SACF South Asian Cinema in UK


June Duprez

June Duprez in The Thief of Bagdad

14th May 1918 – 30th October 1984

English actress. She was born in London in the middle of World War I. Aided by her exotic and delicate looks, her acting career started in her teens in British films like The Cardinal (1936), Crimson Circle (1936) and The Spy in Black (1939). She was first noticed in Zoltan Korda’s The Four Feathers (1939), a technicolor screen adaptation of a novel by A. E. W. Mason. The same year, she went on to play a role in Alexander Korda’s production of the pro-British film The Lion has Wings (1939). Then came Korda’s colourful Arabian Nights adventure fantasy for which she is best remembered, The Thief of Bagdad (1940). Here, her role as the lovely Arabian Princess of Basra with Sabu as Abu, the lovable thief of Bagdad, Rex Ingram, the talented Black actor who played the incredible genie, Conrad Veidt as the evil Jaffar and John Justin as the young Prince Ahmad under the direction of Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger and Tim Whelan, turned her into a star.

Sabu with June Duprez and John Justin in the Thief of Bagdad

The outbreak of World War II, forced the production team of The Thief of Bagdad to move from London to America and consequently she found herself in Hollywood. Riding on the crest of a wave created by her remarkable success in The Thief of Bagdad, her career could have taken off. However, this never happened. After a gap, she managed to get “good roles” in two American films: None but the lonely heart (1944) where she acted with Cary Grant and And then there were none (1945), a film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s crime thriller of the same name. She, however, failed to carve a real niche for herself in Hollywood films and could never reach anywhere near the heights she had gained in The Thief of Bagdad. June believed her career was blocked by Merle Oberon because they looked very similar.

Towards the end of her life, she lived for a while in Rome and then returned to London where she died after an illness. She has no grave for she is reported to have been cremated.

The above findings are part of the research which ensued in the project - A Hidden Heritage: Indo-British Film Collaboration (1930-1951)