Who would have thought that a small girl born in Hartford, Cheshire, would become an international film star?

But that is what happened more than 100 years ago.

Dorothy Annie Todd was born on January 24, 1907, to her parents, Constance (née Brooke) and Thomas Todd.

Her father, from Aberdeen, was a sales manager with a chemical company in the 1911 census; however, the family had already moved to London.

Perhaps Thomas had been drawn to Cheshire and the Brunner Mond Chemical Works, although there is little evidence of why the family came to live in Hartford or the address.

Constance came from London, so she was homeward-bound when they relocated.

It is also reputed that Dorothy Annie was distantly related to William Hogarth, the famous painter. 

Dorothy Annie Todd’s formal education took place at St Winifred’s School, Eastbourne, Sussex, and she then obtained a degree in theatrical arts under the guidance of Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art.

This establishment was founded by Elsie in 1906 and has had many famous students, including Dame Judi Dench, Laurence Olivier, and Wendy Craig.

It was given the 'Royal' title and seal of approval in 2012 by HM Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of its work in the theatre and arts.

Ann (having decided not to use her first name, Dorothy) had intended to become a drama teacher but instead started her acting career in the theatre.

Director Louis Mercanton saw her perform, was impressed by her beautiful looks and acting ability, and introduced her to the 'film world' under his own direction.

Her first role was a major one in 'These Charming People' in 1931. Ann starred in many films in the 1930s and 1940s, one of which would bring her briefly back to her birth town.

This was in 1934 when she took the role of Phyllis, the wife of Phil Drummond in 'The Return of Bulldog Drummond'.

Film crews and cast arrived at Northwich, as Acton Bridge had been chosen as the ideal location for a scene where a Bentley car dramatically plunged into the river Weaver.

It isn’t known whether Ann realised just how close to her birthplace she was.

Ann had a turbulent personal life, having been married three times. Her first wedding was in 1933 to Victor Neill Malcolm, son of Sir Iain Zackary Malcolm.

Warrington Guardian: Ann's husband's (clockwise from left) Nigel Tangye, Victor Neill Malcolm and David LeanAnn's husband's (clockwise from left) Nigel Tangye, Victor Neill Malcolm and David Lean (Image: Rose Hurley)

Victor’s sister, Helen Mary Malcolm, was one of the first two regular post-war announcers for the BBC and became a household name in the UK during the 1950s.

Victor was the grandson of Lillie Langtry, who gained notoriety when she became the mistress of the Prince of Wales.

Interestingly, Lillie’s husband Edward died in the Chester Lunatic Asylum in 1897, yet another link to Cheshire.

She divorced Victor and married again in 1939 to Nigel Trevithick Tangye, an airman in the Royal Navy. There was a bad feeling in the family when Ann subsequently divorced Nigel to marry his cousin David Lean in 1949.

David Lean was a famous film director who received a CBE in 1953 and a Knighthood in 1984 for his outstanding contribution to the Arts.

He directed Ann in many films; some flopped, and others, such as 'The Sound Barrier' in 1953, were more successful. David Lean directed many famous films such as 'The Bridge on the River Kwai', 'Doctor Zhivago' and 'Passage to India'.

The most famous film that propelled Ann to international success was 'The Seventh Veil' in 1945, directed by Compton Bennett. As can be seen from the Regal advertising poster, it was shown in Northwich in 1946.

Ann was divorced from David Lean in 1957 and never remarried. She retired from acting at the age of 85, spending the next year dividing her time between England and California, and was a generous benefactor to public amenities, charities, and religious causes.

She died just one year after her retirement in 1993 from a stroke at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. A diminutive child from Hartford became a leading lady in stage and film.