One of my favorite television series as a young adult growing up in England was Rebecca, the 1979 version, which starred Joanna David as the second Mrs. de Winter and Jeremy Brett as her husband Maxim. Little did I know that David had gotten her start in show business a mile down the road from where I lived, as a fishnet tight, feather boa and silver high heel clad showgirl. She was 16 at the time and the youngest of the Laguna Lovelies, who performed at the end of the Pier in Clacton-on-Sea.
The Lancaster born actress was 32 when she filmed Rebecca and has cropped up constantly over the years in a number of British series aired on MPT. Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Foyle's War, Rumpole of the Bailey, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, Rosemary & Thyme, Death in Paradise, Monarch of the Glen, Dalziel and Pascoe, and Downton Abbey are a few that come to mind.
Being hired for a cameo appearance in Season 4 of Downton was especially welcome to David, as she has spent the last few years battling severe depression, which she attributes to her having contracted Ménière's disease; a disorder of the inner ear that affects balance. The disease was diagnosed five years ago, after David suffered a seizure and was rushed to hospital. The experience made her so anxious she didn't think she'd ever be able to work again and she had to be treated with anti-depressants for about two years. That wasn't the first time David had struggled with depression. The first bout was 20 years ago and was the result of an operation to cure a brain condition that had damaged her spinal cord and put her in a psychiatric hospital for a month.
Thanks to a "great psychiatrist", antidepressants and the love and care of her family, David is now able to work again and is spreading the word that "it's important that people should know you can get well from depression" and that "there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Family is "everything" to David; her immediate family includes husband actor Edward Fox and children Emilia and Freddie Fox, who like their cousin Lawrence, who stars as James Hathaway in Masterpiece Mystery's Inspector Lewis, are also both actors. Fox, who played the title role in the Oscar nominated film, The Day of the Jackal, and was King Edward VIII in Edward and Mrs. Simpson, met David in 1971 when they were both appearing in The Rivals at the Chichester Festival. It would take David, who is 12 years younger than Fox, 33 years to get him to the alter! The couple finally married in 2004, although by that time David had already legally changed her name to Fox.
David was actually born Joanna Hacking, but when embarking on a theatrical career she changed it to David in tribute of her mother, Davida, who brought up her three children single-handedly after their businessman father walked out on them. Prior to his leaving, the family had lived comfortably in a Manchester suburb, until the family lost all their possessions when her father went bankrupt after being charged with fraud. David was ten the day she came home from school and found bailiffs in the house. Her father moved the family to a shabby bedsit in London's East End, then promptly disappeared.
Eventually Davida managed to re-house herself and the children into a church-owned flat, in return for which she ran a boys' boxing club at night. During the day she worked at a hospital. Only when her children had left home and were able to fend for themselves, did she finally break down under the pressure. Her treatment was an operation similar to a lobotomy, which left her very docile. She would eventually die of bowel cancer.
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