Stoke St Gregory Stoke St Gregory, Taunton Deane Borough, Somerset, England
Phyllis Esther Kohnstamm (14 April 1907 – 20 August 1976), known as Phyllis Konstam, was an English film actress born in London. She appeared in 11 films between 1928 and 1964, including four films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Legend has it that both Jill Esmond and Laurence Olivier regretted their marriage just weeks after the ceremony, but it wasn’t until the couple’s dual performance in the Broadway hit The Green Bay Tree that really saw the beginning of the end of their marriage. The play featured multiple gay characters and a former lover of Jill’s, Phyllis Konstam, would later say, “Night after night they were speaking lines and creating characters that mirrored their own private lives. She preferred women to men. He was, at the very least, bisexual. They must have known that the marriage could never last.”
Phyllis Esther Kohnstamm was born in London in 1907, the daughter of Jewish parents Alfred and Esther Kohnstamm, of Middleheath, Hampstead. Her father, with his brother, cultivated a successful leather business. She had her drama training in Paris before her first appearance which was at the Haymarket in "The Jew of Malta" in 1925. The following year she "a wife" was in "Escape" by John Galsworthy in London's West End. In 1930 she appeared in the first film version directed with the same name by Basil Dean. She married the tennis star Bunny Austin in 1931, whom she met on a cruise liner while travelling to the US to appear in a stage production of Frank Vosper's Murder on the Second Floor, opposite her close friend Laurence Olivier. Together, Austin and Konstam were one of the celebrity couples of the age. Austin played tennis with Charlie Chaplin, was a friend of Daphne du Maurier and met both Queen Mary and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They had two children. In her later years, she joined her husband with involvement in the Oxford Group, performing in several films and theatrical productions around the world to benefit the cause. She died in Somerset from a heart attack on 20 August 1976.
Phyllis Konstam; Bunny Austin by Paul Tanqueray vintage bromide print, 1931 8 1/2 in. x 7 1/2 in. (215 mm x 190 mm) Given by Paul Tanqueray, 1975 Photographs Collection NPG x17232
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE