Barbara Mullen

Barbara Mullen (Wikipedia)

Barbara Mullen was an Irish actress well known in the UK for playing the part of Janet McPherson, the housekeeper in Dr. Finlay’s Casebook. Although the role of Janet brought her fame in later years, she already had made her mark in the theatre.

Mullen’s parents, Pat and Bridget, were from a fishing family on Inishmore island off the coast of County Galway, Ireland. The family had emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, where Mullen was born. She made her stage debut as a dancer at the age of three. When her father returned to Aran, later contributing to the making of Man of Aran, the classic documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty,[3] her mother stayed in the U.S. to bring up the 10 children. Mullen sang and danced in various theatres all over the U.S. and then moved to the UK in 1934, where she trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.

She wrote Life is my Adventure, her autobiography, at 23. A year later she made her London debut, acting the title role in the London West End production of Jeannie, a comedy about a Scottish girl taking a European holiday after coming into money. She became an overnight star.

She later succeeded Celia Johnson as Mrs. De Winter in the Daphne du Maurier‘s Rebecca, played Maggie in a revival of What Every Woman Knows by J.M. Barrie, and played the aged sleuth Miss Marple in The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.

Mullen repeated the role of ‘Jeannie’ on television and in the 1941 British film, which was her cinema debut, alongside Michael Redgrave, and she followed this with appearances in 20 more films, including A Place of One’s OwnCorridor of Mirrors and Innocent Sinners. She also played a notable role in the 1942 film version of Robert Ardrey‘s Thunder Rock as Ellen Kirby, the feminist who is jailed for her subversive ideas.[4]

She was married to documentary film-maker John TaylorMan of Aran’s cameraman, [1]and they had two daughters, Briged and Susannah.

She appeared on television in America and Britain in programmes such as Juno and the Paycock and The Danny Thomas Show before being offered the role in Dr. Finlay’s Casebook, which began on the BBC in 1962. Her character, Janet McPherson, was the ever-efficient housekeeper to Doctors Finlay and Cameron at Arden House in the fictional Scottish village of Tannochbrae. When the series finished on television nine years later, it transferred to radio, running until 1978.

She was the subject of This Is Your Life in March 1964 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in central London.

Barbara Mullen died of a heart attack in London, England on 9 March 1979.

Barbara Mullen was born in 1914 in Boston U.S.A of parents who came from the Aran Islands.   When she was 24 she wrote her autobiography “Life Is My Adventure”.   In 1935 she became an overnight star on the London stage with her performance in the lead in the play “Jeannie”.   She later replaced Celia Johnson in the London stage adaptation of Daphene Du Maurier’s “Rebecca”.   Her greatest fame though came from the long-running BBC series “Dr Finlay’s Casebook” where she played the housekeper Janet.   The series ran from 1962 until 1971 and then ran on radio until 1978.   Barbara Mullen died in 1979.   Interview from 1974 in “The Catholic Herald” can be accessed here.   Good biography on Oxford database here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *