Dorothy Katharine Leon (Hammond)
|Death:||Died in Brighton, East Sussex, England|
|Managed by:||Michael Lawrence Rhodes|
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About Kay Hammond
<The Times May 5, 1980>
<MISS KAY HAMMOND>
<Leading stage actress>
Miss Kay Hammond (Lady Clements) who died yesterday at the age of 71, had shown promise in comedy parts from the beginning of her career in the theatre, and having established herself as a leading actress she remained one until illness forced her retirement from the stage. She was for years co-star with John Clements (now Sir John Clements) her second husband and a distinguished actor and director, in important revivals and new plays in the West End. It was a marriage both happy and professionally fruitful.
Kay Hammond was the stage name of Dorothy Katherine Standing, the daughter of Sir Guy Standing, K.B.E., the actor. Her father was still working in the English theatre - he went to America after the First World War - when she was born in London on February 18, 1909.
She trained at R.A.D.A., beginning her professional career in 1927 and attracted some notice by her performance as a Cockney in a farce produced by Leslie Henson in 1931. Five years later she played her first leading part, one requiring her to be at the same time seductive and agreeably ridiculous, in Terence Rattigan's "French Without Tears" during the long run of which her father died in Hollywood.
In the course of the Second World War she was confirmed in her reputation as a comedy actress by two witty performances in plays by Noel Coward: the first as the mischievous ghost in "Blithe Spirit", the second in Gertrude Lawrence's old part, the author's own now being taken by John Clements, in a revival of "Private Lives."
She had been married in 1932 to Mr. Ronald George Leon, who later, on his father's death, succeeded to a baronetcy, but the marriage was dissolved in 1945 and in the following year she married John Clements and appeared with him under his own management at the St. James's. She there played Melantha the "affected lady" in Dryden's "Marriage a la Mode" and in 1949 she took on the part of Mrs Sullen in "The Beaux' Stratagem", in which Dame Edith Evans had given a memorable performance some twenty years previously. Farquhar's comedy now, with Kay Hammond and John Clements in the cast, ran for more than fifteen months, longer than a classical play had ever done before in the English-speaking theatre. This long run was much helped by their amusing contributions to a weekly discussion programme of the BBC "We Beg to Differ" which gave a great many listeners to radio the wish to see this husband-and-wife team on the stage.
Both partners continued to make good use of their opportunities in revivals of "Man and Superman" and "Pygmalion", but in her husband's production of "The Way of the World" at the Saville, in which she again challenged comparison with Dame Edith Evans in the part of Millamant, Kay Hammond's plaintive impudence, for once failed of its effect. Her next appearance however, in 1957, as the Queen of the Amazons to Clements's Heracles, in Ben Levy's "The Rape of the Belt" was the first of a series of successes for the two of them in comedies by contemporary authors.
Kay Hammond was seen from 1931 onwards in a number of British films, notably the version of "Blithe Spirit" (1945) with herself in her old part and Rex Harrison in the husband's. This was directed by David Lean.
Her husband, Sir John Clements who was knighted in 1968 had been an immensely successful director of the Chichester Festival, a post he gave up in 1973. He had nursed her devotedly in her years of illness.
Kay Hammond had two sons by her first marrriage.