Veteran British actress Sylvia Syms, best known for the films Ice Cold In Alex and Victim, has died at the age of 89, her family said.
The former EastEnders star ‘died peacefully’ early on Friday at Denville Hall, a care home in London for those in the entertainment industry.
She was best known for her role as Sister Diana in the 1958 film Ice Cold In Alex, which chronicled the Western Desert campaign during the Second World War.
Her most recent role was in 2019 in the BBC period drama Gentleman Jack as Mrs Rawson.
A statement from her children, Beatie and Ben Edney, said: ‘Our mother, Sylvia, died peacefully this morning. She has lived an amazing life and gave us joy and laughter right up to the end
Sylvia Syms, 89, (pictured) has died, her family has announced
Her family say she died peacefully. Sylvia is pictured in 1963
‘Just yesterday we were reminiscing together about all our adventures. She will be so very missed.
‘We would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Denville Hall for the truly excellent care they have taken of our Mum over the past year.’
She was born on January 6, 1934, in London. As war erupted in Europe, Sylvia became one of thousands of children evacuated from the capital, moving first to Kent and then, in 1940, to Monmouthshire.
Sylvia was best known for her role as Sister Diana in the 1958 film Ice Cold In Alex, which chronicled the Western Desert campaign during the Second World War
Sylvia (right) also featured alongside the likes of Sir Cliff Richard in Expresso Bongo and before later working with Dame Helen Mirren in hit film The Queen
Speaking of being evacuated, she said: ‘When I was sent away, parents couldn’t come on the station platform to say goodbye, they had to wave from afar. It was pretty awful.’
She later recalled the trauma of being split up from her family and separated from her mother, who died of a brain tumour when Sylvia was just 12.
‘Sending me away from home gave me the impression I was not loved, which was unfair but it’s the truth,’ she said. ‘It’s why I became a performer and never stopped working.’
Aged five, Sylvia shows off her Peace and Plenty dress decorated with fruit and veg for a fancy-dress contest in Eltham, south east London, where she grew up
As a youngster, Sylvia was was educated at convent schools before receiving dramatic training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
It was here her love for the performing arts flourished and in 1954, that dream became a reality when she made her stage debut in a production of ‘The Apple Cart’.
The talented star went on to feature in more films, including Ice-Cold in Alex, The Moonraker and Woman in a Dressing Gown.
And she was nominated for Bafta Awards for Woman in a Dressing Gown and No Trees in the Street.
Sylvia also featured alongside the likes of Sir Cliff Richard in Expresso Bongo and before later working with Dame Helen Mirren in hit film The Queen, where performed alongside the Oscar-winning actress as the Queen Mother.
Sylvia worked alongside some of the biggest stars in the world including Benedict Cumberbatch (right) when they appeared on ‘Miss Marple’ – Murder is Easy together in 2008
And in 2006 she starred alongside Oscar-winner Helen Mirren in The Queen, with Sylvia playing the Queen Mother
Sylvia had a huge career, spanning more than 60 years. She is pictured, left, in 2004 at the premier of When I’m Dead and again in 2006 at the premier of The Queen
She is pictured with Adam Ant in Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Manchester Royal Exchange.
Other huge stars Sylvia has performed alongside included Benedict Cumberbatch, who she featured with in the 2008 rendition of ‘Miss Marple’ and Cara Delevingne in short film Timeless.
And she also turned her hand to soap acting, appearing as Olive Woodhouse in EastEnders from 2007 to 2010.
Her more recent work included the BBC’s The Young Ones, a series following six celebrities in their 70s and 80s as they attempted to overcome the problems of ageing.
And between 2013 and 2019, Sylvia was the narrator of Talking Pictures on BBC2.
Rubbing shoulders with legends: the veteran actress appeared alongside Sir Cliff Richard (left to unveil a Blue Heritage Foundation Plaque, to the late Sir John Mills at his former home in Denham, Buckinghamshire in 2006
Sylvia Syms, centre, with actor daughter, Beatie Edney and son Ben Edney. The grieving siblings on Friday announced their mother’s death, saying she died ‘peacefully’, aged 89
Glamourous Sylvia is pictured in 1957 ahead of jetting off from London Airport to Berlin for the Film Festival there, in which her picture Woman in a Dressing Gown was shown as the official British entry
Tributes have already started to pour, with heartbroken fans saying they are devastated to hear of the beloved star’s death.
Stuart Antony, who starred in EastEnders, tweeted ‘Saddened to hear the wonderful Sylvia Syms has passed away aged 89. She was truly lovely every-time I met her. What a loss – RIP x.’
Fellow actor Scot Williams added: ‘Rest in peace Sylvia Syms. When I was a young actor someone introduced her to me at Bafta HQ. “Sylvia, this is Scot Williams” they said. “Oh I know exactly who he is”, said Sylvia. I felt so empowered by her. She made me feel like my work was appreciated. #Rip spirit. x’
One fan tweeted: ‘Dearest Sylvia Syms has gone to the great cinema in the sky, Sylvia we promise to keep your memory alive and are thinking of your family and friends at such a sad time, rest in peace dear lady.’
Another supporter added: ‘RIP #SylviaSyms a wonderfully brilliant actress, turning her hand to so many wonderful roles!’
Sylvia was later made an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007. The actress is pictured collecting her honour from the late Queen at a service in Buckingham Palace
Sylvia, in a lacy headdress, leaving after her wedding to her childhood sweetheart, Mr Alan Edney, at St Paul’s Church, Onslow Square, London in 1956
Sylvia married her childhood sweetheart Alan Edney at St Paul’s Church, Onslow Square, London, in 1956.
The couple stayed together until 1989 and had two children, daughter Beatie, 60, and son Benjamin.
Despite being a mother, Sylvia managed to maintain a stunning work ethic, continuing in the entertainment industry for 60 years.
Some fans felt she deserved more recognition for her achievements.
In 2007 she did receive an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II – but that was for her charity work rather than her acting.
‘I’m not dame material really,’ she said in an interview with the Guardian. ‘An Oscar’s very useful if you want to be a dame.’
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