VERONICA Carlson, the York-born actor who enjoyed enduring fame thanks to her roles in a string of Hammer horror films has died aged 77.

The much-loved performer began her career as a model and was also an accomplished artist, but it was her acting roles playing opposite Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing that made her a star.

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Born Veronica Mary Glazer in York on September 18, 1944, she enjoyed a peripatetic childhood.

Her father was in the RAF and the family moved to wherever he was stationed, eventually settling down in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Although she studied art - and gained a National Diploma in Design - her striking looks made her a favourite for model photographers.

In 1968 when her picture appeared on the front page of The Daily Mirror she was spotted by Hammer boss James Carreras who was on the lookout for a new star to add glamour to the studio's third Dracula film, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave.

Carlson impressed during a meeting and was duly cast opposite Christopher Lee as the vampire Count.

Hammer's publicity material said "with her naturally blonde hair, peach cream complexion and vivid blue eyes, Veronica might be described as the typical English beauty".

She was also a very accomplished actress and her performance in the film - one of Hammer's most successful overseas exports - ensured she was remembered as more than just a damsel in distress.

Carlson was immediately cast opposite Hammer's other big star, Peter Cushing, in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.

Although considered one of the best of Hammer's outings for the Baron, the shooting was not without controversy due to the late addition of a rape scene which was bitterly opposed by Carlson, Cushing and even the film's director Terence Fisher.

Despite her voluble opposition to the scene - which, due to being filmed out of chronological order, rendered her character's subsequent dealings with Cushing's character nonsensical - Hammer cast Carlson in the next Frankenstein film, Horror of Frankenstein.

This time she was Frankenstein's bride-to-be, Elizabeth, and her beau was not Cushing, but Ralph Bates who was being groomed by Hammer to take over the role. The film was not a success.

Carlson resumed her partnership with Cushing in 1975's The Ghoul, made by Hammer wannabe Tyburn Films.

Having married in 1974 she moved to America, but was a frequent visitor to the UK where she remained a favourite at cult film conventions until her death.

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