Her life was a Cabaret – Remembering Jill Haworth (1945 – 2011)

Posted in Remember by - August 27, 2014
Her life was a Cabaret – Remembering Jill Haworth (1945 – 2011)

Petite English actress Jill Haworth had an interesting if unsatisfactory screen career. Like so many other talented young actresses, what began as a promising start in big budget pictures, later settled into mainly low budget horror flicks, certainly unworthy of her natural acting abilities.

Valerie Jill Haworth was born in Hove, Sussex, on August 15th 1945, and as a child had no ambition for acting, preferring ballet instead. During a worldwide talent search though, she was spotted by Otto Preminger who gave Haworth the role of doomed refugee; Karen, in his 1960 epic ‘Exodus’, alongside Paul Newman and future on-off boyfriend Sal Mineo. Signing a three movie contract for the notoriously difficult producer-director, Jill had minor roles in Preminger’s other epics ‘The Cardinal’ (’63), and ‘In Harms Way’ (’65) with John Wayne, of whom she said was the meanest, nastiest man she ever worked with. The following year Jill was lusted after by Roddy McDowell in the silly but enjoyable horror film ‘It!’ (’66). While she hated the movie, Jill loved working with McDowell. That same year Jill won the role of Sally Bowles in the original Broadway run of the smash musical ‘Cabaret’, a part she would play for over two years. Unfortunately, by the time Bob Fosse directed the 1972 movie version; Jill’s short-lived fame had diminished considerably, and she was passed over in favour of the up and coming Liza Minnelli.

Back in the UK Jill looked stunning as a thrill-seeking teen in Michael Armstrong’s directorial debut ‘The Haunted House of Horror’ (’69). A pretty lame ‘old dark house’ fright flick, she at least enjoyed working with co-star Frankie Avalon, but was never keen on being in these cheap horror movies. After appearing in episodes of ‘Mission Impossible’ (’70) and ‘Bonanza’ (’71), Jill played a mini-skirt wearing archaeologist in Jim O’Connolly’s silly but fun horror ‘Tower of Evil’ (’72). A better movie that year, albeit a television one, was the wonderful thriller ‘Home for the Holidays’ (’72) with Eleanor Parker, Jessica Walter and Sally Field. It told the story of four sisters who are reunited one Christmas to visit their dying father, unaware that there’s a murderer in their midst. I think it’s one of the best of the many Seventies TV thrillers, and provided strong roles for both Jill and her female co-stars.

Another horror followed when she played a pig-tailed student terrorised by her mutated boyfriend, in Jack Cardiff’s messy ‘mad scientist’ movie ‘The Mutations’ (’74). By now Haworth’s film career was in a rapid decline, although she would continue acting in regional theatre. After a small role in the 1981 oddity ‘Strong Medicine’, Jill concentrated on doing voice-over work, only coming out of retirement for the 2001 independent film ‘Mergers & Acquisitions’, which would be her final screen appearance.

Never married, Haworth died in her sleep of natural causes, in New York on January 3rd 2011. She was 65 years old. An elegant blonde beauty with a marvellous throaty voice, Jill Haworth had moderate success on both stage and screen, but never found the roles and acclaim she deserved. Instead, Jill will be mostly remembered for her appearances in low-grade British horror, which, while she was never keen to appear in, to her many genre fans, this is no bad thing.

Favourite Movie: The Cardinal
Favourite Performance: Home for the Holidays

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