Helena Pickard (1900-1959) - An actress from Sheffield

(Taken from The Godfrey Phillips' Stars of British Films series of cigarette cards - Australia 1934)

Born Sheffield, Yorkshire on 13th October 1900. Her height is 5 ft. 3 1/2 in., colouring blonde. Husband, Cedric Hardwicke. Has appeared with the Birmingham Repertory Company. First film was "Lord Richard in the Pantry." Recreations: riding, swimming and reading. 

NB. the information on the card is not entirely correct. Helena appeared in a 1924 British silent comedy " The Clicking Of Cuthbert " (Andrew P. Wilson - Stoll Film Company) which was based on a short story by P.G. Wodehouse.

The following table lists the films that Helena appeared in - reviews of the films can be found in the usual Film Guides and websites. To date I have been unable to locate any further information on Helena's acting career but the initial impression I received was that her career was certainly compromised by her marriage in 1928 to the actor CEDRIC HARDWICKE and the birth of their son EDWARD in 1932. There is a photograph of the  family in the National Portrait Gallery which is catalogued as NPG x31168 - Helena Hardwicke (née Pickard); Edward Hardwicke; Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke by Bassano - Date: 13 October 1933.  The following year her husband received a knighthood from King George V for his distinguished services to the stage and screen, an accolade for an actor that was quite rare at the time. However he seems to have spent increasing amounts of time in the USA and in 1948 went to live there on a permanent basis. In The Times dated Friday 12th May 1950 (Page3 Issue 51689) there is a small report that is headlined "Decree Nisi against Sir Cedric Hardwicke". The article goes on to state that " In the Divorce Court yesterday, JUDGE ALUN PUGH granted Lady (Helena Mary) Hardwicke of Avenue Road, St John's Wood, NW., a decree nisi of divorce on the ground of adultery of her husband Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke.  The parties were married in 1927. The suit was undefended. "

 In their twenty three year marriage Helena appeared in just 11 films whereas her husband's output over the same period totalled 50. Helena appeared in four further films after the divorce, the last being Double Cross in 1956.  

Year Name of Film Character Played
     
1924 The Clicking of Cuthbert Adeline
1930 Lord Richard in the Pantry (uncredited)
1931 Splinters in the Navy Lottie
1934 Nell Gwyn Mrs Pepys
1934 Music Hall  
1936 Limelight Pixie
1938 When We Are Married (TV) Annie Parker
1940 Let George Do It Oscar's wife
1940 Saloon Bar Mrs Small
1943 Forever and a Day Maid
1944 The Lodger Annie Rowley
1947 The Turners of Prospect Road Lil Turner
1950 Miss Pilgrim's Progress Mrs Jenkins
1951 The Lady with a Lamp Queen Victoria
1954 The Love Lottery (uncredited)
1956 Double Cross  
     

List of Films Helena appeared in (1924 - 1956)

Five years after the divorce Helena was in the news again. The Times dated Wednesday 28th September 1955 (page5 Issue 53337) reported a "£3,000 Jewel Theft at Actress's Flat.". It reported that "Jewellery valued at about £3,000 was stolen on Monday night (26th September 1955) from the flat in Aldwych,WC, of Lady Hardwicke -  Helena Pickard the actress, the former wife of Sir Cedric Hardwicke. "Everything of value has gone" she said yesterday. It is believed that entrance to the flat was gained from a fire escape on the roof."

Helena did remarry but unfortunately I only know this on account of her Obituary that appears in The Times dated Monday September 28 1959 (page10 Issue 54577). MRS H. ROTHBARTH (actress Helena Pickard) the former wife of Sir Cedric Hardwicke died yesterday (September 27 1959) at her home Checkendon Court near Reading. She was 59. The following day The Times ((page17 Issue 54578) gave a fuller obituary of Helena that is produced below

There is a rather tragic end to Helena's life. The Guardian dated 28th September 1959

For quite a while I could not find any information about either the post-mortem or the inquest, but I did find details of the Last Will and Testament of Helena's second husband Herbert ROTHBARTH. The Guardian dated 9th February 1960 carried this report

And so just after three months after his wife's death, Herbert died in a car accident. But what startled me was that her death was due to "barbituric poisoning"

In April 2012 I had another attempt to ascertain the details of both these deaths. The Times newspaper did thankfully carry a report of the Inquest. In its edition dated 8th October 1959 there is this account of Helena's death

On the evidence that was presented to the Coroner, the verdict was a formality. Similarly it was the case with Helena's husband three months later. The Times states in it's edition dated 7th January 1960 that he died when he crashed into the back of a stationary brewer's lorry. The same paper reported on 13th January that the Coroner had returned a verdict of accidental death

 

The son of the first marriage who is mentioned in the above notices and reports is EDWARD HARDWICKE. As indicated in the notice he  followed in his parents footsteps and became a noted British actor in both the theatre and television. He is probably best remembered for his TV role as Dr Watson alongside Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes (1985 - 1994). Edward now lives on a farm in Normandy, France (latest information). There are two daughters from the marriage, KATE and EMMA, and a stepdaughter CLAIRE who is an actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  

Notes

1901 Census Record
Name Helena Mary Pickard
Relation to Head of Family Daughter
Age Last Birthday 1
Sex Female
Profession or Occupation Juvenile
Condition as to Marriage Single
Where Born Darnall Yorkshire
Address 27 Industry Rd
Civil Parish Darnall Rural District  Town or Village or Hamlet
Ecclesiastical Parish Holy Trinity Parliamentary Borough or Division Attercliffe County Borough, Municipal Borough or Urban District Sheffield
Administrative County Sheffield Ward of Municipal Borough or Urban District Attercliffe Cum Darnall

Sources

The Guardian

The Times

The Godfrey Phillips' Stars of British Films series of cigarette cards
 

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This page was last updated on 04/04/12 10:33