She was born Pauline Taylor in Hammersmith, London in 1935 and raised by her librarian mother and Czech-refugee stepfather. After graduating from RADA, she began her career at the Little Theatre, Bristol, then run by the husband-and-wife team of Ronnie Russell and Peggy Ann Wood.
Starting with walk-on parts, she quickly moved to leading roles and remembered the period as one of the happiest of her life. In the early 1960s she appeared in several plays at the Royal Court, including Henry Chapman’s That’s Us and Arden of Faversham (attributed to Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd and Shakespeare), both directed by William Gaskell, and John Osborne’s double-bill Two Plays for England, directed by John Dexter and Jonathan Miller.
From 1964 to 1965, she was part of the National Theatre company at the Old Vic Theatre, touring Russia and Poland and going on for Maggie Smith as Beatrice in Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. She also appeared as Imogen Parrot in Arthur Wing Pinero’s Trelawny of the Wells at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1965.
West End roles included Molly opposite Robert Duvall in Patricia Broderick’s The Admiration of Life (Arts Theatre, 1960) and Violet Carpenter in Roy Kendall’s Body and Soul (Albery, 1992). She also toured Europe with Charles Marowitz’s Open Space company.
In the UK she appeared regularly on tour (among her fondly remembered productions was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird) and with repertory theatres, including Perth, Cheltenham, York, Salisbury and Lincoln. Her favourite roles were Doris (Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path, Redgrave Theatre, Farnham, 1981) and Fraulein Schneider (Cabaret, Dundee Rep). She also had a long association with the Bellerby Theatre, Guildford.
Taylor’s television appearances included 50 episodes of Z-Cars (1967-71), Emmerdale (1973), The Bill (1993) and the children’s series Model Millie (1994).
Notable radio roles included the Wife of Bath in an award-winning production of The Canterbury Tales broadcast on LBC (1990). She also adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a best-selling audio drama.
Her film work included Flo in How I Won the War, starring John Lennon and directed by Dick Lester (1967), and the psychiatrist Dr Taylor in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971).
Polly Taylor was born on August 2, 1935 and died on March 23, aged 81. She was married to the actor Mike Shannon (with whom she had two children who survive her) and subsequently to Stewart Broadwood. With an unfailing ability to find wonder in the world, combined with a genuine innocence, she will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her.