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Barbara Shelley, ‘Dr. Who’ and ‘Dracula’ Star, Dies at 88

Shelley starred in 1966’s “Dracula: Prince of Darkness” with Christopher Lee

Barbara Shelley, an acclaimed British horror movie actress, has died at age 88 after contracting COVID-19.

Shelley’s agent, Thomas Bowington, told the U.K.’s press association that the actress spent two weeks in the hospital before Christmastime battling coronavirus. He added, “it’s most likely COVID is going to come up on the death certificate.”

Shelley was best known for her roles in classic horror films produced by London-based Hammer Film Productions (better known as Hammer Horror), including “The Gorgon,” “The Pit” and “Quatermass.”

She also starred alongside Christopher Lee in the 1966 movie “Dracula: Prince of Darkness,” directed by Terence Fisher. With that role, Shelley helped launch Hammer Horror’s productions into the pop culture lexicon and came to be known as the “Queen of Hammer.”

In 1984, Shelley joined the 21st season of BBC’s intergalactic sci-fi series “Dr. Who,” playing the role of Sorasta in the show’s “Planet of Fire” serial. Shelley’s former “Dr. Who” co-star — and companion to the show’s fifth and sixth Doctors — Nicola Bryant took to Twitter on Monday to remember Shelley.

“So very sad to hear of the passing of #BarbaraShelley. A darling person and a talented actress,” Bryant said. “When we worked together on ‘Planet of Fire’ she was so kind to me. She gave me a little owl, still in my possession and some good advice. #RIPBarbaraShelley Wise and wonderful lady.”

 

In an interview with Express Magazine in 2009, Shelley reflected on her career and said she was proud to help Hammer Horror bring its spine-chilling tales to mainstream audiences.

“Hammer was like a family, a very talented family… with a wonderful atmosphere on the set and a wonderful sense of humour,” Shelley told Express. “When I first started doing Hammer, all the so-called classic actors looked down on the horror film. All the other things I did, nobody remembers those… But the horror films, I’m very grateful to them because they built me a fan base, and I’m very touched that people will come and ask for my autograph.”