May 17, 2004 by

Anna Lee

26 comments

Categories: Actors

alee.jpgAnna Lee, a British actress who was best known as the matriarch on the American soap opera “General Hospital,” died on May 14 of pneumonia. She was 91.
Born Joan Boniface Winnifrith, Lee was only 17 when she began studying acting at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. The petite, beautiful blonde soon joined the London Repertory Theatre and earned the nickname “the British bombshell” for her work in the plays “The Constant Nymph” and “Jane Eyre.”
After taking small parts in a dozen British films, Lee moved to Hollywood to become a star. Within a year, she appeared in the 1941 Academy Award-winning film, “How Green Was My Valley,” starring Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O’Hara. The breakout role launched a 25-year association with director John Ford. During World War II, Lee entertained the troops with the U.S.O., and spent several months visiting field hospitals throughout the Mediterranean area.
In 1950, the siren song of television called Lee to New York City, where she landed roles in numerous TV shows. She continued working in feature films as well, playing parts in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” “In Like Flint” and “The Sound of Music.”
Although she was nearing retirement age in 1978, Lee won the role of Lila Quartermaine in the ABC daytime drama, “General Hospital.” Even after she was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident, Lee continued to play the matriarch of the show from her wheelchair until 2003 when her contract was not renewed.
For her work on “General Hospital,” Lee earned three Soap Opera Awards, and will be honored with a posthumous lifetime achievement award during “The 2004 Daytime Emmy Awards.” To honor her seven-decade career in show business, she also received a Member of the Order of the British Empire award in 1982, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993.
Lee was married three times, first to director Robert Stevenson, then to Capt. George Stafford and finally to best-selling author Robert Nathan. She had four children: a daughter, Caroline; actress Venetia Stevenson; a son, Stephen; and soap star Jeffrey Byron.

26 Responses to Anna Lee

  1. fred titcomb

    People will probably remember Anna Lee as the quaint but stern Lila Quartermaine on the ABC soap opera “General Hospital”. I remember fondly her small but wonderful role in “The Sound of Music”. Afficionados of the movie channels Turner Movie Classics or American Movie Classics know Anna Lee from the legions of classic films she made from the 30’s to the 60’s. Lila, Anna, Joan… whatever we call you, we won’t soon forget you and the legacy you leave us in film.

  2. Stephen Parker from New Hampshire

    A wardrobe worker on a PBS film once told me “There are no small roles, every cast member carries a film.” Such can be said about Anna Lee in her role as “Mrs.Bates”, the starstruck, inquistive neighbor in the 1962 Bette Davis/Joan Crawford thriller “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?” I LOVED that picture, which I first saw when I was about ten years old, and it was my first exposure to actress Anna Lee whom I remembered ever after. In fact, Anna Lee had one of those recognizable faces that remained virtually the same well into her older years. And any fan of 1960’s spy film spoofs would easily spot Anna Lee as the engagingly stuffy villainess “Elisabeth” of the 1967 James Coburn campfest “In Like Flint”. With a silver screen and TV career which spanned 70+ years, Anna Lee leaves her viewers with a veritable one-woman library of film fare! Thank you, Anna Lee!!

  3. Trish Char

    What a wonderful actress! She will be missed. I can only hope that General Hospital provides her the memorial in which she deserves!

  4. Bertha Scott

    No I did not know her personally but I also
    have seen ( i think ) almost all of her
    movies and i dont think i have missed any of
    Lila^s episodes of GH . I do hope GH gives her
    her respect she so deserves.
    We will miss you Lila and hope to meet up
    with you one of these days.
    Your birthday i think is the same day as mine
    Jan. l.

  5. BOB TUNNELTON

    I LOVED LILA AS WELL BUT I WAS SHOCKED TO FIND OUT SHE WAS THE STAR STRUCK NEIGHBOR IN WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABYJANE, LILA WAS VISUALLY BEAUTIFUL, AND THE GENERAL HOSPITAL PRODUCERS HAD BETTER GIVE HER A MEMORIAL SERVICE EQUAL TO MY DEAR DR. HARDY, LILA QUARTERMAINE WAS A TRUE MATRIARCH AND HELD HER POSITION IN THE QUARTERMAINE FAMILY GRAND, I WILL MISS HER.

  6. Sandra

    I only watched GH the last 5 years but i have grown to love watching Anna Lee act. she has something special about her that i dont think any other actress could ever bring to the show. i also hope GH gives “Lila” the memorium she deserves.
    ~~Sammy

  7. DLHEC

    GENERAL HOSPITAL LOSES A TRUE LEGEND:
    When i heard of her passing, knowing she had been ill for awhile, i was devestated. I will miss her deeply.
    Class, Sophistacation, Grace, Beauty. Anna Lee had all that and so much more. I will miss the Grand Matriarch Of the Quartermaine’s. Words cannot express how deeply she will be missed. Not just by myself but all the fans who came to know her throughout her career.For me she brought a class act to General Hospital. No one comes close to such Class on any Daytime Drama as Lila Quartermaine You will be miss so much.
    My Heart goes out to her family.

  8. Alecia

    My sister and my self have only been watching GH for six or seven years and In that time we come to love Lila VERY much. Every time she would come on we would start yell her name and tell each other how much we love her. We love her so much we named are cat after her. We love telling people who we named her after and Why. Lila was one of those characters you can never forget even if you try! Lila and the beloved actress that played her are going to be missed dearly in this house and in many more!

  9. Brenda

    I only found out today on General Hospital that Lila(that’s how I will always remember her) died. I had to get online to find out for sure. This news saddens me so much and I can empathize with her family because my beloved father died on April 7th of 2004. Peace be with you and your family, Anna Lee. God Bless.

  10. Denise

    I just saw the end of the GH show today and hoped that “Lila” didn’t die because the actress did. I am so sad. What a career she had though!!! And what a strong personality–apparently even more so in real life. Way to live! Peace.

  11. Mrs. Anke Crowhurst

    The last 3 days on “General Hospital”, have been in memory of the actress Anna Lee,(Lila as I know her)and I’m very sorry to hear that she had died. One of my family members died a few days before she did and I couldn’t really cry at the funeral, but I sure did these last 3 days. It was as if my own Mother had passed away.
    I would like her family to know that I was one of her biggest fans!

  12. Lynda Duggin

    I quit watching soaps several years back, but Lila was so VERY special. It was a very sad thing to find out that she was gone, not just the Quatermaine, but the real lady that played the part. She will truly never be forgotten, and will be sincerely missed by all who ever watched her. We love you, Lila, and no one could ever explain how much you will be missed.

  13. Karen Tripp

    As Lila Quartermaine, as I’m sure she did in real life, she represented the essence of dignity and integrity. Her style was unsurpassed. God bless her family as they mourn a great loss.

  14. Kathleen

    This is, truly, a difficult loss for the entire world. One of my good friends, Tamara Braun, who plays Carly on GH, has told me many stories about this warm and kind-hearted woman. She never got much of a chance to work with her, but she would always tell the stories of her and little Dylan Cash riding around the set in her wheelchair, terrorizing the crew and making the actors laugh. As I watched these past few shows of GH, I think to myself..’Wow..Lila’s not going to be around anymore. Wow.’ I’m still saddened and shocked by this.
    Anna, you were a gentle and kind woman and may you be received into heaven on a golden chariot adorned with angels.

  15. dedebaby

    I have watched General Hospial all my life, I started out very young..my mother watched it as far back as I can remember. Joan Boniface Winnifrith, you will be missed. God Bless you!

  16. Carla

    I HAVE BEEN WACHING GENEERAL HOSPIAL FOR THE PAST
    TWENTY YEARS. REMEMBERING ALL THE ACTOR’S WHO HAVE CAME AND GONE I CAN SAY THAT MRS.ANNA LEE HAD TO BE THE BEST ACTOR ON THE SHOW AND I WILL MISS HER EACH AND EVERY DAY.
    MY PRAYER’S AND THOUGHT GOES OUT TO HER FAMILY AND FRIEND’S AT GENERAL HOSPIAL WHO THOUGHT OF HER AS A MOTHER.
    THANK YOU TO THE GUY WHO PULLED HER OUT OF THE HOUSE FIRE TO BE WITH US LONGER. I BELIEVE 10 YRS LONGER!
    CARLA

  17. Claudia

    Lila Quartermaine/Anna Lee lives on in our hearts and lifes!
    I still remember when I first started watching GH, I was about ten years old and Anna would be laughing, smiling, playing around as Lila. She is and always be missed, the Quartermaine’s and General Hospital isn’t and will never be the same without Anna there. I feel for her family and the cast, I cried the three days they did tribute to Anna Lee. She left a legacy that nobody can fill, and a role that was loved by many. Lila M. T. Quartermaine, and the actress that brought the best quality to this character, Anna Lee, is and always be missed and in the hearts of the lives she touch. Even if she knew them or not. I for one am glad she had the best memorial that anybody could give a great actress.
    I appluade the cast and crew, for the things they did for Anna Lee/Lila and the memories they will have of her forever, as we the fans will do forever.
    “Remember that a person can be gone from this world, but as long as they are remembered by one person they will always live on. Especially, in our hearts.”
    Thank you, Anna Lee, for the memories that will last a life time.

  18. Pamela Rodriguez

    Lila/Anna Lee we will mis you so very much.It has been some time since your passing but you will never be forgotten.You have purity in your acting that canno be surpassed and your gentle spirit still lingers on in the lives you have touched.That includes your viewing friends.Thank you for your sweet spirit and talent.Thank you for touching all our lives.

  19. Arthur

    I knew Anna from late 1984 until her passing–exactly twenty years. While there are so many wonderful things one could say about her, the finest I can contribute is this: she was EXACTLY in real life what she appeared to be on General Hospital and so many of her film roles: a beautiful, demure, happy, positive, charming and generous soul. Her dignity and poise were molded in warmth, and she was never anything but kindness itself. Whether I was with her at the TV studio, on Star Walk, or–as usual–at her charming English cottage just north of Sunset Boulevard, I bathed in her physical and soulful beauty.
    Sound exaggerated? You’d have to know her to believe it! But her fans DID know her–because you COULD know her, the minute you beheld her, on screen or off–she was just like that.
    Anna Lee, thank you so very much (you always said that to me for the little I would do for you:
    “Thank you…SO very much!”). Yes, thank you for the unforgettable, beautiful, unmatched experience of you.

  20. jonathan

    i never new anna lee but i think she was a very nice women i can’t beleave she passed away i am very sorry in the death of anna lee but so people have to go to that big place in the sky and if you she gets tired god will help her
    she will be miss in this world she was a good actor a very good a very good actor just think atlest she is not in any pain all i can say is god speed and go luck and anna lee i will miss you you were great and so good bye my friend
    well will miss you
    In memory of Anna Lee

  21. Jeff

    Having been a GH fan since 1980 when I started college, I would never miss an episode, I even scheduled my classes around it, so I can get back to the dorm’s to watch GH. I will fondly rememeber Lila (Anna Lee) always being the true matriach that she was. I used to love when she would scold the original Edward Q, the 2 of them together were the best.

  22. Nicole

    i didnt no anna lee in real life but watching her play the role of lila on genral hospital makes me believe she was a very kind person. That day of july in 2004 when i had found out that she had died i cried with all the characters on general hospital! Anna lee was a spectacular actress who will be missed very much! At least she is now in peace. I will always remeber you as lila quartermaine
    Love Nicole

  23. jackie

    What a pretty lady,I so enjoyed her work on general hospital and on film. she will always be Mrs . Q to me. we love and miss you so much. Jackie

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