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'40s British screen idol Patricia Roc dies

Actress was Britain's top box office star for 10 years
/ Source: The Associated Press

Patricia Roc, one of Britain's top movie stars in the 1940s and 1950s, has died in Switzerland, a family friend said. She was 88.

Roc, who was suffering from kidney failure, died Tuesday in a hospital in Locarno, according to author and former film critic Michael Thornton. Roc had lived for the past 28 years near the southern Swiss city, at Minusio on the shores of Lake Maggiore.

Born Felicia Herold in 1915 in London, Roc was adopted as a baby by Andre Riese, a wealthy Dutch-Belgian stockbroker. She only discovered she was adopted 34 years later.

Roc was educated at exclusive schools in England and Paris and studied at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her stage debut in 1938 in a London production of the comedy "Nuts in May," where she was spotted by movie mogul Alexander Korda.

Korda gave Roc the role of a Polish princess in the 1938 costume epic "The Rebel Son," launching a 40-film movie career that blossomed during World War II.

Roc was described by the head of her studio, J. Arthur Rank, as "the archetypal British beauty, the Goddess of the Odeons" and by Sir Noel Coward as "a phenomenon, an unspoiled movie star who can act."

For 10 consecutive years from 1943, she was one of Britain's top 10 box-office stars, packing cinemas worldwide in classic films such as "Millions Like Us," "The Wicked Lady," "The Brothers" and "When the Bough Breaks."

In 1946, Roc was the first homegrown British star to go to Hollywood under a "lend-lease" deal between Rank and Universal Studios. She costarred in the western "Canyon Passage" that year, alongside Susan Hayward, who said after filming that "that Limey glamour girl is a helluva dame."

Among her co-stars were some of the top names in show business, including Sir Michael Redgrave, Sir John Mills, Dame Vera Lynn, Susan Hayward and Charles Laughton.

In 1962, she appeared first episode of television program "The Saint," alongside Roger Moore.

Roc She married three times. Among her lovers was the future President Ronald Reagan, who romanced her while she was shooting "Canyon Passage."

She married three times. Roc's son, Michael Thomas, was born in 1952.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.