Obituary: Adrienne Corri, actress

Adrienne Corri, Scottish-Italian actress best remembered for controversial role in Kubrick classic. Picture: Getty Images

Adrienne Corri, Scottish-Italian actress best remembered for controversial role in Kubrick classic. Picture: Getty Images

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Born: 13 November, 1931, in Glasgow. Died: 13 March, 2016, in London, aged 84.

The flamed-haired Adrienne Corri was an actress associated with determined and feisty characters – often reflecting her own up-tempo character. Corri was in many television dramas but she is remembered for the role of Mrs ­Alexander in Stanley Kubrick’s controversial, and broodingly violent 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange.

Many actresses had turned down the role as she was involved in the film’s most shocking scenes: they caused such a sensation that Kubrick withdrew the movie from being shown in the UK.

The most offensive scene saw a gagged Corri stripped and raped by Malcolm McDowell as he sang Singing in the Rain. It is still a gruesome scene to watch but Corri retained a balanced perspective telling McDowell as they began filming, “Well, Malcolm, today you’re going to find out I’m a real redhead.” The filming took all day and scores of retakes: Corri was further annoyed when another scene took four days to film. In that Corri was hit 39 times by McDowell until he refused to continue.

The rape scene barely lasts three minutes, but it is one of the most powerful moments in cinema history, and is still regarded by movie fans as 
disturbing.

Adrienne Corri (born Adrienne Riccoboni) was born to an Italian father and a mostly Scottish mother. During the 1930s, her father ran the Crown Hotel in Callander. In her youth Corri was a member of many local amateur drama groups and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Corri landed significant movie roles in such major films as Jean Renoir’s The River, as Lara’s mother in David Lean’s Dr Zhivago and Otto Preminger’s thriller Bunny Lake is Missing.

Her career in films was succinctly summed up by a movie magazine which described her as having “no nice little-girl-next-door nonsense about her”. Corri was often seen on TV and made a strong impression in her first major role as the devious Milady de Winter in the BBC’s Three Musketeers and in The Leisure Hive which was Tom Baker’s last Doctor Who episode.

A long-standing role was that of Lady Rebecca in BBC’s Lovejoy and Corri particularly enjoyed being in the two episodes of Highland Fling in 1992 when they filmed in Scotland. Lovejoy (Ian McShane) came north to help a friend whose estate (near Balmoral) was in financial difficulties.

In the theatre, she was in John Osborne’s first play – The World of Paul Slickey – which drew boos from the audience on its first night. With typical spirit Corri gesticulated back at the audience. She played a memorable Desdemona opposite Errol John at the Old Vic in 1963 and appeared on Broadway in Jean Anouilh’s The Rehearsal.

Her other love was collecting fine art and, while appearing at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, Corri spotted backstage a portrait of the 18th-century actor David Garrick. She became obsessed with authenticating the work as being a genuine Thomas Gainsborough painted when the artist was just 16. The issue caused much sceptical debate in the art world and she wrote a book about the search.

In 1986, when Corri was appearing at Her Majesty’s in Aberdeen, she was visited by bailiffs who, she claimed, had been sent to seize her furniture. The dispute with the Alexandra Theatre rumbled on until 1990 when the theatre gave the painting to Corri in an out-of-court settlement.

Corri married the actor Daniel Massey but that marriage was dissolved. She is survived by a son and daughter by a previous liaison.

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