Claire Bloom

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Although her career in recording is obviously just a small footnote to everything Claire Bloom accomplished as an actress, at least she brought great comfort to many small children. To a child tucked…
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Although her career in recording is obviously just a small footnote to everything Claire Bloom accomplished as an actress, at least she brought great comfort to many small children. To a child tucked away in a bed trying to maintain a comfort level in the ever deepening darkness, her voice might just do the trick, wafting across the room from a set of speakers. She might be telling the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat from one of a series of children's storytelling records she made for the Caedmon label, material including the Brothers Grimm, Beatrix Potter, and traditional British fairy tales. It was a period when her popularity with children peaked as a result of her appearance in the 1962 fairy tale blockbuster The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. She began acting while still a child herself, considered talented enough while still taking drama lessons to be involved in some BBC radio broadcasts when she was only 14. It was that wonderful voice of hers, already getting attention. At 17, she reaped the praise of every important British critic with her performance as Ophelia in the Stratford on Avon production of Hamlet. She made her film debut in 1948, but it was her relationship as a disciple of the great Charlie Chaplin that really launched her career in Hollywood. She has made dozens of films, received many awards, and has acted with every significant performer in theater and stage history, so it is no surprise that she downplays her recordings, not even giving them a sentence's mention in her autobiography for example. Her relationship with Caedmon, which specializes in high-quality spoken art products, began in the '50s and continued for decades, including Shakespeare projects and poetry, as well as material for children. Many of these recordings were done completely alone, her pristine diction and complex shades of characterization providing a rich listening experience. She also took part in collaborative dramatic recordings for the label that often boasted casts as good as a big studio movie, and also performed in the role of a classical narrator with symphony orchestra accompaniment in a recording of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty. The Caedmon company had begun in the early '50s and lasted almost until the end of the century as an independent before being acquired by Harper Audio. The actress has continued her relationship with the new owners, although what used to be called spoken world albums are now referred to as "audio books." Either way, if someone is going to be reading to you in the dark, it might as well be Claire Bloom. One of her most moving projects in the new series is her performance of Anne Frank's sad life in Diary of a Young Girl.