`Scream queen' Hazel Court dies at 82

April 17, 2008 8:11:52 AM PDT
Hazel Court, an English actress who co-starred with the likes of Boris Karloff and Vincent Price in popular horror movies of the 1950s and '60s, has died. She was 82.

Court died early Tuesday of a heart attack at her home near Lake Tahoe, daughter Sally Walsh said Wednesday.

While she had a substantial acting career both in England and on American TV, Court was perhaps best known for her work in such films as 1963's "The Raven." She co-starred with Price, Karloff and Peter Lorre in director Roger Corman's take on the classic Edgar Allan Poe poem.

Corman directed her in five movies. Like other "scream queens" of the era, Court often relied on her cleavage and her ability to shriek in fear and die horrible deaths for her roles.

"The Premature Burial," "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Curse of Frankenstein" and "Devil Girl from Mars" helped propel her to cult status and brought her fan mail even in her later years.

"She'd probably get over 100 pieces of fan mail a month and she would apply to every single one," her daughter said.

Court had finished an autobiography, "Hazel Court - Horror Queen," which will be published in Britain, Walsh said.

The daughter of a professional cricket player, Court was born Feb. 10, 1926, in the English town of Sutton Coldfield. As a teenager, she was appearing in stage productions when she was spotted and signed by the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, which owned movie studios and theaters.

She got her first movie bit part by the time she was 18 and went on to become a popular actress and pinup girl, her daughter said.

"She was one of the great beauties of all time," Walsh said. "She was a redhead with really green eyes and almost ... the perfect face. She was on the cover of almost every magazine."

Court co-starred with Patrick O'Neal in the 1957 British TV comedy series "Dick and the Duchess." In the late 1950s, she came to the United States to work on the TV show "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

Besides acting, Court was a commissioned sculptor and painter whose works appeared in public galleries.

Court is survived by daughters Walsh and Courtney Taylor, son Jonathan Taylor and stepdaughters Anne Taylor Fleming and Avery Taylor.