Richmond and East Sheen Cemeteries Richmond, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London, England
Jean Iris Ross Cockburn[a] (7 May 1911 – 27 April 1973) was a British writer, political activist, and film critic. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) she was a war correspondent for the Daily Express, and is alleged to have been a press agent for the Comintern. A skilled writer, Ross was also a film critic for the Daily Worker, and her criticisms of early Soviet cinema were later described as ingenious works of "dialectical sophistry". Throughout her life she wrote political criticism and anti-fascist polemics, as well as manifestos for a number of disparate organisations such as the British Workers' Film and Photo League. She was a lifelong member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
During her itinerant youth in the Weimar Republic, Ross was a cabaret singer and fashion model in Berlin. Her Berlin escapades served as the basis for the fictional character Sally Bowles in Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories, a work cited by literary critics as deftly capturing the hedonistic nihilism of the Weimar era. The work was later adapted into the stage musical Cabaret. For the remainder of her life, Ross believed the public association of herself with the naïve and apolitical character of Bowles occluded her lifelong work as a professional writer and political activist. Sharing this belief, her daughter Sarah Caudwell later wrote a newspaper article in an attempt to correct the historical record and to dispel misconceptions regarding Ross. According to Caudwell, "in the transformations of the novel for stage and cinema the characterisation of Sally has become progressively cruder and less subtle and the stories about 'the original' correspondingly more high-coloured."
In addition to inspiring the character of Sally Bowles, Ross is credited as the muse for lyricist Eric Maschwitz's jazz standard "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)", one of the 20th century's more enduring love songs. Although Maschwitz's estranged wife Hermione Gingold later claimed the popular song was written for herself or actress Anna May Wong, Maschwitz himself contradicted these claims. Instead, Maschwitz cited memories of a "young love", and most scholars posit Maschwitz's youthful affair with Ross as inspiring the song.
Ross resided at Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, London, and continued to fraternise with Isherwood and his circle of artistic friends. She increasingly began to associate with left-wing political activists "who were humorous but dedicated, sexually permissive but politically dogmatic." During this time period, she was introduced to Claud Cockburn, an Anglo-Scots journalist and the second cousin, once removed, of novelists Alec Waugh and Evelyn Waugh. They met at the Café Royal. Purportedly, Cockburn handed Ross a cheque one evening but—perhaps having second thoughts—he telephoned the next morning to warn her that the cheque would bounce. Despite this "portent of unreliability" and "the fact that Cockburn had already been married to an American woman whom he left when she became pregnant", Ross began an affair with Cockburn. On a subsequent evening, Cockburn expounded upon Marxist economic theory to Ross all night until the early morning hours. Cockburn later claimed that he convinced Ross to become a left-wing journalist and secured her employment at the Daily Worker. Due to Cockburn's influence, Ross formally joined the Communist Party of Great Britain during the tenure of General Secretary Harry Pollitt. She would be an active and devoted Party member for the remainder of her life. Meanwhile, she continued her career as an aspiring thespian. She appeared in theatrical productions at the Gate Theatre Studio directed by Peter Godfrey and, in need of money, she modelled the latest Paris fashions by French designer Jean Patou in Tatler magazine. It is possible, although unlikely, that she obtained a bit role as a chorus girl in Paramount Studios' musical drama film Rumba.
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