Marilyn “Mandy” Rice-Davies (21 October 1944 – 18 December 2014) was a British model and showgirl best known for her association with Christine Keeler and her role in the Profumo affair, which discredited the Conservative government of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1963.
Marilyn Rice-Davies came from a Welsh family background but was born in Mere, Wiltshire, and moved to Shirley, Warwickshire, where her father was a policeman. Her mother was a former actress. She attended Sharmans Cross Secondary Modern School.As a teenager in her early years she worked at Woods Farm in Shirley assisting with the horse yard there, however she appeared older than her age, and at 15 she gained a job as a clothes model at Marshall & Snelgrove, a department store in Birmingham. At 16 she went to London and appeared as ‘Miss Austin’ at the Earls Court Motor Show.
She then worked as a dancer at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho where she met Christine Keeler who introduced her to her friend, the well-connected osteopath Stephen Ward, and to an ex-lover, the slum landlord Peter Rachman. Rice-Davies became Rachman’s mistress and was set up in the same house where he had previously kept Keeler, 1 Bryanston Mews West, Marylebone. Rice-Davies often visited Keeler at the house she shared with Ward at Wimpole Mews, Marylebone, and, after Keeler had moved elsewhere, lived there herself, between September and December 1962. On 14 December 1962 while Keeler was visiting Rice-Davies at Wimpole Mews, one of Keeler’s boyfriends, John Edgecombe, attempted to enter and fired a gun several times at the door.His trial brought attention to the girls’ involvement with Ward’s social set, and intimacy with many powerful people, including the then Viscount Astor at whose stately home of Cliveden Keeler met the War Minister John Profumo. Profumo’s brief relationship with Keeler was at the centre of the affair that caused him to resign from the government in June 1963, though Rice-Davies herself never met him.
At the height of the scandal, the first prime minister of independent Malaya (now Malaysia) Tunku Abdul Rahman arrived in London for a visit. At a reception at Heathrow Airport when asked what he wanted to do first, he replied “I want Mandi” which shocked the reception party because they did not know that “Mandi” means “take a bath” in Malay.
While giving evidence at the trial of Stephen Ward, charged with living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and Rice-Davies, the latter made a famous riposte. When James Burge, the defence counsel, pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her, she replied, “Well (giggle) he would, wouldn’t he?”(often misquoted “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”). By 1979, this phrase had entered the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and is occasionally abbreviated as MRDA (“Mandy Rice-Davies applies”).
Mandy Rice-Davies traded on the notoriety the trial brought her, comparing herself to Nelson’s mistress, Lady Hamilton. In 1966 she married the Israeli businessman, Rafi Shauli and moved to Israel. The couple had one daughter together and Rice-Davies converted to Judaism. She also opened nightclubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv. They were called Mandy’s, Mandy’s Candies and Mandy’s Singing Bamboo. Rice-Davies released a 45 EP on the Ember label (EMB EP 4537) in May 1964 entitled Introducing Mandy, which included cover versions of songs such as “All I Do Is Dream of You” and “You Got What It Takes”. A Private Eye cover at the time of Profumo had a photograph of “the lovely” Rice-Davies with the caption (without any headline or other identification), “Do you mind? If it wasn’t for me – you couldn’t have cared less about Rachman”.
In 1980, with Shirley Flack, Rice-Davies wrote her autobiography, Mandy. A year later she appeared in the Tom Stoppard play, Dirty Linen. In 1989, she wrote a novel titled The Scarlet Thread. The Ottoman Empire provided the backdrop and the novel was described as a stirring wartime saga in the spirit of Gone with the Wind. Subsequently, journalist Libby Purves, who had met Rice-Davies when Mandy was published, invited her to join a female re-creation on the River Thames of Jerome K. Jerome’s comic novel Three Men in a Boat. This expedition was commissioned by Alan Coren for the magazine Punch, the other members of the party being cartoonist Merrily Harpur and a toy Alsatian to represent Montmorency, the dog in the original story. Purves recounted how she “immediately spotted that this Rice-Davies was a woman to go up the Amazon with” and, among other things, that “only Mandy’s foxy charm saved us from being evicted from a lock for being drunk on pink Champagne.”
Rice-Davies appeared in a number of television and film productions including Absolutely Fabulous and episode 6 of the first series of Chance in a Million. Her film career included roles in Nana, the True Key of Pleasure (1982), and Absolute Beginners (1986) as Colin’s mother. In the 1989 film Scandal about the Profumo affair, Bridget Fonda portrayed Rice-Davies, alongside Joanne Whalley as Keeler.
She was closely involved in the development of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Stephen Ward the Musical about society osteopath Ward’s involvement in the Profumo affair in which she is portrayed by Charlotte Blackledge. The musical opened on 19 December 2013 at the Aldwych Theatre. On Radio 4’s Midweek on 5 February 2014 Rice-Davies said of Stephen Ward, “I didn’t fall for him, but I did have an affair with him.”She once described her life as “one slow descent into respectability”.
Rice-Davies died aged 70 from cancer on 18 December 2014, in London. She is survived by her husband and her daughter.