LOVED West End musical star Violetta Farjeon died earlier month. FLORA THOMPSON looks back at her career and her life in Sussex.

SHE was only ever referred to by her first name on stage but everyone knew who she was.

Violetta Farjeon became a West End star and appeared on film with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier

She was born in Kensington, London, on September 27, 1923, but she grew up in a small village in the Pyrenees and as a result learnt French which would help her out in her career.

Violetta escaped from occupied France and arrived in London as a teenager during the Blitz. Aged just 16, she joined the Free French Army and became involved in entertainment for the troops.

She became known as a French musical comedy actress, starring in original London productions of The Boy Friend and Divorce Me, Darling.

In a stage and screen career spanning 50 years she appeared with legendary performers such as Peter Ustinov, Clive Dunn, Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier.

In 1949, she married Gervase Farjeon, son of the West End revue writer Herbert Farjeon. They separated in the 1990s and never had children but did not divorce. He died in August 2001 at the age of 80.

Violetta had a five-year West End run from 1954 to 1959 as Hortense, the dizzy and irrepressible French maid in the hit musical The Boy Friend, in which she sang It’s Nicer In Nice.

In 1956, during the run, Violetta appeared in a cameo role in the film The Prince And The Showgirl, starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier.

In the 1960s, she appeared in the TV series Harpers West One (1961), The Creative Impulse (1962) and Sergeant Cork (1964).

This was followed in 1965 when she appeared in the show Divorce Me, Darling, in which she reappeared as Hortense.

Fluent in English, French, Spanish and German, her linguistic skills meant she appeared in a 1970s BBC series, S’il Vous Plait, teaching French.

However, in the 1980s The Argus reported that Violetta had hopes of touring the southern states of America.

Four years later, at the age of 66, she nostalgically reprised her role as Hortense in The Boy Friend in Concert at the Duchess Theatre in London.

Violetta continued to appear at the Players Theatre until 1998 when she was 75.

The Argus marked her 90th birthday with an interview after she had retired and lived in a secluded 500-year-old cottage in Southwater, near Horsham.

She invited actors and showbiz personalities to glitzy events at her home.

Despite her old age she continued to drive and was a frequent visitor to Chichester Festival Theatre.

She died at Worthing Hospital on July 16 aged 91.