Sarah Millicent Hermione Touchet-Jesson, Baroness Audley, born Sarah Churchill (7 October 1914 – 24 September 1982), was a British actress and dancer.
Sarah Churchill was born in London, the second daughter of Winston Churchill, later Prime Minister of the UK during the Second World War, and Clementine Churchill, later Baroness Spencer-Churchill; she was the third of the couple's five children and was named after Sir Winston's ancestor, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. She was educated at Notting Hill High School as a day girl and later at North Foreland Lodge as a boarder.
Churchill married three times:
- Vic Oliver, a popular comedian and musician (1936–1945) (divorced)
- Anthony Beauchamp (1949–1957) (widowed)
- Thomas Percy Henry Touchet-Jesson, 23rd Baron Audley (1962–1963) (widowed)
It has been both stated and confirmed by multiple sources, including Sarah Churchill's sister, Lady Soames, that Winston and Clementine Churchill neither liked nor approved of Sarah's first two husbands. Towards the end of her marriage to Vic Oliver, she began an affair with the American ambassador to Britain, John Winant; it is believed the failure of the relationship contributed to the depression that led to his suicide in 1947. Only Sarah's third marriage to Lord Audley (the love of her life, it was said) was greeted with warm approval by both parents.
In numerous books about the Churchill family, it is said that Clementine (despite her disapproval) managed to be polite to both Vic Oliver and Anthony Beauchamp after Sarah had married them, but Winston Churchill remained rather cold and hostile toward both, considering them to be self-centred, superficial types who ultimately did not make his beloved Sarah either happy or fulfilled. Sarah's marriage to Beauchamp in America in 1949 came as a shock to her parents since they had neither been introduced to Beauchamp nor informed of the forthcoming marriage. Despite her stubborn rebellion against the expectations of both parents, Sarah reportedly felt guilty about this for the rest of her life, since she had craved her father's approval in most matters.
In 1964 Sarah became romantically involved with African-American émigré jazz singer and painter Lobo Nocho, and there were reports that the two might marry. Her father was also believed to have disapproved of this relationship.
World War II service
During World War II, Churchill joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). In her account of the work of photo reconnaissance Evidence in Camera Constance Babington Smith records that she was with them and worked closely on the interpretation of photographs for the 1942 invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch. Known by the name Sarah Oliver, Babington Smith says she was "a quick and versatile interpreter." Aspects of Churchill's wartime service are also described in detail in Women of Intelligence: Winning the Second World War with Air Photos.
American author Christopher Ogden's biography of Pamela Harriman and other sources indicate that during the war she had an affair with (married) US Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, and that it ended badly. Winant committed suicide in 1947.
Churchill is best known for her role in the film Royal Wedding (1951) as Anne Ashmond, romantic interest of Fred Astaire as Tom Bowen. In the same year, she had her own television show. She also appeared in He Found a Star (1941), All Over the Town (1949), Fabian of the Yard (1954) and Serious Charge (1959).
She appeared on both the Jack Benny radio and television programmes. On television, she appeared on the episode "How Jack Met Rochester."
In 1961, she appeared as Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It at the Pembroke-in-the-round Theatre in West Croydon. Her parents were noted as paying a surprise visit to watch her performance which was almost entirely attended by Croydon schoolchildren, and her father (who sat in the front row of an in-the-round performance and so was highly visible throughout) fell asleep.
Churchill appeared in a London revival of Shaw’s Pygmalion in the 1950s, but drinking had become a problem. She was arrested for making a scene in the street on a number of occasions and even spent a short spell on remand in Holloway Prison. She wrote frankly about this in her 1981 autobiography Keep on Dancing.
Death and interment
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