Marie Ney (neé Fix) (1895–1981) was an English actress and pupil of F. M. Alexander.
As a young child, Ney went with her family to live in New Zealand. She began her acting career in that country, and continued it in Australia. After several years she moved back to Britain, where she acted at the Old Vic with many famous actors of the day such as Robert Donat (who was also a pupil of Alexander).
She went on to appear in many films, from 1919 to 1964, and then in television until 1969.
Connection with Alexander
In notes for an unpublished memoirs Marie Ney relates her lessons with F. M. Alexander (see below). From the context it can be deducted that her lessons took place in the 1930s. Ney befriended Irene Tasker and visited her in South Africa. Ney also had lessons with Marjory Barlow.
Marie Ney’s reference to Alexander in her unpublished memoirs sketch:
I had been asked by Sir Bronson Albery, following a dress rehearsal of Love from a stranger which ended with my having hysterics, ‘Can you have hysteria eight times a week without loosing your voice?’ I could and did for the nine months run.
My voice however, did cause me problems in those years. I’d had singing, elocution and dancing lessons as an adolescent, and during the Melbourne seasons with the Wilkie company I had been accepted for voice training at Melba’s conservatorium, with Melba coming to us twice a week for morning lectures. Once in London, as soon as I was settled at the Vic, Lewis suggested I do some voice training with Elsie Fogarty. But in the thirties, Murray Macdonald was worried about my voice – he said it sounded affected in every day scenes – modern dialogue, and this time I went to Clifford Turner for help. Then, in 1934, I appeared in some special matinees of Hamlet, to raise funds for Sadlers Wells and I played Ophelia again. In Lillian’s thank you letter, as well as the inevitable green slip, she enclosed pamphlets on the writings of someone called F. M. Alexander, and Lillian had scrawled a P.S. to her letter: ‘Mr. Alexander thought you good, but said you had more to realize.’ A cryptic message I interpreted as ‘voice again’. I bought the Alexander books – three, I think – and the easiest to read, Use of Self, had passages about losing voice. I never did! But about a year later I went to Alexander and demanded help with my voice. A slim, vital man in his sixties with a whimsical face, he must have been slightly taken aback by my truculence. I was even more taken aback by his lessons: not saying a piece, nothing specific about voice – it was a training in awareness of the whole me.
Lessons had not gone far before Tyrone Guthrie was again criticising my voice: ‘You’re fine with your big voice splashing out on the back wall – it’s the “pass the salt” voice that’s wrong. It’s like snake-skin after the snake has shed it – it’s empty. Go to Bertie Scott.’
The work I was doing with F. M. Alexander was not specific – it was total, learning a general awarenes – tremendously exciting because of the discoveries I was making, though not specifically about the voice. So, at Tony’s ‘Go to Bertie Scott’, dutifully I went.
Bertie made me say a speech, which I did, then looked at me, ambled right round the grand piano in an otherwise empty room, saying ‘Extraordinary! Everybody Tony sends me, I have to teach to breathe. You’ve got too much breath.’
At last someone could tell me the cause of that cast-off snakeskin voice – white tone it was sometimes called – and this discovery could be combined with the work of F. M. Alexander, through which I was learning awareness of the whole, and that voice is not specific, but of the whole.
Marie Ney *18 July 1895 – †11 April 1981.