Westhorpe: Actress Jean Kent, 92, is remembered fondly by her friends

Jean Kent celebrating her 90th birthday with friends and neighbours in the village of Westhorpe Jean Kent celebrating her 90th birthday with friends and neighbours in the village of Westhorpe

Mariam Ghaemi mariam.ghaemi@archant.co.uk
Monday, December 2, 2013
12:00 PM

She may have had a successful career as a film star, but her home village will fondly remember her as ‘just Jean’.

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Silver screen actress Jean Kent passed away on Saturday, aged 92, at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds following a fall at her home in the village of Westhorpe, near Bacton.

She was found by her housekeeper Rita Betts on Thursday and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

Miss Kent was one of Britain’s top box-office stars in the 1940s and 1950s, making her last public appearance in June 2011, when she was honoured by the British Film Institute (BFI) on her 90th birthday. It screened one of her films, Caravan, at BFI Southbank in London.

Her career included regular appearances in Gainsborough melodramas, which were popular with large numbers of newly-independent women following the outbreak of the Second World War.

Her co-stars during her film career included Marilyn Monroe, Michael Redgrave and Laurence Olivier.

Miss Kent, whose married name is Jean Hurst, met her husband Jusuf Ramart on the set of Caravan and they married in April 1946.

Her husband, who had anglicised his name to Hurst, died from cancer in 1989. The couple had no children.

Miss Kent’s friend Julia Marper, 75, from Westhorpe, said: “I have known her for many, many years ever since she really came this way, and her husband. They were an absolutely devoted couple. She was a very modest lady, obviously very talented. She joined in with things in the village. She belonged to the Friends and Neighbours group.”

She said she used to give wonderful talks – and never needed a microphone – and was a very good hostess, on several occasions inviting the village to the house.

She said villagers did not really think of her as a film star – she was just Jean Hurst to them. “She will be very much missed as a person. We just called her Jean and never thought of her background really. She was just part of the village, very much so.”

Another friend, Audrey Thomas, 77, from the village and who saw Miss Kent in hospital the day before she died, said she was a “lovely lady” who was very friendly and contented.

Philip Aldous, 37, of Church Road, Westhorpe, said Miss Kent was very supportive of local fundraising efforts, describing how she came along to two film nights he organised to raise money for a new village hall.

She joined residents and guests for two rare screenings of one of her finest films, Trottie True, at the existing hall.

Mr Aldous, who used to be her paper boy, remembered her as a “very warm, loving person who had time for everyone”.

Miss Kent was born in Brixton, south London, on June 29, 1921, the only child of variety performers Norman Field and Nina Norre.

Her death was announced by a close family friend, author and former film critic Michael Thornton.

He said: “She was a feisty, funny, outspoken character who never took herself too seriously. She knew what it meant to be a star, and regarded it as her job to live up to that position and never to disappoint the public.”

He added: “Because she became one of the most famous stars of the Gainsborough era, with its bodice-ripping melodramas, she was underrated as an actress. But she was a great actress.”

Her funeral is taking place at 12 noon on Saturday at St Margaret’s Church in Westhorpe.

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