Coming in like a breath of fresh air in the early seventies, Stephanie Beacham stood out amongst an endless parade of thin girl-child models and women personalities. Fleshy in a most pleasant manner where it matters, she provided fresh sincerity in her performances, as she was well on her way to become a screen princess in the horror genre. Throughout her career, television work was mainly her principal occupation, however, and we can be satisfied that this is the media where we can still enjoy seeing her.
Stephanie Beacham was born on February 28, 1947, in Casablanca, Morocco, but was brought up in Hertfordshire, England. Her mother had suffered chicken pox while pregnant and family doctors belived that was why Stephanie was born with complete deafness in her right ear and partial deafness in her left. She began some ballet classes at the age of four, training almost daily after school. Sadly, she tried for the Royal Ballet School at age 12 and was promptly refused to attend. At this point, Stephanie got the idea to eventually teach ballet to deaf children.
So in 1964, she decided to go study mime in Paris, finding an au pair job. Her previous education had adequately prepared her to speak French and learning mime for her was a logical step to teach body movements to handicaped people. Things didn’t work out for the best as Stephanie now admits to not being the most skillful maid for her employers. She came back to England, stopping at Liverpool to visit an actor friend of hers. She stepped into the theater to meet him, but decided to audition for a new play. Reciting a monologue from Romeo and Juliet, she waw hired on the spot by the acting troupe, staying around for nine months.
Returning to London at the end of the season, Stephanie enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, this time staying for the next two years studying acting technique. She began working regularly in plays like Guys and Dolls, Three Sisters and Harold Pinter creations, rubbing shoulders with acting legends like Donald Pleasance. Her movie acting debut came in a Michael Winner picture, The Games. She soon followed with Tam Lin, directed by Roddy McDowall and starring screen legend Ava Gardner. Already accustomed to minor roles, Stephanie didn’t take very seriously the announcement from Winner that her next co-star would be Marlon Brando…
This became Stephanie’s first starring role, and a difficult one at that. Frequently tied-up and/or semi-nude during rough love scenes, she also had to endure Brando’s moods and pranks, as it pleased him to talk into her deaf ear and leave her clueless. A lot of hysterical publicity was going around the shooting and our lead actress was now being categorized as some sex kitten. The Nightcomers was seen as a prequel of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Many offers from American studios came Stephanie’s way, but she preferred to exercice caution and return to the theatre. So she eventually worked beside actor John McEnery at the Nottinghame Playhouse… and they wed a year later.
Stephanie also continued appearing on British television, enjoying guest roles in The Saint, Jason King, and many others. She joined Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Caroline Munro at Hammer studios in 1972 for Dracula A.D. 1972, playing Jessica Van Helsing. This was an attempt to introduce the character of Dracula to modern times, sometimes with hysterical dated results. Around that time, Stephanie posed for Playboy and went to Italy to star in a thriller with some nude scenes, retitled Blue Movie Blackmail. After more TV spots and another horror project, And Now the Screaming Starts!, Stephanie got pregnant.
A second pregnacy was also the reason for not many more Stephanie Beacham projects in the following years. As was her divorce from McEnery. The shock of being a single mother to two young daughters made her re-evaluate her life. Deciding to come back to acting, Stephanie returned to the spotlight with a sci-fi horror movie, Inseminoid, and a semi-regular part on the Tenko TV series. Right after that, she toured with the Royal Shakespeare company and starred in another series, Connie. Then came a big opportunity for a high-profile project in the United States.
Stephanie got the role of Sable Scott Colby for the American television series The Colbys, a spin-off of the popular Dynasty mythology. This brought her great attention, publicity, popularity and a tendancy to display wild poofy hair. At that time, another British actress, Joan Collins, had enjoyed a career revival in the same series playing a glamorous bitch with equal gusto. So, Stephanie moved to California. The character of Sable gave the opportunity to our comedienne to be nominated two times as Outstanding Villainess: Prime Time for the Soap Opera Digest Awards (oh yes, it does indeed exist!).
Stephanie found time to appear on the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense for an episode, then learned that she would star as a nun for her next TV series. Sister Kate was on for just the 1989 season, however. From then on, Stephanie would concentrate on more projects for the small screen, being a regular for SeaQuest DSV, for example, or guest-starring in series on both sides of the Atlantic. Recently, she was a regular on British Bad Girls and still was part of a horror movie as recently as 2004, for The Witches Hammer.
A classy and courageous actress, Stephanie joins our ranks of never-aging-beauties. Our memories of her in Dracula A.D. 1972 was our main contention to include her in these pages, but we were delighted to learn many more fascinating facts about her life. Are you? Let us know!
1970 The Games; Tam Lin 1972 The Aries Computer; The Nightcomers; Dracula A.D. 1972 1973 Si può essere più bastardi dell’ispettore Cliff?; And Now the Screaming Starts! 1976 House of Mortal Sin; Schizo 1981 Inseminoid 1989 Troop Beverly Hills; The Wolves of Willoughby Chase 1990 Eine Frau namens Harry 1996 Saving Grace; Wedding Bell Blues 2000 Relative Values 2002 Unconditional Love; Would I Lie to You? 2004 The Witches Hammer 2006 Love and Other Disasters 2007 Plot 7