Welsh actress Dame Siân Phillips has a long and illustrious career in theater, film, and TV. She entered London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the same year as Glenda Jackson and Diana Rigg, and much like her contemporaries, is best known in America for a historical drama that aired on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater. Or perhaps you remember her as the the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in the original Dune (1984)? While her sci-fi, thriller, and modern acting work is substantial, you know we’re here for the frock flicks, so let’s do this!
Gwendolen in Becket (1964)
A small part while her then-husband Peter O’Toole played King Henry II.
Ursula Mossbank in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
A musical, again starring O’Toole opposite Petula Clark (who did most of the singing). Phillips was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes.
Hayden in Murphy’s War (1971)
She’s a pacifist Quaker doctor who treats Peter O’Toole’s character in this WWII drama.
Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst in Shoulder to Shoulder (1974)
Beth Morgan in How Green Was My Valley (1975-1976)
A TV miniseries based on a famous Welsh novel by Richard Llewelyn & set in the coal-mining area of South Wales during Queen Victoria’s reign.
Her most famous frock flick role & most deliciously wicked!
As the matriarch of this Roman family, she has no “official” power, but she knows how to get her way by hook or by crook.
She stars in 8 of the 13 episodes and is shown aging gracefully & elegantly. #goals
Badass to the bitter end!
Queen Boudicca in Warrior Queen (1978)
Looks a bit more historically accurate than Britannia, eh?
Katerina Ivanovna in Crime and Punishment (1979)
Serious Russian bizniz!
Lady Ripon in Nijinsky (1980)
No idea if that’s really Siân Phillips on the left, but screenshots of the few women in this biopic are hard to come by. Lady Ripon was a high-society patron of Nijinsky.
Clementine Churchill in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981)
Annabella Rock in The Doctor and the Devils (1985)
Victorian flick based on the Burke and Hare grave-robber case.
Miss Matilda Crawley in Vanity Fair (1987)
Wealthy wacky aunts FTW!
This is the sort of ridiculous OTT outfit that redeems Regency costuming for me, so I had to show a color pic as well as black & white.
Madame de Volanges in Valmont (1989)
As Cécile’s mother, she gets a few of the most decent costumes in this weirdly designed version of the Dangerous Liaisons story.
Phillips wears one of the best gowns in the film here (while Fairuza Balk as Cécile, right, wears one of the strangest).
Lady Isabel in “The Trial,” Covington Cross (1992)
Random Disney TV show set in ye olde medieval times! Sian Phillips plays the mother-in-law of the main character, just visiting for one episode.
Queen Eleanor in Ivanhoe (1997)
This TV miniseries is praised as accurate to both Sir Walter Scott’s novel & the medieval period.
Narrator / Older Lady Emily in Aristocrats (1999)
Siân Phillips narrates this TV miniseries about four Lennox sisters, & in the final episode, she appears as the older version of one of the sisters.
Anna Maria in Miss Dalí (2018)
Phillips plays the older Anna Maria Dalí & narrates where the story is told in flashback about Anna Maria & Salvador in the 1920s-1950s.
Margaret Corey in Summerland (2020)
And she’s still working, with a small part in this film set during WWII.
What’s your favorite of Siân Phillips’ historical costume roles?