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Cead Mile Failte……A Hundred Thousand Welcomes to the JANET MUNRO Site.

This Web Site is intended to be the focal point for the many admirers of JANET worldwide who,on a very regular basis write to me and ask the question “Whatever Happened to JANET MUNRO”?

JANET, the freckled faced, green eyed beauty was and is remembered for her starring roles in such Disney classic movies as, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Third Man On the Mountain and Swiss Family Robinson. Sci-Fi fans will remember her as Anne Pilgrim in The Crawling Eye (released as The Trollenberg Terror in the UK ) and The Day The Earth Caught Fire

Fans of drama saw her in Bitter Harvest and admired her awesome performance in Life For Ruth (aka Walk In The Shadow and Condemned To Life in the USA)- a role which won her a nomination as Best British Actress  in the 1962 BAFTA (British Academy Awards)

Lovers of musical comedy admired her as Amanda in Tommy The Toreador, co-starring with Britain ’s Tommy Steele.

Paradoxically her best performance of all was perhaps as the washed up alcoholic pop star Carol Fancy in the 1968 Spy Thriller Sebastian (aka Mister Sebastian) with Dirk Bogarde.

With the release of many of her movies on Video and DVD, Janet’s fan base numbers have surged in recent times, and it is also for these “new” fans as well as the old that this web site was founded. We hope to create a presence for JANET MUNRO, add to the somewhat sparse information available about her on the Internet and correct the many errors that appear on some sites.

This site is also intended as a tribute to a wonderful actress who remains today an enigma in the History of Hollywood and Movies in general.  My research on Janet was initiated with the ultimate view to producing a biography/book on her life and career, and during research in the past year I have heard her described as crazy, funny, kind and thoughtful, popular with film crews, talented, tormented and lonely. A very complex person…..

She was all of these……and more…

Janet was born JANET NEILSON HORSBURGH on September 28th, 1934 in Blackpool, Lancashire, a major seaside resort on the north west coast of England, just north of Liverpool. JANET shares her birthday...same day, month and year...with French Screen Legend..Brigitte Bardot.

Her father, Alex Munro, a well known Scottish born comedian adopted the stage name Munro and in the years after Janet’s birth, further children, with his three subsequent wives, were given the surname Munro at birth.

Janet’s mother, Phyllis died when she was eight and she was raised by Lilias, Alex Munro’s second wife. Lilias was not only Janet’s step mother, but her big sister, her best friend and her guiding light. Sadly Lilias died in Blackpool in July 2004.

When Janet began to walk, she would often toddle across the stage as her father was entertaining an audience and on one occasion he looked around to catch her making an unscheduled entrance. “Aw look at the size of it”, he exclaimed and that became his Catch Phrase…known the length and breadth of Britain. From then on his name appeared on Posters and Playbills as Alex “The Size Of It” Munro.

In her teens Janet went into Theatre Rep in Preston and later Oldham, Lancashire, was spotted and given her first film role….a major part as Effie the waitress in the Associated British Movie “Small Hotel” in 1957, quickly followed by a starring role with Andrew Ray  in “The Young and the Guilty”

Janet won a Golden Globe Award in 1959 as the most promising newcomer, and in September 1960 “switched on “ the famous Blackpool Illuminations in her hometown of Blackpool, Lancashire.

In 1958 Janet had become the first actress to be placed on a five movie contract by Walt Disney and had made “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” in Hollywood, then in 1959 “Third Man On The Mountain “ in Zermatt, Switzerland and “Swiss Family Robinson” in Tobago. Her Disney career ended in 1960 with “The Horsemasters”, a movie made for TV in the USA but shown in cinemas in other parts of the world. At that time JANET MUNRO was the top dollar earning British actress in movies.

Much mystery and controversy surrounds the early termination of her contract with Disney and her departure from the pig tailed teenager roles offered by Disney into the more dramatic and adult roles in “Day The Earth Caught Fire” and Bitter Harvest”

Janet married twice. Initially in January 1957 to Tony “Beefcake” Wright, a Rank Organisation star of the 1950s, whose career faded into obscurity as Janet’s  rose to stardom, and later in 1963 to Ian Hendry . Ian and Janet divorced in 1971. She had retired from acting in the period 1964 to 1968 to devote her time to looking after her two children Sally and Corrie

Two miscarriages and serious medical problems during her absence combined to make it difficult for her to return. The Film Industry had a short memory and Janet died from a Heart Attack caused by Chronic Ischaemic Heart Disease in Whittington Hospital, North London on December 6th1972. She was 38 years old.

My “involvement” with Janet Munro goes back a long time, to 1959 when I was, as a young boy, brought along to a cinema in my home town of Belfast, Northern Ireland, to see a family friend---actor Albert Sharpe-----in his post retirement role as Darby O’Gill.  Albert was perfect in the part, a young Sean Connery making his first American movie was magnificent as Michael McBride, but it was Janet, as the devoted daughter Katie O’Gill, who captured the hearts of millions of moviegoers around the world. A little while later when I just happened to see her again…this time in “Tommy The Toreador”, I found it hard to believe that this was the same actress giving another fine performance in a totally different role.

Another few weeks later and I found myself in the audience at the Empire Theatre in Belfast watching Scottish comedian Alex Munro starring on stage in the Alex Munro Show…….when…eventually  the penny dropped.. HE was Janet’s dad, and it was easy to see where her talent and abilities had originated.

Now, over 40 years later, I am compiling the very first comprehensive account of Janet’s life. With the active support and involvement of her half brother Alex Munro Junior, her daughters Sally and Corrie, her late step mother Lilias and her youngest sister Anna Marie together with several of her old friends such as Movie Directors, the late Wolf Rilla and Gerry O’Hara and co-stars such as James Mac Arthur, Tommy Steele, the late Ed Bishop, Harry Towb and Kieron Moore (O'Hanrahan)  the story of the wonderful, zany, crazy life of JANET MUNRO is beginning to take shape.

I do hope that you enjoy the site. I would be DELIGHTED to receive your comments, both about Janet and the Site, particularly if you have any memories of her, worked with her or just met her or if you have any newscuttings, photos or memorabilia concerning her…or simply if you would like to say hello.

Liam Byrne, Malahide, County Dublin. Ireland
e-mail lpbyrne@ireland.com