WCW: Olivia Hussey

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English actress Olivia Hussey was the darling of late 1960s/early 1970s frock flicks. After her star-making turn in Romeo and Juliet, the dark-haired, Madonna-faced actress went on to key roles in Death on the Nile and the TV miniseries The Last Days of Pompeii … and then things sort of flickered out. According to a 2018 interview in Variety, it seems to have been just dumb luck. But she has kept working (her last production was in 2015), and she’s very active on social media.

So, let’s appreciate this frock flick as an ingenue and a mature actress!

 

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Still a classic, and for a good reason! 15/16-year-old Hussey plays a beautiful, age-appropriate Juliet in the adaptation that actually did historical accuracy (and great filmmaking) right.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Beautiful 15th-century costumes.

1968 Romeo and Juliet

Hussey’s HAIR. Is so gorgeous!

1968 Romeo and Juliet

A promo for the film.

1968 Romeo and Juliet

Look at those sleeves! And the other actress’s hair pearls! (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

 

Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

A TV miniseries — directed by Franco Zeffirelli, director of Romeo and Juliet — about the birth/life/death/afterlife of Jesus. Hussey plays Mary, Jesus’s mother.

1977 Jesus of Nazareth

Alright, I know nothing about this period, but this seems plausible.

1977 Jesus of Nazareth

Gotta have your black-clad weeping women!

 

Death on the Nile (1978)

This big-budget Agatha Christie adaptation (of a Hercule Poirot mystery) includes Hussey as Rosalie, protective daughter of a dramatic romance novelist.

1978 Death on the Nile

Set in the 1930s, Hussey CUTS HER HAIR!!

1978 Death on the Nile

Luckily she looks great with a Marcel wave.

1978 Death on the Nile

She suits this period beautifully.

 

The Bastard (The Kent Family Chronicles, 1978)

Is this where things went awry? In the 18th century, a literal bastard (i.e., illegitimate son) goes from France to England to America in search of his fortune. Hussey plays Alicia, one of the love interests.

THE BASTARD 1978

I have no idea who thought this was a good idea, but I was highly entertained! Courtesy: Everett Collection Universal

1978 The Bastard

I will say she plays against type in this.

1978 The Bastard

She’s back to her long hair (and very few hairpins).

 

The Thirteenth Day: The Story of Esther (1979)

Hussey plays the title character in this TV adaptation of the Biblical story of Esther, the Jewish wife of a Persian king.

1979 The Thirteenth Day- The Story of Esther

I have my suspicions!

 

Edited to add:

Ivanhoe (1982)

I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT THIS!!!!

1982 Ivanhoe 1982 Ivanhoe 1982 Ivanhoe Ivanhoe (1982)

 

The Last Days of Pompeii (1984)

A major TV miniseries about, you guessed it, Pompeii before the eruption. Hussey plays Ione, “a soon-to-be priestess of Isis; sister of Antonius, and love interest to Glaucus.” We’ve gotta review this sometime, just for the laughs!

1984 The Last Days of Pompeii

Hussey is nicely costumed compared to many of the other female characters.

1984 The Last Days of Pompeii

Okay, I like the drapey tunic and the braided coronet.

1984 The Last Days of Pompeii

I guess this is priestess gear? It seems very Egyptian.

 

The Corsican Brothers (1985)

A TV adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel, which is about twin brothers from Corsica (shocking, I know) who follow different paths. Both are in love with the same woman, played by Hussey. You know I’m tempted to track this one down for Snark Week!

1985 The Corsican Brothers

18th-century feathered bangs!

 

The Jeweller’s Shop (1988)

A jeweler sells rings to two different couples, and various truths about love and marriage are revealed. I THINK this is period? mid-20th century? But I’m not positive. Hussey plays “Thérèse.”

1988 The Jeweller's Shop

Right? This looks 1930s or 40s to me.

 

Quest of the Delta Knights (1993)

I have heard Sarah mention this film so many times as what I think may be the ultimate cheese, but I admit, I don’t really know anything about it! But when I saw it on Hussey’s filmography, I knew I had to include it. Ah, I just saw it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which tells us something. Oh! And it was filmed at our renaissance faire (Black Point), in northern California, which sadly no longer exists but was The Best! Ok, now I gotta watch this.

Per Wikipedia, “The plot revolves around a young boy named Travis who learns from his master that he is the key to saving the world from an evil plot. He joins the secret organization of the Delta Knights and embarks on a quest to attempt to recover the lost treasures inside the fabled Lost Storehouse of Archimedes.” Hussey plays “The Mannerjay.”

1993 Quest of the Delta Knights

SO many questions!

 

Lonesome Dove: The Series (1994)

A TV series continuation of the ultra-popular 1980s Western miniseries. Hussey is in three episodes as “Olivia Jessup,” and I’m guessing she’s some kind of saloon girl/gambler?

1994 Lonesome Dove- The Series

Ringlets, fringe … all very stereotypical!

1994 Lonesome Dove- The Series

Hey, her hair’s up!

 

Mother Teresa (2003)

As, you guessed it, Mother Teresa in what was originally an Italian TV miniseries that was then released as a feature film.

2003 Mother Teresa

zzz

 

Chinaman’s Chance: America’s Other Slaves (2008)

What I think must be a low-budget film set in the 1870s, about discrimination against Chinese Americans. Hussey plays “Mrs. Duncan.”

2008 Chinaman's Chance- America's Other Slaves

The hair looks VERY faux-period.

 

 

What’s your favorite Olivia Hussey frock flick role?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

27 Responses

  1. Kate Dominguez

    I love Romeo and Juliet. My mom saw it in theaters and I watched it on repeat growing up. She’s wonderful in it.

    Reply
  2. M.E. Lawrence

    Reminds me a bit of Amy Irving (although I think Irving the better actress). Speaking of whom, has A.I. done any frock flicks?

    Reply
      • M.E. Lawrence

        OMG, of course “Yentl”! I really liked it, apart from the songs; I wanted a more traditional musical-comedy style (and Mandy P. singing, since he’s rather good at doing that), but Streisand failed to consult me.

        Reply
  3. Aleko

    Re the Egyptian headdress: that’s actually a very big and clunky version of the headdress of the goddess Isis/Hathor: cow horns enclosing a sun disc.

    https://www.lot-art.com/auction-lots/Ancient-Egyptian-Bronze-Big-solid-Sculpture-Goddess-Isis-with-the-Horus-Child-with-a-Vulture-Head-192-cm-H/43570353-ancient_egyptian-03.1.21-catawiki

    I don’t know if any priestesses of Isis ever wore the goddess’s headdress as in that statue: there are several extant Roman statues of such priestesses (the cult of Isis was BIG in imperial Rome), and all the ones I’ve seen have a veil or part of their robe covering their heads and a quite small image of the horns-&-sun-disc above the brow, as here:
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Life-size_marble_statue_of_a_priestess_of_Isis%2C_2nd_century_AD%2C_found_in_the_monumental_nymphaeum_at_Laodicea_on_the_Lycus%2C_Hierapolis_Archaeology_Museum%2C_Turkey_%2831753700700%29.jpg
    So the headdress is a daft over-enlargement. But they clearly did do some research, because the knotting of the corners of the robe together over the diaphragm is something that crops up in a lot of the Roman representations of Isis’ priestesses.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      My goodness that crown is clunky. And as you say inappropriate. She’s a priestess not the goddess! That leopard skin looks pretty ratty too.

      Reply
  4. Emily

    Re: Jeweler’s Shop, yup, it’s Poland, 1930s/1940s. I’ve read the play but I’ve never seen the movie.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

      I just read on Wikipedia that the play was written by Pope John Paul II when he was still Karol Józef Wojtyła.

      Reply
    • Susan Pola Staples

      Was written I believe by Saint John Paul II as Caril Wotyla. And my favourite Olivia Hussey is Romeo and Juliet. None of the later versions comes close.

      Reply
  5. MrsC (Maryanne)

    She has such an expressive face! When she is still she looks serene and Madonna like, but frown and it’s all going on! I love R&J, and J of N, probably because I saw it at an impressionable age, and seeing that story with dark haired people was a revelation. They may have not used actual Middle Eastern actors in 1977, but they weren’t blue eyed blondes either, so progress!

    Reply
    • Rochelle

      Well, Robert Powell had blue eyes (which bummed me out as a brown-eyed teenager, since apparently the film considered blue eyes more…”spiritual”? “Godly?”)…

      Reply
  6. Al Don

    Letter perfect casting of everyone in Romeo and Juliet (1968). To me, she is Juliet. Love her.

    Reply
  7. Jutte

    Understandable why you completely ignored Lost Horizon (1973). It had so many other big names in it too.

    Reply
  8. MJ

    Ah yes, the Romeo and Juliet we all watched at school back in the day! I know Hussey chiefly from that and loved her as Juliet. Honestly didn’t know about the rest of them, but she was Audra Denbrough in the 1990 “It” and played comatose well.

    Reply
  9. Nzie

    R&J unbeatable for adapting that play (even though I prefer others of Shakespeare’s works). I read something from Zefferelli that actually he had another actress in mind who he’d seen previously, with beautiful long blonde hair and what he considered a classic English beauty I think, but when she came for an audition it was shorter and he couldn’t see her as Juliet anymore and Hussey got the role. I know the black clothes were unlikely but her portrayal of grief after the crucifixion is one of the most affecting in film that I’ve seen. I want to see her Death on the Nile now–she looks great. Also today I learned there was a significant cult of Isis in Pompeii! Jeweler’s Shop was pre-WWII and I think post also; I have the play (by Pope JPII when he was still a priest) but haven’t read it. Would love to see Olivia Hussey in more things.

    Reply
  10. Lily Lotus Rose

    Of course, my fave is Romeo and Juliet. But I also loved as the Virgin Mary. Whenever I see her I think, “Jesus’s mom!” She really is heartachingly beautiful. Now I want to seek out some of her other Frock Flicks. Great choice!

    Reply
  11. Mitzy G

    You know India Eisley from The Secret Life of the American Teenager
    and Eve in Underworld: Awakening is her daughter, right? My kids told me that.

    Reply

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