Born in Northampton, Northamptonshire, England, she was educated at Sternhold College, the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts stage school and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London.
An actress who made the most of her talents, notably in the films directed by her husband, Bryan Forbes, she made her first appearance in film as a teenager in Personal Affairs in 1953. There followed a number of period roles, including the heroine in The Wrong Box (1966); The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969; The Raging Moon (1971), as a young woman in a wheelchair, and International Velvet (1978).
From a variety background, she acted on stage and became well known for TV ads for Fairy Liquid. She was also a popular regular panellist on the 1970s revival of the BBC panel game show What's My Line?.
The author of thirty children’s books and six cookery books, she won the Cookbook of the Year Award with The Summer Cookbook, and presented a children's television cooking show in the mid 1970s called Fun Food Factory.
Married to director Bryan Forbes since 1955, she became a West Ham United fan as a result. The couple have two daughters, Emma Forbes and Sarah Standing (born 21 May 1959), the latter married to actor John Standing.