Anna Lee was an English actress best known for playing Lila Quartermaine in ‘General Hospital,’ the longest-running American soap opera ever.
She was the daughter of a local rector and god-daughter of actress Sybil Thorndike; her stage name was a combination of Anna Karenina and Robert E. Lee. She began performing in English films as an extra, then worked her way up to starring roles, after training at London’s Royal Albert Hall. She travelled to Hollywood to become a celebrity after acting in a dozen British films and got affiliated with John Ford, appearing in numerous of his pictures. She traveled and entertained allied troops with the USO during World War II, in addition to acting in films. She later participated in various television anthology programs and, after a few years, returned to the big screen. She was a regular on the soap opera ‘General Hospital’ in the 1980s and 1990s. She was paralyzed from the waist down in a vehicle accident a year after joining the program, playing Lila Quartermaine, and continued to perform the character in a wheelchair until 2003. For her contributions to the film and television industries, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
Childhood and Adolescence
Joan Boniface Winnifrith was born in Ightham, Kent, England, on January 2, 1913. She was one of three children born to a St. Peters Church Anglican pastor. She joined at the famed Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art at the Royal Albert Hall in London at the age of 17 to study dramatics.
Soon after, she joined the London Repertory Theatre, earning the moniker “The British Bombshell” for her performances in the dramas “The Constant Nymph” and “Jane Eyre.” She was signed by Gaumont British in the early 1930s and starred in over a dozen films over the following several years, including “The Camels Are Coming,” “Passing of the Third Floor Back,” “The Man Who Changed His Mind,” and “King Solomon’s Mines” (1937).
She performed in films such as ‘Seven Sinners’ (1940), ‘How Green Was My Valley’ (1941), ‘Flying Tigers’ (1942), and ‘Hangmen Also Die’ during World War II (1943). She also volunteered for foreign service with the USO, where she entertained Allied troops. She also spent many months traveling across the Mediterranean, visiting field hospitals.
She appeared in films such as ‘Bedlam’ (1946), ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ (1947), and ‘Fort Apache’ following the war (1948).
‘Robert Montgomery Presents,’ ‘The Ford Theatre Hour,’ ‘Kraft Television Theatre,’ and ‘Wagon Train’ were among the television anthology shows she appeared on often during the 1940s and 1950s. She also appeared in episodes of ‘Maverick,’ ‘Dr. Kildare,’ ‘The F.B.I.,’ ‘Mr. Novak,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘Mannix,’ ‘Family Affair,’ and ‘Glitter,’ among others.
She later returned to the big screen in films like ‘Gideon of Scotland Yard’ (1958), ‘The Last Hurrah’ (1958), ‘Horse Soldiers’ (1959), ‘This Earth is Mine’ (1959), ‘The Crimson Kimono’ (1959), ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ (1962), ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965), ‘7 Women’ (1966), and ‘In Like Flint’ (1967). (1967). Despite her advanced age, she earned the part of ‘Lila Quartermaine’ in the ABC daytime serial ‘General Hospital’ in 1978. She was on the show until 2003, when her health began to fail and she had to leave.
Major Projects of Anna Lee
She is best known for her role as ‘Lila Quartermaine’ on the television soap opera ‘General Hospital.’ She began the program in 1978 and continued to portray the matriarch of the show from her wheelchair until 2003, despite being paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident.
Achievements and Awards
She was made a ‘Member of the Order of the British Empire’ in 1982 for her outstanding contributions to theater. For her performance as the matriarch ‘Lila Quartermaine’ on ‘General Hospital,’ she won the ‘Soapy Award for Favorite Woman in a Mature Role’ in 1983.
She was honored with a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ in January 1993 for her contributions to the film and television business. For her appearance in ‘General Hospital,’ she got the ‘Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role’ in 1998. She received a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 2004.
Personal History and Legacy
Robert Stevenson, a film director, married her in 1934. Venetia and Caroline, their two daughters, were born to them. The couple split in March 1944, and both daughters remained with their father. During WWII, she met a pilot named George Stafford. They married on June 8, 1944, and have three sons: John, Stephen, and Tim Stafford. In 1964, they divorced as well.
She married author Robert Nathan on April 5, 1970. It was her third and final marriage, and they were married until Robert’s death in 1985. She died on May 14, 2004, at the age of 91, in Beverly Hills, California, following a brief illness. She was laid to rest at Los Angeles’ Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
Estimated Net Worth
Anna is one of the wealthiest and most popular television actresses. Anna Lee’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.