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A Brief Profile of Googie Withers

Early Life

The actress Georgette Lizette Withers, professionally known as Googie Withers, was born on 12 March 1917 in Karachi, India (now Pakistan). Her father, Edgar Withers, was a captain in the Royal Navy. Her mother, Lizette Wilhelmina Katarina Withers, was of Dutch-German descent. The nickname “Googie” was given to her as a child by her native nanny, which translated from Hindi as “little dove”.

The family moved from India to Birmingham, England during the mid-1920s. Her father Edgar took a job running a foundry. At 12, Googie attended the Fredville Park boarding school in Dover, where she took up dancing lessons. Later, she became a pupil at a convent school in Kensington. There, she simultaneously attended the Italia Conti School of Performing Arts.

Film Career

In 1935, Withers was working as a chorus girl in the West End. She was spotted by a talent scout and offered a role as an extra in The Girl in the Crowd (1935). On her first day on the film set one of the leading ladies was sacked. Withers was asked by the director Michael Powell to fill the role. She was immediately offered a 7-year contract with Warner Brothers. In only her sixth film appearance, she was cast as the female lead in All at Sea (1935).

Prolific through the rest of the ‘30s, Withers had appeared in 26 films by the end of the decade. It included starring comedy roles in the likes of Convict 99 (1938) with Will Hay, Trouble Brewing (1939) with George Formby, and She Couldn’t Say No (1939) with Tommy Trinder. It also included a supporting role in the Hitchcock thriller The Lady Vanishes (1938), starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave.


From the beginning of the 1940s Withers’ career began to diverge from her customary comedy roles. She played a Dutch resistance fighter in the WW2 drama One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942), one of her best-remembered films. She next starred with Ralph Richardson in The Silver Fleet (1943), another Dutch-themed wartime drama. Starring roles followed in the fantasy film They Came to a City (1945), the horror movie Dead of Night (1945), and the crime drama Pink String and Ceiling Wax (1945).

The 1942 movie is one of Withers’ best-remembered films. Image credit: (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Withers next appeared and starred in the historic drama The Loves of Joanna Godden (1947) and the kitchen sink drama It Always Rains on Sunday (1947). The latter was one of the biggest British box office hits of the year. Withers then went on to star in the hugely popular comedy Miranda (1948). The following year she was the female lead in the much less audience approved Once Upon a Dream (1949) and Traveller’s Joy (1949).

Later Career

By the 1950s, Withers’ career began to take a back seat to her personal life. She made only eight films during the whole decade. Withers starred in the last three of those Derby Day (1952), Devil on Horseback (1954), and Port of Escape (1956), opposite her Australian husband actor John McCallum. After 1956, Withers concentrated on her stage career. She moved to Australia in 1959, after her husband was offered a prestigious job in the theatre.

In 1971, Withers made a return to the big screen when she starred in the Australian comedy Nickel Queen (1971), directed by her husband John McCallum. She next played the female lead in The Cherry Tree (1974), an Australian TV movie adaptation of Chekov’s play. After that, Withers concentrated her career on Australian television. Her penultimate film appearance came in the Australian drama Country Life (1994). Withers’ final big-screen role was that of author Katharine Susannah Prichard in the Australian movie Shine (1996).

In 2002, Withers, aged 85, appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan on the London stage. She made her very final screen appearance in October 2007, aged 90, appearing with her husband on ABC TV’s “Talking Heads”. In all, Withers appeared in some 55 films as well as having an extensive TV and stage career.

Personal Life

Withers met her future husband, the Australian actor, John McCallum, on the set of The Loves of Joanna Godden in 1947. They married at St Georges in Westminster, London the following year. They had three children; Joanna, Nicholas, and Amanda. The family moved to Australia on a full-time basis in 1959. The couple remained wed until McCallum’s death in February 2010.

In 1979, John Mc Callum published a biography “My Life With Googie”. The following year, in 1980, Withers was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to drama. In the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours List (UK), she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).


Googie Withers died, aged 94, on 15 July 2011 at her home in Sydney, Australia. She outlived her husband John McCallum by 17 months but was survived by her three children. Her ashes were scattered at sea.

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