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Claire Bloom at 90: a phenomenal actor with poise, spirit and steel

The star’s long career, from her stage debut at 15 to her film, TV and literary success, reveals a shrewd talent who has risen to many a challenge

Acting must be the best rejuvenation pill on the market. If you want proof, you have only to look at the extraordinary, long-lasting career of Claire Bloom, who, somewhat incredibly, turns 90 on 15 February. She made her stage debut at the age of 15, became globally famous at 20 playing opposite Charlie Chaplin in Limelight and, in recent years, has been seen in numerous films, including The King’s Speech, and on television in Stephen Poliakoff’s Summer of Rockets. To be famous young and still working 70 years later shows not just stamina and dedication but genuine, enduring talent.

I have only met Claire Bloom once and was awestruck by her beauty. But beauty will only take one so far as an actor and from the outset Bloom clearly had enormous power in reserve: when she played Ophelia at Stratford in 1948 – opposite the alternating, radically different Hamlets of Paul Scofield and Robert Helpmann – Kenneth Tynan observed how the words “If-thou-hadst-not-come-to-my-bed” were “isolated and driven home like a coffin nail”.

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