Horror film icon Barbara Shelley has died aged 88, her agent has confirmed.
When sharing the news, Thomas Bowington revealed that Shelley had contracted COVID-19 in hospital, though “it wasn’t the COVID that took her”.
Shelley, who was hailed as the ‘technicolour queen of Hammer’ and remembered as an early horror icon, starred in a number of Hammer Horror films across the 1950s and 60s including Dracula and The Gorgon.
Announcing the news, Bowington said: “She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the technicolour queen of Hammer. On screen she could be quietly evil. She goes from statuesque beauty to just animalistic wildness.
“She was a regular favourite of Hammer events and autograph shows but also performed on stage with the RSC.”
Bowington added that it “wasn’t the COVID” that caused Shelley’s eventual death, and that “she had underlying issues”.
He went on to explain that she contracted coronavirus while in hospital for a routine muscle check-up, saying: “But after that she had an infection and was in hospital by herself for two weeks before Christmas. It’s most likely COVID is going to come up on the death certificate.”
Tributes have poured in on social media following the news of Shelley’s death. One fan wrote: “She matched Christopher Lee’s Dracula and Rasputin for blazing bravura. She became the cat girl and the Gorgon; fought the mad medicos of Wolfit and Cushing; inhabited a village of the damned and channelled the Martians. Our greatest horror actress.”
Barbara Shelley has died. She matched Christopher Lee's Dracula and Rasputin for blazing bravura. She became the cat girl and the Gorgon; fought the mad medicos of Wolfit and Cushing; inhabited a village of the damned and channelled the Martians. Our greatest horror actress. pic.twitter.com/EcPKX77W3J
— James Swanton (@jamescswanton) January 4, 2021
Another wrote: “So very sad to hear of the passing of #BarbaraShelley. A darling person and a talented actress. When we worked together on Planet of Fire she was so kind to me. She gave me a little owl, still in my possession and some good advice. #RIPBarbaraShelley Wise and wonderful lady.”
So very sad to hear of the passing of #BarbaraShelley. A darling person and a talented actress. When we worked together on Planet of Fire she was so kind to me. She gave me a little owl, still in my possession and some good advice. #RIPBarbaraShelley Wise and wonderful lady. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/O4keVU7ow5
— Nicola Bryant (@thenicolabryant) January 4, 2021
See more tributes to the late Barbara Shelley below.
Hammer horror movie legend Barbara Shelley has sadly passed away at age of 88. Some of her work included The Gorgon, Dracula, Prince Of Darkness, Blood Of The Vampire, and Village Of The Damned. pic.twitter.com/2Ouc7TUfXW
— Horror Necronomicon (@horrornecronom) January 4, 2021
Barbara Shelley shows her great ability in this scene with Chris Lee from 'Rasputin, The Mad Monk' Hammer (1966) pic.twitter.com/zHxnWrPan9
— Hammer Horror Films (@HorrorHammer1) January 4, 2021
I loved Barbara Shelley in some of the Hammer films she was in, especially her best role I liked her in was, Dracula: Prince Of Darkness. It was a shame her vampire got steaked by the bearded priest in it!
She was a brilliant Hammer Horror film actress! https://t.co/ovLbcfgTiW
— Marie-Clare 🇬🇧🇮🇪🇪🇺 (@MarieClare_) January 5, 2021
Rest In Peace to Barbara Shelley, one of Hammer’s greatest talents and one of my all-time favorite actresses. She will be greatly missed, but we are so lucky to have her work. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/9v7JiNT38l
— Cobwebs: A Gothic Cinema Podcast (@cobwebspod) January 4, 2021