Obituary: Mary Millar
Friday 13 November 1998
She took over the role of tarty Rose from Shirley Stelfox at the start of the second series of Keeping Up Appearances and provided a foil to Patricia Routledge's pretentious, social-climbing Hyacinth. Rose lived in a council house with her married elder sister Daisy, played by Judy Cornwell, who was also an embarassment to the woman who was obsessed with etiquette and breeding, and insisted that her surname was pronounced "Bouquet".
The comedy, by the Last of the Summer Wine writer Roy Clarke, was one of the most successful of the Nineties and Millar was 55 when she took over the part, travelling to the audition on a London Tube train, wearing a mini-skirt she had bought specially.
However, playing to an audience was something that came naturally to the Sheffield-born actress whose parents, Horace and Irene Wetton, were singers. Although originally planning to become a stable hand because of her love of animals, Millar - who adopted her stage name by rearranging her mother's maiden name, Mellor - followed her parents into show business at the age of 16 by landing the role of principal girl in a Babes in the Wood pantomime at the Empire Theatre, Sheffield (1952), starring Morecambe and Wise. Wise recalls her as "a quiet, pretty young girl with a thin figure". A year later, Millar made her television debut in a show called Those Were the Days.
After touring as Margot in The Desert Song (1957, 1959) and Mary in Old Chelsea (1958), she was chosen to understudy Julie Andrews in Camelot (1960) at the Majestic Theater, New York, and, as a result, appeared as Guinevere opposite Richard Burton.
Millar made her West End debut as Cloris in Lock Up Your Daughters (Her Majesty's Theatre, 1962) and a string of musical roles followed, including Lydia Languish in All in Love (Mayfair Theatre, 1964), the title role in Ann Veronica (Cambridge Theatre, 1969) and Poppy Dickie in Popkiss (Globe Theatre, 1972). The actress also won praise when she took over as Barbara Jackson from Judi Dench in the straight play Pack of Lies (Lyric Theatre, 1984).
One of the highlights of Millar's stage career was playing Madame Giry in the original West End production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Phantom of the Opera, at Her Majesty's Theatre, alongside Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. Millar stayed in the show for four years and was noted by one critic for her "intensely sinister figure of a ballet mistress who acts as a stone-faced messenger between the Phantom and his victims". Millar, who also played Sally in the European premiere of Stephen Sondheim's Follies in Manchester, later took part in the original workshop production of Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love at Sydmonton.
Last year, she joined the cast of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, as Mrs Potts the teapot, and sang the musical's love theme, but she was forced to leave last February through illness.
Although best known on television as Rose in Keeping Up Appearances (1991- 95), Millar made many screen appearances over the years. Her acting and singing talents were showcased in Stanley Baxter and Dick Emery's entertainment shows, as well as BBC2 productions of The Mikado, Titipu - one of the first programmes to be broadcast in colour - and Iolanthe. She also appeared in Rookery Nook.
An active Christian, the actress performed An Evening With Mary Millar on several National Gospel tours, appeared in television programmes such as Songs of Praise and Secombe on Sunday, and travelled to Malawi to make a documentary about the work of the charity World Vision.
Mary Wetton (Mary Millar), actress and singer: born Doncaster 26 July 1936; married (one daughter); died London 10 November 1998.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
comedy Erm...he seems to be back
tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
- 2 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 3 Andy Murray takes to Twitter to show off his Christmas jumper
- 4 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 5 Top 10 travel destinations for 2015: From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
Madonna Rebel Heart: Pharrell Williams collaboration and 13 more songs leaked
Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'