Saturday, 2 May 2015
I never minded not being able to play the fluffy heroine
"I'm not a bit like my screen image. I don't bully. I don't shout. And if I do have a row with somebody it makes me ill for at least a week".
"I never minded not being able to play the fluffy heroine. I was always fat, never good looking. A producer once said to me: 'Peggy, you have a character walk, a character face and a character body. You will never be anything but a character woman as long as you live.' I resented it at the time, but within a month I realised he was right."
We celebrate today the centenary of possibly the greatest ever portrayer of that most British of acting traditions - The Battleaxe.
Miss Peggy Mount (for it is she) first had her moment in the spotlight as the fearsome mother (to Shirley Eaton) and mother-in-law (to the hapless Ronald Lewis) in Sailor Beware in 1956 (a part she had previously made her own in the West End). From then on, roles that called for a stentorian, terrifying matriarch in the "seaside-postcard" tradition were hers - from George and the Dragon alongside Sid James to You're Only Young Twice where she held sway over Pat Coombs and everybody else in their fictional retirement home.
As her obituary in The Guardian put it: "...[she was] equally at home in the broadest of farces or in Brecht. Her professional stock-in-trade as a stage and television actress was a voice that could have made a regimental sergeant major tremble and a figure, suggesting an ample corsage filled with concrete, that wordlessly and hilariously forbade the taking of liberties."
Many came after her - Violet Carson ("Ena Sharples"), Fanny Cradock, Mollie Sugden ("Mrs Slocombe"), Rita Webb, Patricia Routledge ("Hyacinth Bucket") - but few could match the ease in which she dominated her many over-the-top "Monster Auntie" appearances.
She was not like this at all in real life by all accounts, but to millions Miss Mount's on-screen persona leaves a lasting - and exceptionally camp - legacy. For this, we love her, and remember her.
Margaret Rose "Peggy" Mount OBE (2nd May 1915 – 13th November 2001)