René Ray (née Irene Lilian Creese), Countess of Midleton

Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.

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René Ray (née Irene Lilian Creese), Countess of Midleton

by Angus McBean
bromide print, 1938
11 1/2 in. x 8 7/8 in. (292 mm x 226 mm)
Purchased, 2001
Primary Collection
NPG P925

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Angus McBean (1904-1990), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 283 portraits, Sitter in 79 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Pepper, Terence, Angus McBean Portraits, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 July to 22 October 2006), p. 47 Read entry

    Born Irene Lilian Creese, René Ray made her stage debut in 1930 at the Savoy Theatre as a barmaid in Wonder Bar. Over the next thirty years she appeared in West End productions and in British films, scoring a particular success as Stasia in the film of Jerome K. Jerome's The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1935). McBean's first portrait of her for his surreal series focuses on her famously expressive eyes and shows her evolving from plasticine as a 'Film star in the making - her head poked through a drawing board and partially covered signifies the star in the process of being born.' However, her first trip to Hollywood was curtailed when she decided to return to England at the outbreak of war in order to assist in morale-boosting work for ENSA (the Entertainments National Service Association). Her novel The Strange World of Planet X (1956) was a TV series and a Hammer film. She first met the Earl of Midleton in the 1950s and became the Countess of Midleton as his third wife in 1975.

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Events of 1938back to top

Current affairs

Britain pursues its policy of appeasement. At the Munich Agreement, Britain, France and Italy agreed to allow Hitler to seize the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. The agreement was seen at the time as a triumph for peace, with Neville Chamberlain returning home brandishing the paper agreement and saying 'peace for our time.' Within six months Germany had occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Art and science

Graham Greene publishes Brighton Rock. The novel follows the descent of Pinky, a teenage gang leader in Brighton's criminal underworld. The book examines the criminal mind and explores the themes of morality and sin - recurrent concerns for the Roman Catholic Author.
Glasgow hosts the Empire Exhibition; an £11 million celebration of the British Empire visited by 13 million people.


In its pursuit of 'Lebensraum' (living space), Germany annexes Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia with little opposition from the League of Nations. At home, the Nazis continued their escalating persecution of the Jews with 'Kristallnacht' (the Night of Broken Glass), attacking Jewish homes, shops, businesses and synagogues, and taking Jewish men to concentration camps.

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