Frances de la Tour (born 30 July 1944) is an English actress of French descent perhaps best known for her role as Miss Ruth Jones in the British sitcom Rising Damp, Mrs Lintott in The History Boys both on-stage and in the film, and as Madame Olympe Maxime in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

Early life and family [edit]Edit

De la Tour was born in BovingdonHertfordshire, to Moyra (née Fessas) and Charles de la Tour. She was educated at London's Lycée Français and the Drama Centre London

She is the sister of actor and screenwriter Andy de la Tour, and was briefly married to playwright Tom Kempinski. She has a son and a daughter.

RSC and National companies [edit]Edit

On leaving drama school she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1965 where she studied with Michel Saint-Denis. Over the next six years, she played many small roles with the RSC in a variety of plays, gradually building up to larger parts such as Hoyden in The Relapse and culminating in Peter Brook's acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in which she played Helena as a comic "tour de force". In the 1970s, she worked steadily both on the stage and on television. Some of her notable appearances were Rosalind in As You Like It at the PlayhouseOxford in 1975 and Isabella in The White Devil at the Old Vic in 1976. She enjoyed a collaboration with Stepney's Half Moon Theatre, appearing in the London première of Dario Fo's We Can't Pay? We Won't Pay (1978), Eleanor Marx's Landscape of Exile (1979), and in the title role of Hamlet (1980).

In 1980, she played Stephanie, the violinist with MS in Duet for One, a play written for her by Kempinski, for which she won the Olivier for Best Actress. She played Sonya in Uncle Vanya opposite Donald Sinden at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket in 1982. Her performance as Josie in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten won her another Olivier for Best Actress in 1983. She joined the Royal National Theatre for the title role in Saint Joan in 1984 and appeared there in Brighton Beach Memoirs in 1986. She again won the Olivier for Best Supporting Actress for Martin Sherman's play about Isadora Duncan, When She Danced with Vanessa Redgrave at the Globe Theatre in 1991 and played Leo in Les Parents terribles at the Royal National Theatre in 1994.

She co-starred with Maggie Smith in Edward Albee's Three Tall Women at the Wyndham's in 1994 and with Alan Howard in Albee's The Play About the Baby at the Almeida in 1998. In 1999, she returned to the RSC to play Cleopatra opposite Alan Bates in Antony and Cleopatra in which she did a nude walk across the stage. In 2004, she played Mrs Lintott in Alan Bennett's The History Boys at the National, later on Broadway and in the film version (2006). In 2007 she appeared in a West End revival of the farce Boeing-Boeing. In 2009 she appeared in Alan Bennett's new play The Habit of Art at the National. In 2012 she returned to the National in her third Bennett premiere, People.

Television roles [edit]Edit

Her many television appearances include the 1980 miniseries Flickers alongside Bob Hoskins, the TV version of Duet for One, the series A Kind of LivingTom Jones, episodes of PoirotMarple and Waking the Dead. Of all her TV roles, however, she is best known for playing spinster Ruth Jones in the successful Yorkshire Television comedy Rising Damp. De la Tour told Richard Webber, who penned a 2001 book about the series, that Ruth Jones "was an interesting character to play. We laughed a lot on set, but comedy is a serious business and Leonard took it particularly seriously, and rightly so. Comedy, which is so much down to timing, is exhausting work. But it was a happy time."

In the mid-1980s, de la Tour was considered, along with Joanna Lumley and Dawn French, as a replacement for Colin Baker in Doctor Who. The idea was scrapped, and the job was given to Sylvester McCoy. In 2005 she appeared inblack comedy Sensitive Skin (TV series) alongside Joanna Lumley and Denis Lawson. In 2006 she appeared in New Tricks (Series 3) as a rather morbid Egyptologist.

Recent activity [edit]Edit

In 2003, de la Tour played a terminally ill gay woman in the film Love Actually, although her scenes were cut from the film's theatrical release, and appear only on the DVD.

In 2005 she played Olympe Maxime, headmistress of Beauxbaton's Academy, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a role she reprised in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (notable in that her character was not present in the novel). In December 2005 she starred in the London production of the highly acclaimed anti-Iraq War one-woman play Peace Mom by Dario Fo, based on the writings of Cindy Sheehan.

In 2012 she was in the film Hugo.

She won a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award in 2006 for her work in The History Boys on Broadway.

She was nominated for the 2006 BAFTA Award for Actress in a Supporting Role for her work on the film version of The History Boys.

She appeared in Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland as Aunt Imogene, a delusional aunt of Alice's, opposite Johnny DeppAnne HathawayHelena Bonham Carter and Mia Wasikowska. Also that year, she had a supporting role in the film The Book of Eli, directed by the Hughes brothers.

Up until 2012, she was also a Patron for the Performing Arts group Theatretrain.

Politically, de la Tour is a socialist and was a member of the Workers' Revolutionary Party in the 1970s.

Theatre awards [edit]Edit

Filmography [edit]Edit

Film Role Notes
Our Miss Fred (1972) Miss Lockhart
Rising Damp (TV) (1974–1978) Miss Ruth Jones
Maggie: It's Me (1977) Maggie
Rising Damp (1980) Miss Ruth Jones Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress
Flickers (1980) Maud Cole
Duet for One (TV) (1981) Stephanie Anderson
Cold Lazarus (1996) Emma Porlock Nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1997) Aunt Western
The Cherry Orchard (1999) Charlotte Ivanova
Agatha Christie's Poirot (2004) Salome Otterbourne Episode Death on the Nile
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) Madame Olympe Maxime
Sensitive Skin (TV series) (2005) Sarah Thorne
Agatha Christie's Marple (2006) Mrs. Maud Dane Calthrop Episode The Moving Finger
The History Boys (2006) Dorothy Lintott Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominated – British Independent Film Awards

The Book of Eli (2010) Martha The wife of George (Michael Gambon).
Alice in Wonderland (2010) Aunt Imogene
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) Madame Olympe Maxime
The Nutcracker in 3D (2010) The Rat Queen
Hugo (2011) Madame Emile
Private Peaceful (2012) Grandma Wolf
Vicious (2013) (TV series) Violet (7 episodes)
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