Napier-born ‘Forsyte Saga’ star dies at 61
ANGELA BROWN AND NZPA
Napier-born actress Nyree Dawn Porter, the glamorous star of 1960s television series The Forsyte Saga, died in London on Tuesday.
Miss Porter had just completed a season of Charlie’s Aunt on stage to Windsor and was rehearsing for a new play. Her brother Bob Johnston, of Napier, said she had been feeling unwell and had taken a few days off from rehearsals. She had been treated for high blood pressure over the past year.
The cause of Miss Porter’s death was not yet known.
The Forsyte Saga, one of the most celebrated British period dramas ever made, made Porter a household name around the world.
It was a big hit in the United States and earned the distinction of being the first BBC series to be sold in the Soviet Union. The worldwide audience was estimated to be about 160 million.
“Nyree Dawn Porter was one of the earliest stars [of] television drama,” BBC director of drama, entertainment and children’s programming, Alan Yentob said.
“Although she had a considerable career in the theatre, she was amongst the first generation of actors to make their name on television. Her performances, most famously in The Forsyte Saga (as ‘our Irene’ Forsyte) and Madame Bovary (in which she had the title role), gripped a generation of viewers.”
Miss Porter became Britain’s most talked about television actress and her beauty caused her to be dubbed “the new Bardot” and “the next Marilyn Munroe”.
Miss Porter went on to star in 26 episodes of the cult television series The Protectors where she played the aristocratic action heroine Contessa Caroline di Contini.
Miss Porter began her performing life in Napier where she grew up, going to Napier Girls High School and learning ballet.
She was well known on Hawke’s Bay’s amateur dramatic stages in musicals like The Desert Song for Napier Operatic Society and plays such as The Philadelphia Story in 1956 for Napier Repertory Players.