Nonnie Griffin (Margaret)

 Nonnie Griffin, nee Lorna Margaret Jean, actress (b at Toronto 20 Oct 1933). Nonnie Griffin attended St. Margaret's Convent School in Kirkfield, Ont, until age 14 and went to Noranda High School in Noranda, Que, before studying voice, speech arts and drama at the ROYAL CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC in Toronto from 1949-52. Blessed with striking beauty, a gifted mimic, and acting with simple truthfulness that combines power and vulnerability, Nonnie Griffin went on to make an artistic contribution in many mediums but especially stands out as a radio actress.

At 16, billed as Margaret Griffin, she performed at the Red Barn Theatre in Jackson's Point, Ont, and 2 years later she was hired as the resident ingénue with the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa. She appeared with Peterborough Summer Theatre at age 19 and in the fall of 1953 with Jupiter Players in Toronto, cast in the very successful production of Ring Around the Moon at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Later that year she appeared as the young Scottish girl Kate MacDonald in Lister SINCLAIR's The Blood Is Strong. CBC Television had just begun and Sinclair's play with Nonnie Griffin (billed as Margaret) was broadcast live in 1954 to critical acclaim. Several TV shows followed, including Kathleen (1954), in which Griffin played the hilarious title role.

In the 1950s the Crest Theatre presented her as Muriel in Ah, Wilderness! and in Charley's Aunt. She was in the much-loved musical production of Anne of Green Gables in 1956 and repeated her role as Diana, brought back by popular demand in 1958. She appeared in the TV series The Last of the Mohicans and onstage in The Boyfriend in 1958 before seeking work in England (1958-61). She auditioned successfully at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in London for John Hale, who cast her as Luciana in The Comedy of Errors, which was also featured at the world-famous Baalbek International Festival in Lebanon.

In Canada Nonnie Griffin had built up an impressive resumé, with roles for CBC Radio's Stage series (1953-56) and in many plays requiring a Scottish accent as well as Irish, among other dialects. Her virtuosity with accents and her ability to play different ages and styles were huge assets. Her work was distinguished by sensitivity and intelligence, and when she returned to Canada in 1961 she was again featured regularly on CBC Radio. When John DRAINIE (perhaps Canada's greatest radio actor) was dying in 1966, Griffin took over for him in the popular Canadian Short Stories, having changed her professional name in 1964 to Nonnie Griffin because of another Margaret Griffin (an American actress) who was her senior.

In 1968 Nonnie Griffin adapted Sean O'Casey's autobiography, I Knock At The Door; she played O'Casey's mother in the stage version. Griffin was nominated twice for the Andrew Allan Award, first in 1983 for her work as the young Emily in Our Town, and next in 1984 for Blood Root. She went on to portray Constanze, wife to Mozart (played by Brent CARVER), in a five-part series on CBC's radio program Ideas in 1991.

Television was another medium in which Griffin shone, whether her performance was live or taped. She appeared on Lister Sinclair's When Soft Voices Die (1954), co-starring Lorne GREENE; the first production of the musical version of Anne of Green Gables (live in 1956 and 1958); the series Alexander Graham Bell (1963), Room to Let (1963-64), Castle Zaremba (1970), The Whiteoaks of Jalna (1972), Royal Suite (1973), King of Kensington (1978), Doc (2002-03), RoboCop (1994), and Polka Dot Door (1974-80); and the made-for-TV movie Good Fences (2003).

Her stage work was also diverse as she appeared in theatres from New Brunswick to British Columbia without neglecting the summer stock circuit in Ontario. She shone as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday (Bastion, 1974), Widow Quin in The Playboy of the Western World (Centaur Theatre, 1976), Mrs. Rafi in The Sea (Phoenix, 1977), Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! (Limelight, 1989), Marilla in Anne of Green Gables (Huron Country Playhouse, 1984, and Red Barn, 1998), and as the elderly stroke victim in Wings (independent production, 2000). She was cast by Peter O'Toole in Uncle Vanya (1978) when he formed his own company in Toronto with the aim of presenting plays at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

Griffin has created her own one-woman shows such as Keats, Yeats and Other Greats (1995), Tea and Poetry (1999), Nonnie In Performance (2003), From Convent to Show Biz (2004) and Show Biz and Other Addictions (2006). The latter is also the title of her startlingly candid, vibrant and moving book in diary form, published in 2002, that presents a no-holds-barred account of her acting life, loves (especially director Jean-Pierre Ronfard and actor Larry Reynolds), disappointments, triumphs and struggles through the period 1977-90. She appeared in Sister Annunciata's Secret (2010), a one-woman play she wrote, at the Annex Theatre in Toronto and directed Doug Warwick's musical comedy, The Flying Avro Arrow (2010), for Toronto's Alumnae Theatre Company.

Nonnie Griffin is the great-granddaughter of Sir William MACKENZIE, builder of the Canadian Northern Railway.