'Greatest Story Ever Told' Actress Joanna Dunham Dies at 78

Courtesy of Photofest

The British actress had been recommended for the role in the 1965 blockbuster by Marilyn Monroe

British actress Joanna Dunham, who rose to fame alongside Max Von Sydow, Charlton Heston and Dorothy McGuire in the 1965 Hollywood blockbuster The Greatest Story Ever Told, has died. She was 78 and passed away on Nov. 25, according to an obituary in The Guardian.

Having studied at RADA in London, in the same year as Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Dunham was reportedly spotted by Marilyn Monroe in New York while on tour with the Old Vic. The young actress had taken over from Judi Dench as the female lead in Franco Zeffirelli's production of Romeo and Juliet, but was recommended by Monroe to join the epic big-budget retelling of the life Jesus Christ in the role of Mary Magdalene. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards.

Following this, Dunham mixed theater work with cinema, appearing in 1970's A Day at the Beach, written by Roman Polanski, and in the 1971 British horror film The House That Dripped Blood as the wife of Denholm Elliott, alongside Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

A career mostly in U.K. television would continue in the next couple of decades, appearing in major series such as Van der Valk (1977), Love Among the Artists (1979), Are You Being Served (1984) and, later, 1992's The Hour of the Pig with Colin Firth.

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