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Syvlia Syms OBE was born on 6th January 1934 in London, England to Daisy (Hale) and Edwin Syms, a trade unionist and civil servant. She was educated at RADA, on whose council she has served. Her daughter Beatie Edney is also an actress.
She started as a starlet. In her second film My Teenage Daughter (1954), she played Anna Neagle's "problem" daughter, and by 1960 had worked with Flora Robson, Orson Welles, Stanley Holloway, Lilli Palmer and William Holden — and made the film Ice-Cold in Alex (1958). Co-starring John Mills, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews, this has become a cult film in recent years because an extract from it was used in a beer commercial. It is an entertaining story about four British Army personnel trying to get through enemy territory. A love scene between Mills and Syms was dropped from the film because it was considered too strong.
Also in 1958, she appeared in the English civil war story The Moonraker with George Baker her male lead. Syms played Tony Hancock's wife in The Punch and Judy Man (1962) along with her nephew, Nick Webb. Other comedies followed, such as The Big Job (1965) with Hancock's former co-star Sid James, but it was for drama that she won acclaim, including The Tamarind Seed (1974) with Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif, for which she was nominated for a British Film Academy award. My Good Woman in 1972 was a husband-and-wife television comedy series which ran until 1974 with Leslie Crowther. At the same time, she was one of two team captains on the BBC's weekly "Movie Quiz", hosted by Robin Ray.
Shortly after the downfall of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Syms portrayed Thatcher in a TV play covering the events surrounding her demise on ITV, later recreating the role on the stage. In 1989, she appeared in the Doctor Who story Ghost Light.
In 2006, she co-starred as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in Stephen Frears' The Queen, alongside Oscar-winner Dame Helen Mirren. She also appeared in The Poseidon Adventure, an American television movie with little connection to the original movie of the same name made in the 1970s. Sylvia was made an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 2007. (pictured right)
Among the many other famous names she has worked with are: Dirk Bogarde, Marius Goring, Hardy Krüger, Herbert Lom, Cliff Richard, Jenny Agutter, Sophia Loren, George Peppard, Roger Moore, Ray Milland, Bernard Miles and Richard Todd.