A popular child star who emerged as an adult performer in the late 1970s before retiring from show business in the early 1980s, Karen Dotrice began her career on stage. First gaining attention in “The Three Lives of Thomasina” (1964), the eight year-old girl enjoyed a massive blockbuster hit and widespread popularity with her role of Jane Banks in the Academy Award winning movie “Mary Poppins” (1964). Her third film, “The Gnome-Mobile” (1967), however was less successful and Dotrice did not make another film appearance as a child. She costarred with Matthew Garber in all the three films.
Dotrice went on to pursue a career on television in her native England, but found minor success. Her roles included Lily in several episodes of the hit series “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1975) and Maria Beadnell in the miniseries “Dickens of London” (1976), which starred her father Roy Dotrice. She revisited the silver screen in 1978 playing the English noble love interest in “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” for which she won a 1980 Evening News British Film Award. However in 1984, after a disappointing stage appearance in a 1981 production of “Othello,” she put acting on the back burner to concentrate on her family. Two decades after her retirement, Dotrice was named a Disney Legend.
Dotrice's frequent Disney childhood costar Matthew Garber died on June 13, 1977, of a rare form of an inflammation of his pancreas caused by hepatitis that was the result of eating bad meat in India. At the time, he was only 21.
As for her personal life, Dotrice has been married twice. She and first husband Alex Hyde-White (together from 1986 to 1992) have a son named Garrick William. She married her current husband Ned Nalle, a Worldwide TV Productions president, in 1994. They have two kids together.
Mother of 3
Childhood and Family:
Karen Dotrice was born on November 9, 1955, in Guernsey, Channel Islands, to Roy and Kay Dotrice. Her parents were both accomplished stage performers. When she was a child, her family moved to England. Karen has two sisters, Michele and Yvette Dotrice, both of whom are actresses. She was the goddaughter of actor Charles Laughton (born in 1899, died in 1962).
In 1986, Karen married London actor Alex Hyde-White (born on January 30, 1959), but the marriage ended in 1992. They have one son named Garrick William (born in 1990). Two years later, on June 18, 1994, she married producer Ned Nalle. With Nalle, Karen has a daughter named Isabella (born in 1995) and a son named Griffin (born in 1996).
The Thirty-Nine Steps
Karen Dotrice was introduced to the world of stage early and by the time she was four, was ready to perform in her debut play “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” for the Royal Shakespeare Company, with which her father also performed. It was while performing in the play that Dotrice was spotted by a scout for Disney, who invited the girl to Burbank, California, to meet Walt Disney.
Four years later, Dotrice appeared on the big screen when she landed a supporting part in the Disney family movie “The Three Lives of Thomasina” (1964), which was adapted from a book by Paul Gallico. Starring Patrick McGoohan and Susan Hampshire, her performance in the movie proved to be charming. While she was in California, her father stayed in England and Walt Disney personally took care of her family. Soon, she considered Disney as a father figure and called him “Uncle Walt.” She stated, “My dad was in England the whole time I was over here (in the United States) with my mother and sisters. I didn't have my Daddy figure around so I called Walt 'Uncle Walt.' He took me and my family under his wing, every weekend flying us in his plane to Santa Barbara or to his home in Palm Springs.”
Following the auspicious debut, Dotrice was cast in the role of Jane Banks in the 1964 Disney feature film adaptation of the “Mary Poppins” children book series by P. L. Travers. In the movie, she portrayed Jane, the daughter of a workaholic father (played by David Tomlinson) and a mother (played by Glynis Johns), who along with her brother (played by Matthew Garber), is taken by their nanny on magical adventures designed to teach the kids and their parents about the importance of family. Starring Julia Andrews, “Mary Poppins” was a huge success and won five out of thirteen Oscar nominations.
Dotrice worked again with Garber in 1967's “The Gnome-Mobile,” a Disney adventure based on a book by Upton Sinclair. Starring Walter Brennan, the movie failed to achieve the same success as “Mary Poppins” at the box office and marked Dotrice's last performance as a child actress.
After “The Gnome-Mobile,” Dotrice returned to England and in 1972 resumed her career on television when she took on the role of Desirée Clary in the Thames Television miniseries “Napoleon and Love” (1972), starring Ian Holm and Tim Curry. She followed it up with a recurring part in the well liked British drama “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1975), playing Lily. In the ten part miniseries “Dickens of London” (1976), which starred her real life father as Charles Dickens, she was cast in the role of Maria Beadnell. The next year, Dotrice portrayed Princess Ozyliza in the BBC film “The Princess and the Hedgehog” (1977) and appeared with Ann-Margret in “Joseph Andrews” (also 1977), a German television movie adapted from a Henry Fielding novel.
In 1978, Dotrice made a comeback on the silver screen when she was cast as Alex Mackenzie in the thriller “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” alongside Robert Powell and John Mills. As the British love interest, the actress received kudos and was named Evening News British Film's Most Promising Female Newcomer. The same year, she also starred with Malcolm McDowell and Eileen Atkins in the BBC2 “Play of the Week” titled “She Fell Among Thieves.”
Dotrice returned to the United States in 1980 and the following year picked up the role of Desdemona in the Warner Theatre production of “Othello,” with Christopher Plummer and James Earl Jones. Her performance, however, received poor reviews from critics. In 1982, she made a guest appearance in an episode of the U.S adventure series “Voyagers,” but two years later decided to retire from acting to focus on motherhood.
After her retirement, Dotrice was primarily away from the public eye. She did however supply spoken word adaptations of Disney's “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Pocahontas.” In 2001, she provided her vocals to sing-along release of “Mary Poppins” and was interviewed for the ABC documentary special “Walt: The Man Behind the Myth,” which debuted on September 16, 2001. Three years later, she was put back in the limelight when she was chosen as a Disney Legend at a ceremony in Burbank. That same year, she was interviewed and provided audio commentary for the 40th “Anniversary Edition Mary Poppins” DVD release. In 2005, she could be seen in an episode of the U.S. adventure series “Young Blades” with an unaccredited role as a teacher.
Evening Standard British Film: Most Promising Newcomer - Actress, 1980