BRAMA, Jul 16, 2004, 1:00 am ET|
'Madam Hooch' rides her broomstick in from Odesa:
Actress Zoë Wanamaker offers a glimpse into her family history
By Tony Leliw
Photo by Neil Genower
Harry Potter fans know her as Madam Hooch - giving broomstick lessons to
youngsters at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
For British television audiences Zoë Wanamaker is the long-suffering Susan
Harper in the popular sitcom My Family.
But for Ukrainians and those slightly longer in the tooth - Zoë is the
daughter of the late Sam Wanamaker, the American born actor, who starred in
the 1962 epic Taras Bulba.
Although she has little recollection of the film, Zoë, who must have been
around 13 at the time, remembers it was the first film that her father did
after being blacklisted during the McCarthy witch-hunt.
"I think that makes the film Taras Bulba historically interesting," she
says. "I also remember he had to shave his head for the part."
It is ironic that her father, who played the fiery Filipenko, more keen on
fighting the Turks and Tatars for their booty than liberating the steppes
from the Poles, was to have a close connection with Ukraine, and from a
place not a million miles from the Zaporozhtzi.
"My father's family came from Odesa," says Zoë, who herself was born in New
York in 1949. "They were smuggled across Europe, and then put on a boat to
"From there they were sent to America and ended up in Chicago where my
father met my mother."
On her mother's side Zoë is less clear about her ancestry, but believes it
is highly probable they may also have been from Ukraine.
It would be nice to see some old family photographs, but Zoë is having work
done on her house and everything is in storage.
An actor/director father, Sam's biggest legacy was his project to build a
replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, on the South Bank in London.
Unfortunately he died of prostate cancer in 1993, four years before his
dream was realised.
In June 1997 Queen Elizabeth II opened the Globe and Zoë was the first
person to speak on the stage reading a passage from Henry V.
Although Zoë's parents never wanted her to follow them into the profession -
her mother Charlotte Holland was an actress and radio star - Zoë is regarded
as one of the finest actresses of her generation.
Over the years she has been nominated for many awards and has won two Best
Actress Olivier awards, among others.
Zoë is one of many in the British and American film and television industry,
who are beginning to discover that their roots are not Russian, but
* * * * *
Tony Leliw is a London-based journalist whose articles have appeared in respected publications such as the London Evening Standard and The Times, as well as news services in Ukraine and the U.S.
Feature stories by Mr. Leliw that have been published on Brama include :
Oct 13 05 - From War to Westminster by Stefan Terlezki CBE. Book review by Tony Leliw
Dec 1 04 - Ukrainians color London blue, yellow - and orange
Nov 24 04 - Villanous Viktor un-Vanted in UK
Nov 2 04 - Britain votes for Yushchenko
Oct 11 04 - Polling station coordinator works to simplify constitutional obstacles for voters abroad
Jul 16 04 - 'Madam Hooch' rides her broomstick in from Odesa: Actress Zoë Wanamaker offers a glimpse into her family history
Jun 7 04 - British 'heavyweight' weighs in on Ukraine elections
Mar 22 04 - If you were an oligarch ...
Mar 7 04 - Why you'll never find all the eggs in one basket
Dec 3 03 - On His Majesty's Secret Service
Oct 1 03 - Vilified, slandered and abused for telling the truth about Communism
Jul 30 03 - Malcolm Muggeridge Centenary: the journalist who reported that more than 7 million starved to death in Ukraine
Mar 24 03 - Christian fundamentalism and corruption: a member of the British House of Lords offers her views on the Iraq war and Ukraine
May 27 03 - Voting, for a song
Jan 1 03 - The road from Ukraine to Westminster and back
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