Sylvia Syms

Last updated on the 11 June 2024 by Maeve

Sylvia Syms headshot

Mini Biography

Born: 6 January 1934, Woolwich, London, England.

Sylvia Syms’ early years were marked by both joy and hardship. Born to a trade unionist father and a shop steward mother, her childhood was disrupted by World War II. Evacuations and the loss of her mother to a brain tumor at the age of twelve cast a shadow. Yet, amidst the struggles, a spark ignited within Syms. At sixteen, on the brink of a breakdown, the intervention of her stepmother steered her towards acting, a pursuit that would become her solace and life’s ambition.

Sylvia Syms in My Teenage Daughter
Sylvia Syms in My Teenage Daughter

Education became Syms’ launchpad. Following convent schooling, she set her sights on the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Graduating in 1954, it was during this period that she caught the eye of the established film couple, Anna Neagle and Herbert Wilcox.

The chance encounter with Neagle and Wilcox catapulted Syms into the world of film. Her debut came in 1956 with “My Teenage Daughter,” where she played the rebellious offspring of Neagle’s character. She effortlessly transitioned from portraying the troubled youth in “My Teenage Daughter” to the captivating wife in “Woman in a Dressing Gown” (1957), a performance that earned her a BAFTA nomination.

The late 1950s and 1960s saw Syms flourishing on screen. She became a familiar face in British cinema, with appearances in films like “Ice Cold in Alex” (1958), a World War II adventure that attained cult status, and “Victim” (1961), a groundbreaking drama that addressed homosexuality at a time when the topic was largely taboo.

Sylvia Syms, Ice Cold in Alex
Harry Andrews, Sylvia Syms and John Mills in Ice Cold in Alex

Syms didn’t shy away from television either. The 1970s saw her take on the role of a wronged wife in the popular sitcom “My Good Woman” alongside Leslie Crowther. However, it was her dramatic performance in “The Tamarind Seed” (1974) opposite Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif that cemented her status as a serious actress.

Personal life, for Syms, was a tapestry woven with both love and loss. Married to Alan Edney in 1956, the couple had four children. However, the union ended in divorce in 1989. Despite the challenges, Syms remained a devoted mother to her children, one of whom, Beatie Edney, followed in her footsteps to become an actress.


Suggested viewing


Victim (1961)

Victim poster

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.7

A successful lawyer’s life crumbles when a blackmailer targets him and others in London’s closeted gay community. Forced to confront his own hidden desires, he risks everything to expose the criminal and fight for a society that condemns his identity.

Top cast: Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms, Dennis Price, Anthony Nicholls, Peter Copley, Norman Bird, Peter McEnery, Donald Churchill, Derren Nesbitt, John Barrie.


The Big Job (1965)

The Big Job

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 6.4

A gang of inept criminals, led by Sidney James, pulls off a successful heist but are later arrested. After serving their prison sentences, they set out to reclaim their stolen loot, only to find that a police station now stands on the spot where it was hidden.

Top cast: Sid James, Sylvia Syms, Dick Emery, Joan Sims, Lance Percival, Jim Dale, Julia Foster.


Expresso Bongo (1959)

Expresso Bongo poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.2

A young ambitious talent scout discovers a raw musical prodigy named Bongo Herbert. As they navigate the cutthroat world of showbiz, their partnership is tested by greed, manipulation and the allure of fame. Together, they must find a balance between success and artistic integrity in a ruthless industry.

Top cast: Laurence Harvey, Sylvia Syms, Yolande Donlan, Cliff Richard, Hermione Baddeley, Ambrosine Phillpotts.


Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

Ice Cold in Alex

Bftv 9.0 / IMDb 7.7

Amidst the chaos of World War II, a British Army officer leads a motley group through the scorching North African desert to reach safety. Battling exhaustion, enemy attacks and inner demons, they must confront their fears and find redemption amidst the unforgiving landscape.

Top cast: John Mills, Sylvia Syms, Anthony Quayle, Harry Andrews, Diane Clare, Richard Leech, Liam Redmond.


No Trees in the Street (1959)

No Trees in the Street poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 5.9

In 1950s East End, a detective reminisces about the transformed landscape and recalls the struggles of Hetty in the poverty-stricken 1930s. Faced with her brother’s descent into crime, she resists her mother’s pressure to align with local racketeer Wilkie for an escape from destitution.

Top cast: Sylvia Syms, Herbert Lom, Stanley Holloway, Melvyn Hayes, Ronan O’Casey, Fay Compton, Max Bygraves, Yvonne Mitchell, Ronald Howard, Joan Miller, Liam Redmond, Carole Lesley, Marianne Stone.


Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)

Woman in a Dressing Gown poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.3

In 1950s London, a neglected wife confronts her crumbling marriage when her husband begins an affair. As she suffers heartbreak and self-doubt, she finds strength to reclaim her identity and rediscover the value of self-worth. A poignant exploration of love, resilience and personal liberation unfolds.

Top cast: Yvonne Mitchell, Anthony Quayle, Sylvia Syms, Andrew Ray, Carole Lesley, Michael Ripper, Nora Gordon.


My Teenage Daughter (1956)

My Teenage Daughter poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 5.7

In London, magazine editor Valerie Carr’s daughter Jan falls for Tony, a charismatic jive enthusiast with questionable origins. Ignoring the love of Mark, a sincere farmer, Jan’s infatuation with Tony pulls her into a risky world of delinquency and perilous consequences.

Top cast: Sylvia Syms, Kenneth More, Anna Neagle, Norman Wooland, Brenda De Banzie, John Gregson, Jane Wenham.


Sylvia Syms full filmography @ Wikipedia
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