<The Times, September 3, 1993>
<THE COUNTESS OF MIDLETON>
<The Countess of Midleton, formerly the actress René Ray, died in
Jersey on August 28 aged 81. She was born in London on September 22,
IN HER earlier days René Ray's was a familiar name both in the theatre
and the cinema. Her début on the London stage came at the Savoy
Theatre in 1930 - slightly incongruously as a barmaid in a play called
Over a period of more than 20 years she went on to appear in a number
of West End productions, including playing opposite Laurence Olivier in
J.B. Priestley's 'Bees on the Boatdeck' in 1936, but she remained
perhaps best known for her work in films.
Small in stature but with huge, expressive eyes she tended to be cast
as a waif most notably as 'Stasia in Berthold Viertel's 1935 cinema
version of Jerome K. Jerome's classic, 'The Passing of the Third Floor
Back', where one critic found her performance 'very striking' in its
Later films such as 'The Rat' with Anton Walbrook and 'The Green
Cockatoo' with John Mills, testified to a growing maturity and it was
no surprise when in the late 1930s she was summoned to Hollywood.
Here, however, fate took a hand with the outbreak of war in 1939 she
loyally returned to Britain, spending most of the war years with Ensa,
travelling widely in order to entertain the troops.
The war undoubtedly affected her career and, though in 1947 she played
in one Hollywood film ('If Winter Comes' with Walter Pidgeon, Angela
Lansbury and Deborah Kerr), the momentum had gone out of her rise to
stardom. She also that same year made her sole appearance on Broadway,
in the American production of Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' - a play
that is currently enjoying a revival at the Aldwych Theatre.
Fortunately, René Ray had other talents on which to fall back. She
wrote her first novel - 'Wraxtoon Marne' - in 1946, saw one of her
later ones turned both into a television serial and the Hammer film
'The Strange World of Planet X' (1958) and had six of her short stories
produced by the BBC as well as appearing in a number of television
drama productions both for ITV and the BBC.
Born Irene Creese, she was elder of two daughters of A.H. Creese, the
inventor and aviation pioneer.She met her future husband, the Earl of
Midleton, in the 1950s. She married him as his third wife in 1975 and
he died in 1979, having spent the last part of his life living on
Jersey, to which island they both moved in 1963.
There she developed into an accomplished amateur artist, specialising
in paiting flowers and enjoying many local exhibitions of her work.
She also became an enthusisatic supporter of the Jersey Film Society,
which in 1986 opened its fortieth season with a showing of her
50-year-old classic film, 'The Passing of the Third Floor Back'.
She is survived by her younger sister and six nieces and nephews.