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Joyce Carey; Acted in Noel Coward Films

March 21, 1993|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Joyce Carey, the aging yet coquettish tearoom manager in Noel Coward's treasured film "Brief Encounter," has died.

The Times of London said Thursday that Miss Carey, one of a select circle of Sir Noel's colleagues and friends who appeared in nearly all his films, had died Feb. 28 in London's King Edward VII Hospital. She was 94.

Classically trained, she made her debut as Katherine in an all-woman cast of "Henry V" in London in 1916.

After stage roles in plays as disparate as "Little Women" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor," she came to the United States and Broadway in the 1920s for a series of Shakespeare plays. She moved back and forth across the Atlantic through the 1930s, working in England and America.

She became a member of "the family," as the Coward coterie called themselves, and appeared in a succession of his plays over the next 20 years--"Easy Virtue," "Tonight at 8:30," "Present Laughter," "This Happy Breed," "Quadrille" and "Nude With Violin."

Her film work began with Coward's 1942 wartime epic, "In Which We Serve," in which she played the wide-eyed wife of a petty officer. It extended through "Blithe Spirit," "Dulcimer Street," "The Astonished Heart," "Cry the Beloved Country" and "The Eyes of Annie Jones," among others.

She also toured with various Coward plays and was seen with him in Los Angeles in 1959 in "Present Laughter" at the Huntington Hartford.

In 1942 she and Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway turned a one-act Coward play into one of film's melodramatic masterpieces. It dealt with a short-lived affair between a suburban housewife and a local doctor who meet at Miss Carey's train station tearoom for a series of assignations that they quickly abandon for the sake of all concerned.

Miss Carey continued acting on the London stage well into her 80s. Her last appearance, with Peter O'Toole, was as Mrs. Higgins in George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" in 1984.

At the age of 90, she played an old woman facing eviction from her home in a BBC television play, "No. 27." Asked where she found the stamina, she replied: "Two new (artificial) hips."

Miss Carey was unmarried. Funeral services were private.

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