The only surviving heyday portrait of Suffolk screen legend Jean Kent has been gifted to a charity helping actors in need.
The portrait, which was painted by Honor Earl in 1950 at the peak of the star’s fame, was given in perpetuity by her executor Michael Thornton to The Actors’ Benevolent Fund.
Miss Kent, who died aged 92 in November 2013 following an accidental fall at her home in Westhorpe, was one of the last surviving major stars of the golden age of post war cinema. She starred opposite names including Michael Redgrave, Richard Attenborough, Stewart Grainger, Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Olivier.
Mr Thornton said he is sure the donation to the Benevolent Fund ‘would have pleased Jean’ as she supported the charity financially throughout her career. She also left £10,000 in her will to the Fund. The painting used to hang in a prominent position on the stairs of the star’s home and was among items auctioned for the benefit of her estate by Lacy Scott and Knight, in Bury St Edmunds.
Mr Thornton, who is a royal biographer and Daily Mail columnist, bought it at the sale.
Dame Penelope Keith, who is president of The Actors’ Benevolent Fund, co-starred with Jean Kent in her final stage appearance in Monsieur Amilcar at Chichester Festival Theatre in 1995. Dame Penelope and Sir David Jason both sent personal tributes which were read out by Mr Thornton at Miss Kent’s funeral in December 2013.
He said: “At a meeting held on November 26, 2015, Dame Penelope Keith and the entire Council of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund unanimously agreed to accept the portrait.
“It will now hang in the charity’s board room at 6 Adam Street, London, next to one of the late Vivien Leigh.”
An ebony grey and gold memorial stone to the late star and her husband Jusuf Ramart Hurst, which was recently erected at St Margaret’s Church, in Westhorpe, is already a place of pilgrimage for film and theatre enthusiasts.