Barbara Hamilton

Barbara Hamilton, actress (born at Kingston, Ont 11 Dec 1926; died at Toronto 7 Feb 1996).
Barbara Hamilton, actress (born at Kingston, Ont 11 Dec 1926; died at Toronto 7 Feb 1996).

Barbara Hamilton, actress (born at Kingston, Ont 11 Dec 1926; died at Toronto 7 Feb 1996). Barbara Hamilton was the daughter of a retail-display manufacturer (her mother died when she was three) and was educated at Brockville Collegiate Institute, Ont, and the University of Toronto, performing at the university's storied Hart House Theatre.

Her breakthrough came with a role in Joseph Kesselring's comic thriller Arsenic and Old Lace at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1943. She then toured with the Canadian Players and spent 3 seasons with a stock company in Bermuda before joining the cast of the satirical revue Spring Thaw in 1958. She performed with the popular annual revue for 7 seasons, establishing a reputation as "the funniest woman in Canada."

Barbara Hamilton starred in her own revue, That Hamilton Woman, at the Crest Theatre in Toronto in 1963. Other work at the Crest Theatre included Alexander Ostrovsky's Diary of a Scoundrel (1955), Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness (1957) and Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot (1961).

In 1965 she created the role of the crusty, remote Marilla in the world premiere of the musical Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Summer Festival. In 1970 she won a drama critics' award for best actress when she performed the same role in London, England.

Hamilton co-starred with Sandra O'Neill in the gently feminist revue Sweet Reason (1976), appeared in No Sex Please, We're British (1985) at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and was a memorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh in David Pownall's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at the Royal Alex (1987).

A pioneer in Canadian television, Barbara Hamilton was a regular in shows such as Razzle Dazzle (1961), Forest Rangers (1964) and Anne of Avonlea (1975). She appeared in 23 episodes of Road to Avonlea (1992-96) and in the Norman Jewison movie Bogus, alongside Whoopi Goldberg (1996). In 1993, the Gemini Awards presented her with the Earle Grey Award for excellence and lifetime achievement.

She established a record by playing 14 different roles at the Royal Alex; fittingly, her final stage appearance was at that theatre, in a production of the musical comedy Crazy for You (1994-95).

Blessed with a stentorian, theatre-filling voice and generous stage presence, Barbara Hamilton could dominate the stage but insisted on the highest standards of professionalism - in others as well as herself.

To honour her long contribution to the stage, the Dora Awards created the Barbara Hamilton Memorial Award in 1996 to be given to Canadian performers who have demonstrated "excellence and professionalism in the performing arts."