who is eight years younger, lives with them. Nyree has acted protectively towards Merle ever since their parents’ divorce.

Nyree says she has never thought of returning to New Zealand. She hasn’t been back, not even for a visit.

Although Nyree says she has been lucky in showbusiness, she also works hard for her success. As Irene in The Forsyte Saga she had to look as though she was playing the piano. Nyree learned to play by a short-cut system which Bryon devised.

She said: “I wasn’t going to have this terrible thing where you get a lovely shot over the top of the piano of a lovely smiling musical face while my hands, out of camera, are lying in the lap.”

Allen Smart, director of Never a Cross Word, said: “Nyree is terribly thorough and wants to go on rehearsing when there’s no need to. For one of our episodes, that had to be shot in torrential rain, she ran for over half a mile behind a caravan while wearing a nightdress.

“You wouldn’t have, put a dog out in such a deluge, but Nyree didn’t mind.”

SCRIPTWRITER Donald Churchill explains: “Girls don’t generally take acting as professionally as men. They’re always talking about babies, lovers or knitting. Nyree is different. She is totally immersed in acting.”

An actress said: “Nyree writes down everything about her role. And she seems to spend most of the time sitting in corners taking notes.”

Yet Nyree says that she is not ambitious. She explained: “I never have been. I was never one of those who plan their whole career as children. I work from day to day and take what comes.

“I like the acting, but I worry so much about my work that I’m not dedicated to it. I could give up any time.

“If I reach a stage where I find that I’m not getting any more satisfaction from acting, I shall give up.” Did she think that time would come? Nyree laughed. “Ask me again in a few years’ time,” she said, “Maybe all my ideas will change when I have a baby.”

So far, Nyree’s career is still on the upswing.

Reviews of the first episode of Never a Cross Word were not enthusiastic. “Highly unoriginal,” was one summing up. “Domestic cliches” was another. But the criticism was aimed at the author rather than Nyree. Her characterisation has yet to be weighed.

So who really is this “little white star-shaped flower” from New Zealand?

She is neither the cool, aloof Irene of The Forsyte Saga, nor the twitter-brained Deirdre of Never a Cross Word.

She is Nyree Dawn Porter, beautiful, unsure, worried . . . yet somehow content.

A GLIMPSE INTO NYREE’S FUTURE

A look into the future for Nyree Dawn Porter is made here by TVTimes clairvoyant MAURICE WOODRUFF, who each week will give predictions for TVTimes readers and a television personality. Nyree’s birthday is January 22 and her birth sign is Aquarius. Woodruff predicts that she will do extremely well in two TV plays – one a comedy, the other drama. A child will also play an important part in her life.

CAPRICORN (December 21 to January 19)
At last, you should be able to form a happy tie-up with a member of the opposite sex. You should be extra busy at work because a colleague is away.

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18)
Your leisure hours will be busy, and a personal tie should be in the limelight. You should be able to make some new and lasting friends.

PISCES (February 19 to March 20)
There might be a slight disagreement with a member of the family. Try to remember that, although that person is rather dogmatic, he or she means well. Finances are favourable.

ARIES (March 21 to April 20)
There may be a business link-up which will turn out well in the near future. There could be a happy surprise outing for you at the end of this week.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20)
A happy new friendship could be formed. It may be necessary to be firm with someone close to you.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20)
Your popularity should be on the upswing, and this could help you to make headway with an ambition. You could meet an old friend.

CANCER (June 21 to July 21)
There may be news of a journey combining business with pleasure. The slight indisposition of a near one may make you cancel an outing.

LEO (July 22 to August 21)
The arrival of a visitor makes this a busy week, but things should be most enjoyable. A new person around could be helpful.

VIRGO (August 22 to September 21)
You should have no worries about work or money. You can now afford to show your feelings about romance.

LIBRA (September 22 to October 22)
Ask favours and make propositions. Follow advice given to you by a close friend – it should be worthwhile.

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 21)
Try to stay neutral when an argument occurs between two other people. An emotional association is promising.

SAGITTARIUS (November 22 to December 20)
A misunderstanding with a relative could be cleared up now. There will be changes at work. Excellent prospects for travel.

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Date published

September 1968

Format of the original

Magazine excerpt

Creator / Author

  • Innes Gordon

Publisher

Midland TV Times

People

  • Barry Bucknell
  • Richard Campion
  • Donald Churchill
  • Wendy Craig
  • Paul Daneman
  • John Fairclough
  • Engelbert Humperdinck
  • Gavin Maxwell
  • Constance McDonald
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Kenneth More
  • Bryon O'Leary
  • Edna Porter
  • Ken Porter
  • Merle Porter
  • Nyree Dawn Porter
  • Diana Rigg
  • Allen Stuart
  • Edna Tromans

Accession number

447687

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