Avice Spitta Landone

Avice Spitta Landone (1910-1976)

During the party to celebrate the 21st birthday of the Ginner-Mawer School in 1934, Irene Mawer mentioned several former students who had gone on to do well for themselves.  Among them was Avice Spitta, later known as Avice Landone.

I got very excited because I discovered that Avice appeared in British television and film, including Carve Her Name With Pride – an old war film from 1958 that I remembered watching with my Dad when I was a kid.  It tells the true and harrowing story of Violette Szabo who spied for Britain during WW2 and was tortured then executed in Germany.  After the war, she was posthumously awarded Britain’s highest honour for bravery, the George Cross.

Having searched the internet, I was shocked that I could find very little about the actress, not even an obituary – why no information on a big film star?  I then had a proper look at the credits for the film, and was hugely disappointed to realise that famous film actress Virginia McKenna was the star, and that Avice played a supporting role.  Ha ha ha.  Oh dear, I thought I had found a major actress from the Ginner-Mawer stable. Avice’s role, however, was still an important one, she played Vera Atkins who was Romanian-born and spied for the British during WW2.  The real Vera was honoured after the war, becoming an MBE (Member of the British Empire) among other things, and died aged 92.

On the evening of the 21st birthday celebrations of the Ginner-Mawer School, we learn that:

“The programme opened with two dances to Edith Sitwell’s verse, spoken by Mr. John Laurie and Avice Spitta.  The first was ‘Waltz,’ danced in an enchanting moonlight effect by Helen Guy-Smith, Lois Gray, and Primrose Story, and the second was ‘Polka,’ gaily danced by Helga Burgess.”  (Please see an earlier blog post about Edith Sitwell in relation to Irene Mawer.)

Later in the article, we can read the full transcript of the speech given by Irene Mawer, which included the following:

“Among the Ginner-Mawers who have gone on to do stage work we are proud to number Leslie French, Renee Gadd and Elinor Shan.  Mollie Shannon, Mollie Leuw and Avice Spitta are playing in the West End at present.  Mary Waterman has been doing continuous and splendid work in repertory.  Barbara Eason is making a great name for herself in the Little Theatre movement of Canada both as a player and a producer.”  (The vast majority of students seemed to have become dance teachers, not stage performers.)

Miss Mawer made that speech in 1934, when Avice was 27 years old.  It wasn’t until much later, in 1948, that Avice made her debut on the screen, and a further 10 years after that before she made the film that I would later watch while sitting next to my Dad on the living room settee.  It’s funny to think that Irene Mawer reached into my life and I had no idea about it at all!


Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

Janet Fizz Curtis is trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement and is now writing a book about the life of Irene Mawer.

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