October 5, 2008

Patricia Roc Was Belle of the Ball

The actress Patricia Roc was recognised as one of the great beauties of the post-war era.

Thrice married, she had talent to match her looks. Noel Coward described her as "a phenomenon - an unspoiled movie star who can act".

She said of herself: "I was the bouncy, sexy girl next door that mothers would like their sons to marry and the sons wouldn't have minded either."

It's little wonder then that when the star nicknamed "The Goddess of the Odeons" visited the Potteries, the Potteries welcomed her with open arms. Our picture shows her signing the visitors' book for Lord Mayor Harry Beresford at the King's Hall, Stoke, just 60 years ago.

On that occasion, the star of The Wicked Lady and Madonna Of The Seven Moons made personal appearances at The Regent Cinema, Hanley, and The Coliseum, Burslem, as well meeting workers at Paragon China in Longton.

But the reason for her visit was to attend the famous Cinema Ball in the King's Hall, possibly the most glamorous fixture in the city's social calendar in the 1940s. In the days of drab post-war austerity, a ticket to the Cinema Ball was like gold dust. It held out the chance of seeing, and even speaking to, the most beautiful stars of the J Arthur Rank Studios, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret Lockwood and Jeanette Scott.

In those pre-telly days, everyone went to the pictures and the stars of the Rank Organisation's films made many of today's celebrities pale in comparison.

The Cinema Ball was organised by the North Staffordshire Branch of the Cinematic Exhibitors' Association, whose former chairman Len Barber, died in May this year at the age of 103.

Patricia Roc moved to Paris after her second marriage in 1949 and began to appear in French and Italian productions. Her only Hollywood film was Canyon Passage, released in 1946.

The actress returned to the UK in the late 1950s, and made three more films, as well as TV appearances, before retiring in 1963. She later lived in Locarno, Switzerland, where she died in December 2003 at 88.

Do you remember Patricia Roc and other Rank Organisation stars visiting the Potteries for the annual Cinema Ball? Write to Colette Warbrook, including a contact telephone number and address, at Features Desk, The Sentinel, Forge Lane, Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent, ST1 5SS, or email [email protected]

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