Jill Angela Henriette Balcon (3 January 1925 – 18 July 2009)[1] was an English film and radio actress, who was also known for her stage and television work. She made her film debut in Nicholas Nickleby (1947).[2] She was the second wife of poet Cecil Day-Lewis and they had two children together: Tamasin Day-Lewis, who became a food critic and TV chef, and Daniel Day-Lewis, notable for his acting career.

Jill Balcon
Jill Balcon.jpg
Photographed by Mark Gerson, 1961
Born(1925-01-03)3 January 1925
Died18 July 2009(2009-07-18) (aged 84)
London, England
Cecil Day-Lewis
(m. 1951; died 1972)
ChildrenTamasin Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis
Parent(s)Michael Balcon
Aileen Leatherman

Life and careerEdit

Balcon was born in Westminster, London, the daughter of Aileen Freda Leatherman (1904–1988) and her husband Michael Balcon.[3] Her family was Jewish, with immigrant 19th-century ancestors from Latvia on her father's side and Poland on her mother's.[4][5][6][7] Balcon attended Roedean School.[8]

She studied acting and performed on stage and in radio, film, and television. Her debut film was Nicholas Nickleby (1947). On 3 January 1948 she appeared on the BBC radio programme Time for Verse, where she had already become a favourite for her voice: "a rich, expressive, finely modulated instrument."[9] That night noted Anglo-Irish poet Cecil Day-Lewis, who was 21 years her senior, also appeared on the show. That year Balcon worked for a season with the Bristol Old Vic.[9]

Balcon and Day-Lewis began a relationship that year, complicated by his marriage to Mary Day-Lewis, who lived with their two teenage boys in Dorset, and his public affair with Rosamond Lehmann, a noted novelist of the day, who lived in Oxfordshire. Day-Lewis eventually broke with both his wife and his mistress in order to be with Balcon. (Reputedly he was no more faithful to her than he had been to his first wife or Lehmann).[9]

She was quite active in film, starring opposite Stewart Granger in Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948), with Jean Kent in Good Time Girl (1948), and The Lost People (1950).[9] But her first love was the stage.

In 1951, Balcon married Day-Lewis. Her father was deeply unhappy about the affair and Balcon being named publicly as co-respondent in Day-Lewis' divorce, and cut her off. After her marriage, she could see her mother only secretly.[9]

Cecil Day-Lewis and Jill Balcon shared a great love for poetry and performed together in many public readings. They had two children together: Tamasin Day-Lewis, who became a documentary filmmaker/television chef and author of food books, and noted actor Daniel Day-Lewis. After the children were born, Balcon concentrated on acting in radio and TV productions in order to have more manageable schedules.[9]

Balcon died of a brain tumour on 18 July 2009, aged 84.[10]


  1. ^ Peter Stanford Obituary: Jill Balcon, The Guardian, 20 July 2009
  2. ^ "Jill Balcon". BFI.
  3. ^ "Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006".
  4. ^ Daniel Day-Lewis Unofficial Home Page Archived 1 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Hasted, Nick (31 January 2018). "Daniel Day-Lewis: Why Britain has just lost its De Niro". The Independent. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  6. ^ David, Keren (29 November 2017). "Daniel Day-Lewis opens up on his decision to quit acting". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  7. ^ Jackson, Laura (2005). Daniel Day-Lewis: the biography. Blake. p. 3. ISBN 1857825578. Michael Balcon's family were Latvian refugees from Riga who had come to England around the turn of the century. The family of his wife, Aileen Leatherman, whom he married in 1924, came from Poland.
  8. ^ Tom Vallance "Jill Balcon: Actress of stage, screen and radio who married the former [should be "late"] Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis", The Independent, 30 July 2009
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Obituary: Jill Balcon",The Guardian
  10. ^ Stage, The (28 July 2009). "Jill Balcon - Obituaries".

External linksEdit