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Judi Dench’s Co-star Was in Love with Her — His Passing Hastened Her Marriage to Another Man

Joe Akins
Nov 24, 2021
03:20 A.M.
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British Actress, Dame Judi Dench, experienced a personal tragedy during the early days of her career when a co-star who was charmed by her died unexpectedly.

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Dame Judi Dench is one of the most decorated English stars of the last century. She is an Academy Award-winning actress who won an Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth in "Shakespeare in Love."

The actress is widely loved for her role as M, James Bond's boss in "GoldenEye." Dench later reprised her character for another six Bond films, ending with "Skyfall" in 2012.

Dame Judi Dench appearing on the Graham Norton Show filmed at the London Studios, London [left]. Judi Dench and Michael Williams in the television sitcom "A Fine Romance" in 1983 in London, England [right] | Photo: Getty Images  | Photo: Getty Images

Dame Judi Dench appearing on the Graham Norton Show filmed at the London Studios, London [left]. Judi Dench and Michael Williams in the television sitcom "A Fine Romance" in 1983 in London, England [right] | Photo: Getty Images | Photo: Getty Images

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Dench was thrown into mourning after her friend and co-star Charlie Thomas committed suicide. He passed while they were touring Australia with William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" in 1969.

The incident was heartbreaking for the young actress who had nothing but love, respect, and admiration for the young actor who unfortunately wanted more from Dench.

Dame Judi Dench attends the Royal World Premiere of 'Skyfall' at the Royal Albert Hall on October 23, 2012 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

Dame Judi Dench attends the Royal World Premiere of 'Skyfall' at the Royal Albert Hall on October 23, 2012 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

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MEET THE DAME

Judith Olivia Dench was born on December 9, 1934, in North Yorkshire, England, to Reginald and Eleanora. Dench had a lot of exposure to the world of acting from a young age. Her father was the resident doctor at York's Theatre Royal, and she frequently accompanied him on his visits there.

Dench has always had a penchant for acting, even as a child. Her favorite pastime was dressing up and singing while her mother played the piano. She was bound to fall in love with the craft seeing her family's proximity to the stage.

Dench began her education at an all-girls Quaker school, then moved on to the York School of Art for a brief stint before enrolling at London's Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art.

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Dame Judi Dench attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

Dame Judi Dench attends the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 press day at Chelsea Flower Show on May 20, 2019 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

She subsequently blamed her decision to pursue acting on her brother, Jeffrey, who was an ambitious actor. As she grew, Dench's natural talent and skill were difficult to overlook.

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She made her stage debut at the Royal Court in 1957 with the Old Vic Production Company, playing Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. For another four years, Dench worked at the Old Vic.

She later upgraded and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961. This move bolstered a 30-year association with the company that saw her play every central female character in a Shakespeare play.

Dame Judi Dench speaks during a memorial service for Sir Peter Hall OBE at Westminster Abbey on September 11, 2018 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

Dame Judi Dench speaks during a memorial service for Sir Peter Hall OBE at Westminster Abbey on September 11, 2018 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

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CAREER SUCCESS

Unlike some of her colleagues, Dench was not content with Shakespeare or theater roles. She demanded more from her career and believed she had the talents to make it big in the movie industry.

Choosing to appear in bigger roles, she made her television debut in the "Hilda Lessways" series in 1959 and caught the eyes of movie directors. She pushed herself even further by taking on humorous roles, including Oscar Wilde's theater performances.

The 1960s were golden years for Dench's career as it featured several top roles and recognitions. Dench won her first British Academy of Film and Television Award for her performance as a young wife in "Four in the Morning."

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Judy Dench as Queen Elizabeth I in the 1998 film "Shakespeare in Love" for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role | Photo: Getty Images

Judy Dench as Queen Elizabeth I in the 1998 film "Shakespeare in Love" for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role | Photo: Getty Images

Following that, she gave strong performances in several other British films. Since she only acted in several theatre plays, Dench was only popular in her native country, England. She would have to make the big move to gain wider prominence.

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Although some of her stage works had brought her to America, it was a different story getting a foothold with American audiences. Everything changed after becoming the star of the TV romantic comedy series "As Time Goes By."

After playing M, James Bond's employer in "GoldenEye," Dench became an international celebrity. From then on, she joined the elite class of actresses to gain global stardom.

Dame Judi Dench at the 21st British Independent Film Awards on December 2, 2018 | Photo: Getty Images

Dame Judi Dench at the 21st British Independent Film Awards on December 2, 2018 | Photo: Getty Images

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CAREER AND AWARDS

Dench has been recognized with a series of awards to showcase her talent and skill throughout her career. She was the first actress to win two Laurence Olivier Awards in 1996, for Best Actress and Best Actress in a Musical.

Dench also won a Tony Award for her leading role in "Amy's View" in 1999, the same year she won her Oscar. Dench also takes an unconventional approach to her work.

She is well-known for not reading parts before accepting them; instead, she relies on the words of her friends and coworkers to guide her decision. She frequently arrives during rehearsals for her stage job without having read the full piece, which makes her exceptional to her colleagues.

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Dame Judi Dench at Burlington Arcade on November 12, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

Dame Judi Dench at Burlington Arcade on November 12, 2019 | Photo: Getty Images

LOVE GONE WRONG

The early days of Dench's career were met with controversy involving a co-star who had grown infatuated with her. When words emerged that Charlie Thomas had committed suicide, guesses pointed that his feelings for Dench might have led him to the drastic action.

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Jeffery, Dench's brother, confessed that the young actor was madly in love with Dench, and although the actress was fond of him, she did not share his feelings for her. Both stars had featured in "Twelfth Night," and Dench believed Thomas was talented.

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Dench portrayed Viola in the play, while Thomas portrayed her lover, Orsino. Although she admired Thomas as an actor, she did not get involved with the actor who had drinking problems and was already married with kids.

The event spurred Dench's 1971 marriage to Actor Michael Williams who rushed to her side, offering comfort in her pain and shock. Dench and Williams spent thirty years together before his death from cancer in 2001.

Judi Dench and Michael Williams in the television sitcom "A Fine Romance" in 1983 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

Judi Dench and Michael Williams in the television sitcom "A Fine Romance" in 1983 in London, England | Photo: Getty Images

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FAMILY LIFE

Williams and Dench seemed to have enjoyed a perfect life. Even after his death, the actress revealed how difficult it had been to get over him even though she found love later on.

A year after she tied the knot with Williams, Dench welcomed her only child, Tara Cressida Williams, better known by her stage name Finty Williams, born on September 24, 1972.

Judi Dench and her daughter, actress Finty Williams, at the event celebrating the 200th Burlington Christmas in 2019 in London, England | Photo]: Getty Images

Judi Dench and her daughter, actress Finty Williams, at the event celebrating the 200th Burlington Christmas in 2019 in London, England | Photo]: Getty Images

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Finty has had a successful acting career on screen and in the theater. She is mostly considered her mother's mini-me, both in terms of their facial resemblance and career feats.

Finty is most known for her extensive voice work, acting in the hit children's show "Angelina Ballerina "and reading audiobooks for Sophie Kinsella and Terry Mancour.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

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