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Gabrielle Drake by Bill Harry        

The actress was born on March 30th 1944 in Lahore, Pakistan. Her father was an engineer working in import/exports, mainly in the Far East, and for the early years of her life Gabrielle was travelling with her parents in countries such as Burma and India.

The family returned to England when she was eight and she was educated at Wycombe Abbey School for Girls before travelling to Paris to work as an au pair girl.On her return she trained for several years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

On graduation she spent three years at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool before moving to the Malvern Theatre Company, the Birmingham Repertory Company, the Bristol Old Vic, the New Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic. Among the plays she appeared in were ‘The Cherry Orchard’, ‘A Comedy of Errors’ and ‘Titus Andronicus.’ Gabrielle also appeared in numerous television parts throughout the Sixties including ‘Intrigue’ in 1966, an industrial espionage drama, and roles in ‘Coronation Street’, ‘The Saint’, ‘The Champions’, ‘Journey To The Unknown’, ‘Virgin of the Secret Service’ and she also appeared as Angora in ‘The Avengers’ episode ‘The Hidden Tiger’ in 1967 (she auditioned unsuccessfully for the roles of Emma Peel and Tara King).

Gabrielle gained a cult following when she portrayed Lt. Gay Ellis in the Gerry Anderson series ‘UFO’ (dressed in a mauve wig) and in 1972 established herself still further with the British public as Jill Howard in the highly popular ‘The Brothers’ series. Although she made her film debut in 1969 in ‘Crossplot’, a Swinging Sixties movie starring Roger Moore, the British cinema in the Seventies was unlike that of the Sixties.

During the Sixties American studios poured money into British studios and there was a wide variety of films, some big-budget, some modestly budgeted, but most aimed at international audiences. The Seventies saw Hammer reduced to making movies based on TV series such as ‘On The Buses’, with little appeal outside the UK, while the main British contribution to the cinema was a string of soft-porn films. Gabrielle, who was to be found in bed topless with Peter Sellers in ‘There’s A Girl In My Soup’, appeared in a series of 'sex comedy' films such as ‘The Au Pair Girls’, ‘Suburban Wives’ and ‘Commuter Husbands.’

Why a well-respected Shakespearean actress would be willing to appear full-frontal as a sexpot in ‘The Au Pair Girls’ is puzzling as theatre and television roles still kept her regularly in work. She appeared as Penny in the ‘Dead Men Are Dangerous’ episode of ‘The New Avengers’ and continued to appear over the years in numerous television episodes on ‘The Professionals’, ‘Medics’, ‘Peak Practice' – and in the 21st Century ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘The Inspector Lindlay Mysteries’ among others.

Gabrielle is the sister of the late singer/songwriter Nick Drake. Nick was born in Burma on 18th June 1948. He began recording in 1968 and established his reputation with three albums: ‘Five Leaves Left’, ‘Bryter Layter’ and ‘Pink Moon’. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1972 and was hospitalised. Nick died at his home in Tamworth, Staffordshire, of an overdose of antidepressants on 23rd October 1974. He was 26 years old.
Gabrielle appeared in the documentary ‘A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake.’

Also See: Sixties City 'UFO' TV Series

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