Imogen Hassall: The beautiful actress whose troubled life was cut short at the age of 38

Richard Bevan
Richard Bevan
4 Min Read

In the entertainment world, people mention Imogen Hassall’s name with both admiration and sorrow. Her beauty and talent shone brightly, but heartbreaking challenges marred her life.

Imogen was born in Woking, Surrey on 25 August 1942, and her parents named her after the heroine of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline”. She hailed from a family of artists and businessmen, anchoring her roots in creativity. Notable family members included the illustrious illustrators John Hassall and Joan Hassall. Her father, Christopher Hassall, earned a reputation as a renowned poet, dramatist, and lyricist. Although some people claim the iconic Ivor Novello was her godfather, others believe it was Sir William Walton, a claim that Lady Walton reportedly refuted.

Imogen Hassall known as the countess of clevage in Carry On Loving (1970) alongside Terry Scott
Imogen Hassall and Terry Scott in Carry on Loving (1970)

In her early years, a love for the arts was cultivated. After being educated at prestigious institutions such as the Elmhurst Ballet School and the Royal Ballet School, her journey took her to New York City at the age of 16. But London beckoned her back, and her academic pursuit of theatre was further solidified at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. A brief but memorable stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company ensued.

Imogen acted in 33 films during the 1960s and 70s. She made notable appearances in popular TV series like “The Saint”, “The Avengers”, and “The Persuaders!”. But it was her role in “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” (1970) that made heads turn, leading to her iconic status as the “Countess of Cleavage”, owing to the risqué roles and outfits that became synonymous with her name. She also had a memorable role in Carry On Loving (1970), playing the role of the alluring, Jenny.

However, behind the silver screen, a tragic tale unfolded. Imogen Hassall experienced a life filled with love and loss. She married actor Kenneth Ives, which led to the birth of their daughter, Melanie. Tragically, Melanie lived for only four days. She briefly married actor Andrew Knox, but heartbreak marked their union. They separated within months, and she suffered the loss of their unborn child.

Imogen Hasall with her first husband, Kenneth Ives
Imogen, with her first husband, Kenneth Ives

Her life, continuously scrutinised under the tabloid lens, only intensified her personal struggles. The culmination of failed relationships, professional setbacks, and profound personal losses led her into the abyss of depression. On 16 November 1980, Imogen’s tragic passing shook the world. She was discovered her lifeless in her Wimbledon home – the actress had taken her own life.

Throughout her life, Imogen faced profound challenges, punctuated by the tragedies she endured, most heartbreakingly, the loss of two children. Despite the glamour and allure of her cinematic world, these personal sorrows weighed heavily upon her heart. Her untimely demise is a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between fame and happiness.

Rest in peace, Immy.

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