Olive McFarland

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n Olive (Brenda) McFarland, actress. Born: 1929. Died 24 August, 2011, in Suffolk. Aged 82.

Olive McFarland appeared in several prestigious television series in the Sixties and Seventies and was a regular in the popular ITV police series The Sweeney.

But one of the films in which she appeared was to change the career of one of her co-stars dramatically. In 1961 McFarland made The Frightened City, in which a young actor called Sean Connery got one of his first leading parts. The film also starred Herbert Lom and Alfred Marks.

The Frightened City (“A city terrorised by its own evil”) was set in gangland London with some unsavoury characters – all of whom were in the extortion racket – and their rivalry led to gang warfare in the West End. Connery played a smart. always well-dressed burglar who had more than one eye for the ladies. McFarland, playing Sadie. a nightclub dancer. is clearly very taken with the swarthy Edinburgh gangster but not with much success.

The two have a tender and romantic meeting at the Tower of London at the end of the film to which both actors bring a sense of tense energy and both deliver powerful performances. McFarland makes her feelings apparent, though never mentions her love to Connery’s character. It is, without doubt, the most dramatic part of the film and clearly brought Connery to the attention of the producer Cubby Broccoli. Within a year Connery had been screen- tested and was given a contract to make his first Bond movie.

Brenda McFarland was always known professionally as Olive McFarland. In 1959 she appeared in a televised version of Ibsen’s drama Brand that starred Patrick McGoohan. In the same year, McFarland joined a host of leading British actors of the era (Sybil Thorndike, Stanley Holloway and Liz Fraser) in Alive and Kicking, in which three old ladies escape to an island off the Irish coast. In 1974 she was in a rather run-of-the-mill movie called On the Game, which was dubbed a “riotous look at the history of the oldest profession in the world”.

It was her work in television, however, that brought McFarland to the attention of a wider public. From the late Sixties she appeared regularly in a host of dramas such as Danger Man, The Champions, William Tell, Dixon of Dock Green, Our Mutual Friend and The Troubleshooters. She also appeared as Mrs Dowland in The Sweeney.

In 1975 she left the acting profession to further her interests in restoring property and breeding horses in Creeting St Mary, Suffolk. Unfortunately, in 1996 McFarland was back in the newspapers when she was convicted of 14 charges of causing unnecessary cruelty to animals.

In her defence McFarland told the court the animals were not malnourished. They were not in work and therefore the food she gave them was enough.

For the past 18 months McFarland had been in a home in Suffolk but had been able to return to visit her farm and animals occasionally. She was, tragically, knocked down by a train on an outing at a footpath crossing in Needham Market, Suffolk.

ALASDAIR STEVEN