Contact me at Encyclopedia Sabrina
19 May 1936 - 24 November 2016
Many thanks to Countess Anastasia of West Siberia for this image
|If you would like to contribute a tribute to Sabrina, please send it here.|
A Tribute to Sabrina from Mark, the Sabrinamaster - 4 September 2017
It was one hell of a life, Sabby, and you did it in style.
She was the last of the bombshells, outlasting her idol Marilyn Monroe, competitors Diana Dors, and Jayne Mansfield. Sabby might be a little miffed that her arch-rival June Wilkinson - four years her junior - survives her.
In these days of plastic surgery, weapons-grade star-making, and instant global communications it is hard to appreciate exactly how an ill-educated polio victim could manage to become a household name and an icon in much of the western world. After a couple of lucky breaks, her rise to global celebrity was largely her own doing since she usually acted as her own agent and manager. She was a master of publicity and promotion who should be used as a template by star-makers and publicists today. She was one of the pioneers of modern stardom.
She was not well-educated because much of her young life was spent in hospital, suffering from polio, rheumatic fever, and osteomyelitis - all at the same time. As she told me in one of our interviews, "Of course I always did everything in a big way."
But while her legs were weak, and she had no show-business training, she knew how to make the most of her strengths.
Blessed with a body that would still make most modern women weep with envy, Sabrina knew instinctively how to become a star instead of just enjoying a short-lived career as a model and pin-up girl.
Guided by her mentor Arthur Askey, she probably learned lesson number 1 very soon - Work with what you've got. So for some years she was a silent eyeful of seduction on Askey's TV show 'Before Your Very Eyes'. She only had to turn sideways to the camera and 90% of the male population of Britain would be choking on their baked beans on toast. (The other 10% were gay.)
But she was never satisfied to rely solely on her 'gimmick' - a word that constantly appears in contemporary articles on her career.
She knew she was not a natural actor or singer, so she paid her dues in lessons on acting, singing , deportment, and speech. It was ironic (and infuriating to her) that after all her work to shed her Liverpudlian accent her voice was over-dubbed in her first movie 'Stock Car' because it wasn't common enough!
She had scars on her legs from the braces attached to her as a young polio victim, but artfully disguised them with unfashionably-long dresses that served to accentuate her unique hourglass figure. She could smell a camera half a mile away and was always prepared with just the right pose to show off her charms. In the past 17 years I have found about 2,500 photos of her. The camera loved her, and she loved the camera - and she fed it generously. It did not hurt that many of these pictures showed her either leaning forward in a low-cut dress, or appearing at the most glamorous events with the most dashing men - and Cuban dictators!
She could also turn problems into opportunities. As an innocent and hungry girl in London, she posed nude at the age of 16, which she regretted, but she also turned the embarrassing event into a goldmine of publicity by dramatically destroying the playing card images whenever she found them in shops. When the novel Cinderella Nightingale said that the lead character was abused by her father, Sabrina sued the author and the publisher and managed to have the offending text redacted and the book re-published. Her grand appearance at the 1956 Royal Variety Performance was cancelled because of the Suez Canal crisis, but global coverage of her heartbreak (and photos of her with star Liberace) may have eased her distress. And many other unplanned (or planned? Who knows?) events such as the gatecrashing of the royal enclosure at the 1957 Ascot races, causing a riot in Sheffield, having her dress ripped off in publicat Birkenhead, being named as the co-respondent in Paul Carpenter's divorce, proving her claim to have a 19 inch waist, and masterfully insuring her breasts against 'shrinkage' proved that she was no dumb blonde, as the press liked to believe. She had them all wrapped around her little finger.
Her career bloomed in the mid-to-late 1950s, but when the fashion moved away from big bosoms, Sabrina moved into stage plays. But in 1967 Sabrina found herself with a German husband (she told me "I couldn't believe I ended up marrying a German.") who did not want her working. The year of her marriage was also the year of her last movie, The Phantom Gunslinger (one of the weirdest movies ever made, apart from The House of Black Death). Her last ever known public appearance was on British TV in 1974 for Arthur Askey's This Is Your Life.
In her later years, she lived quietly near West Toluca Lake in Hollywood with only rare publicity, notably from the sleazy British 'Mail On Sunday' in 2003 which claimed she was 'a tragic down and out... living alone in squalor.' The event was fortuitous for this site, since it prompted Sabby to get in touch with me for the first time to set the record straight. And, of course, she threatened to sue the Mail on Sunday and extracted an apology from them.
You don't mess with our Sabrina, yet people who met Sabrina often seemed surprised about how sweet and kind and natural she was.
Sabrina's passing in November 2016 was not a surprise: she had been suffering ill-health for some time, including troubles caused by blood poisoning and botched back surgery (for which she successfully sued her surgeon, of course).
Sabrina had an amazing life that has inspired many women over the years, including young Countess Anastasia of Siberia. She dated princes, and stars. She invented and re-invented herself. She largely invented 1950s celebrity. She is memorable, and I hope her memory will live on. This site will continue its impossible mission of gathering every Sabrinafact and Sabrinaphoto.
I started this site in 2000 because I heard the name 'Sabrina' recurring in 'The Goon Show'. I did not know her - nobody did. I wondered how someone so famous across the world in 1956 could be completely forgotten less than 50 years later. That led me to see just how much I could discover about this 'Sabrina' using just the internet. And this site is the result
I am glad that this site has reminded so many people about the life and career of such a remarkable woman.
From Countess Anastasia Arden of West Siberia. Sabrina fan #1. Aged 26 in 2017.
Sabrina to be celebrated in Stockport on Sunday 10th September 
Stockport will be celebrating the life of its own Hollywood Starlet / Screen Icon / Blonde Bombshell Sabrina on September 10th.
Events to celebrate her life have been scheduled for September 10th at both The Vintage Village at Stockport Market and The Plaza Super Cinema and Variety Theatre.
SABRINA real name Norma Ann Sykes who grew up in Stockport passed away peacefully at hospital in Los Angeles on Nov 24th 2016. She was 80 years old.
The events have been organised by Ted Doan of The Plaza Cinema, Alan Lowe of The Vintage Village and Sabrina's close friend Stephen Page.
Events will include
At The Plaza: Screenings of Pathé Newsreels featuring Sabrina which played to thousands of fans at the height of her popularity in British Cinemas across the Nation alongside a special presentation about the life and career of Sabrina during the Heritage Open Day which will this year be hosted in honour of her memory as a Patron of The Plaza and Stockport's own glamorous star.
Comment from Stevie Page:
Over the many years I knew Sabrina she often shared her fond memories of Stockport. Especially of visits with her mother Annie to Bramhall Hall and Bluebell Valley. She was a most remarkable brave lady and special friend who suffered many years of illness with great dignity.
She was previously honoured as both a patron of the Plaza Super Cinema & Variety Theatre and by The Vintage Village who paid tribute to her with a special 'Sabrina Day' back in 2012.
Comment from Ted Doan:
Having been a fan of Sabrina's since I was a child it came as a wonderful surprise to discover she was a proud Stopfordian and an absolute personal highlight was talking to our icon of femininity when she called The Plaza to kindly agree to be a patron. Her support of The Plaza, saved by our community just over 17 short years ago and her care for the youth theatres that use the venue displayed a passion for the town where she was born and the people who saved, restored and now use Stockport's 1932 Super Cinema and Variety Theatre, a glamourous venue supported by one of the nation's most glamorous stars.
Comment Alan Lowe: We feel this remarkable lady who was a 'Stockport girl' should be remembered in a fashion she would have approved of, and where better to do this but in Stockport itself, at an event which will be true to the fashions of her time. We are proud to be involved with this 'Life Celebration' of our own Hollywood Starlet, Sabrina.
An official Life Celebration has been set for May 2018 At The Plaza Super Cinema with a day of screenings and events with a celebration concert. More news to follow.
|27 October 2017 - The Telegraph published its obit for Sabrina (behind a paywall) but a copy may appear here at some time.|
Page Created: 4 September 2017
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This page was last modified: Sunday, October 29, 2017 1:18 PM