by Darren Senior
Betty Marsden (Beatrice Marsden) b Liverpool 24/2/1919 d Ruislip 18/7/1998
Betty always wanted to be an actress and she made her professional debut at the Bath Pavilion aged eleven when she played the first fairy in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Shortly after this performance she made her London debut as the Prince in ‘The Windmill Man’ at Victoria Palace, this was a musical play. These performances helped Betty gain a scholarship to The Italia Conti Stage School where Betty stayed for six years.
She made her West End theatre debut in a play called ‘Closing at Sunrise’ in 1935. Other West End work followed she was in ‘Autumn’ (1937), Ivor Novello’s, ‘Comedienne’ (1938) and JB Priestley’s morality play, ‘Johnson Over Jordan’ in 1939. Whilst building up a reputation on stage Betty made her screen debut in the crime drama entitled The Rat in 1937. The following year she appeared in another crime drama The Sky Raiders.
The outbreak of war put Betty’s career on hold however she spent most the war entertaining troops with ENSA and was in the comedy film Junior Miss in 1943, comedy was to play a big part in Betty’s life. Betty won praise for her performance as the amorous Mrs. Corcoran in the play ‘Don’t Listen Ladies’ in 1948 which also starred Alistair Sim in the lead role as Dr Angelus. For the next decade Betty spent most of her time in revues she had spells at the Irving Theatre Club in London and The Royal Court. Only occasionally did she appear on television during this time.
In the late fifties she was cast in ‘Beyond Our Ken’ a radio series which later turned into ‘Round The Horne’, she put her vocal talents to great use playing many characters such as Daphne Whitehigh the cookery expert, (whose delivery and voice was similar to Fanny Craddock), as well as Lady Counterblast (née Clissold), Buttercup Gruntfuttock (wife of J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock, personified by Kenneth Williams), Dame Celia Molestrangler, Judy Coolibar, Dame Bella Goatcabin, and others and she shared many funny scenes with fellow artists of the show Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, the show was listened to by millions every week.
As the sixties approached Betty started gaining screen roles more regularly. In 1961 she played Mata Hari in Carry On Regardless. She also appeared in the films The Wild Affair (1963), The Leather Boys (1964) and in 1969 she played Harriet Potter in her most famous role in Carry On Camping, her scenes with Terry Scott and Charles Hawtrey are excellent and she caps many lines off with a terrible high pitched squawk as she laughs. Later appearances included Here Come The Double Decker’s (1970) which she teamed up with Hugh Paddick. She was in the episode entitled ‘Assassin’ of Blake’s 7. In 1984 she played Miss George in the television series Mr Pye which starred Derek Jacobi.
Betty was also a regular guest artist in the successful comedy series French and Saunders in 1987. She later appeared in The Darling Buds of May in 1992 and made her last screen appearance in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes in 1994. Betty had been quoted as saying on the set of Carry On Camping when she spoke to Dilys Laye that she wanted to die with a glass of gin in her hand. When in July 1998 a day after moving into a residential home for old actors, that is exactly what happened, she was chatting at the bar to friends with a drink in hand when she collapsed and died. A fitting way to go for a unique unforgettable actress who does not get the credit she so richly deserved as a comedy actress.
Hugh Paddick (Hugh William Paddick) b Hoddeston, Herts 22/8/1915 d Milton Keynes, Bucks 9/11/2000
A fine and versatile comedy actor most notably on radio and in theatre, Hugh started in theatre in 1937 and it was this medium that Hugh preferred, in his personal life Hugh was a very quiet and private man. Hugh has the distinction of being in the original stage production of My Fair Lady at Drury Lane. In addition to theatre Hugh was an accomplished musician - singer, pianist and organist.
Hugh made his television debut in the series Here and Now in 1955. It was not until 1959 that Hugh started to appear on television and the screen more regularly. He has a nice cameo in the comedy classic School for Scoundrels (1960) which starred Ian Carmichael, Terry Thomas and Alistair Sim. Although occasionally appearing on screen during the sixties it was on radio that Hugh Paddick is best remembered on the radio show Round The Horne and he became well known for such sketches as ‘Charles and Fiona’ (as Charles) and more famously as Julian in ‘Julian and Sandy’ with Kenneth Williams. Both he and Kenneth Williams are largely responsible for introducing the underground language polari to the British public.
In 1969 Hugh played Sydney Jelliott in the comedy series Wink Me Not which also starred Beryl Reid. In 1972 he was cast as the genie in the children’s television series Pardon My Genie, the show also featured an early role for Roy Barraclough. Hugh steadily appeared in shows from time to time over the next fifteen years. Latterly in 1987 he appeared in the episode ‘Sense and Senility’ of Blackadder The Third and he plays an old actor called Keanrick and along with Kenneth Connor (Mossop) steals some excellent scenes from Rowan Atkinson as two old ham actors. Hugh was to make his last television appearance in 1990.
In his personal life Hugh was gay and lived for over thirty years with his partner Francis, whom he met at a party in London. The two men were keen gardeners at their west London home. He was distantly related to , England's first openly gay police commander. Hugh died in 2000 at the good age of eighty five.
George Woodbridge b Exeter, Devon 16/2/1907 d 31/3/1973
A larger than life character who was extremely large in his latter years. George actually was a University graduate who when completing his degree started in rep at Cambridge Festival Theatre, he was to tour in various productions all over the country and during the thirties he had a spell at the Old Vic. George made his screen debut in the television production On the High Road in 1938, George was to become a well known character actor and his ruddy cheeked complexion, his Devonshire accent meant he was a regular in many productions playing an innkeeper, policeman or a West country native and he was to appear in well over one hundred television and film productions.
His first film was The Big Blockade in 1940 later he appeared in Green for Danger with Trevor Howard and Alistair Sim in 1946. He would later appear in The Fallen Idol (1949), An Inspector Calls (1954) and Richard III (1955). He was also regular character actor in horror films mainly for Hammer and his appearances included Dracula (1958), The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Curse of the Werewolf (1960), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965) and Doomwatch (1972). George was a versatile character actor and was used extensively in comedies, which included Three Men In A Boat (1956), Two Way Stretch (1960), Only Two Can Play (1962), with Peter Sellers and Mai Zetterling, What A Carve Up! (1961) and Heavens Above (1963).
Later in 1963 he played Ned in Carry On Jack and this was his only contribution to the series. George continued to be busy throughout the sixties appearing mainly on the television in such series as Adam Adamant Lives! (1967), The Forsyth Saga (1967) and David Copperfield (1969). In 1970 he played Farmer Giles in the episode called ‘Summer Camp’ in the children’s series Here Come The Double Decker’s!, the following year he was a fat bather in the film version of Up Pompeii and later that year he appeared in an episode of The Persuaders. In 1973 he played Inigo Pipkin and played puppet maker in the children’s television show of the same name. He had started on the second series when he died suddenly, the show was rewritten and was to continue for another seven years under the new title Pipkins.