Charmion King, Canadian Stage Actress, Dies at 81

Obituaries   Charmion King, Canadian Stage Actress, Dies at 81
Charmion King, an actress who began her stage career in the 1940s and was a leading force in the Canadian theatre, died Jan. 6 at the age of 81.

Ms. King was often referred to as "The Grand Dame of the Canadian Theatre." Her career began at The Crest Theatre and she was a founder of Muskoka's Straw Hat Players. She was a regular at the Stratford Festival. In 1959, she played Hermione in A Winter's Tale. Other Stratford credits include Henry IV (Part I), All's Well That Ends Well and A Midsummer Night's Dream. She had a single Broadway credit, Robertson Davies' Love and Libel in 1960.

Both her husband, Gordon Pinsent, who she married in 1962, and her daughter, Leah Pinsent, are in the profession. In 1998, she starred opposite Leah in Emphysema (A Love Story) at the Tarragon Theatre.

On television, she was perhaps best known for playing Aunt Josephine in two "Anne of Green Gables" movies in the 1980s. Ms. King also played matriarch Rose Kennedy in "Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot." Other credits include the TV series "Room 222," the 1980s version of "Twilight Zone," "McMillan & Wife" and "The Hitchhiker." She worked with her husband in the movies "Who Has Seen the Wind" and "Don't Forget to Wipe the Blood Off."

Charmion King was born in a ritzy neighborhood of Toronto on July 25, 1925. She was an only child and said she wanted to act as early as the age of five. She was sent to a private girl's school, where she was often cast in the male roles. (Ms. King was known for her low, powerful voice.) From there she went to the University of Toronto. Soon she was cast in productions at the University-based Hart House Theatre, playing the title role in Saint Joan in 1947. Critics were impressed. "Her performance of Joan," the Globe and Mail wrote, "is a luminous portrayal, instinct with an inner fire of truth and spiritual beauty, and exquisite in its shadings of emotion and execution."

She appeared in all of Chekhov's major plays—Uncle Vanya, The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters—and called the writer her favorite playwright. She retired from the stage for a decade following the birth of her daughter in 1968.

"Being an actor is something like being at university," she said. "It opens your mind and your soul and makes you tap into yourself."

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