Comedy world mourns sitcom star Sugden

Comedy actress Mollie Sugden died in hospital after a long illness, aged 86.

The Yorkshire-born star of popular sitcom Are You Being Served? died in the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford yesterday afternoon.

Her twin sons, Robin and Simon Moore, were at her bedside, according to her agent Joan Reddin.

Ms Reddin began representing Sugden in the 1960s before she became famous with her role as Mrs Slocombe in Are You Being Served?

She said: "I represented her for more than 30 years and I was a very close friend as well.

"She had had a long illness and various problems but it was very quick in the end.

"Her twin boys were with her and she faded away.

"She was a lovely, lovely person and I never had any trouble with her.

"She was a great professional."

Sugden, who lived in Surrey, was married to fellow actor William Moore.

She never fully recovered from his death nine years ago, Ms Reddin said.

"They were very much in love," she said. "She started to go down when he died."

Best known for her comedy roles often playing battleaxes, Sugden also appeared as the fearsome Mrs Hutchinson in The Liver Birds.

But Ms Reddin said that although Are You Being Served? was her most famous show, Sugden was "too good" an actress not to do drama as well and her career spanned a variety of roles.

Born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, in July 1922, Sugden trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Her early career was spent in repertory theatre, where in Swansea in 1956, she met Moore.

They married two years later, when she was 35 and he was 39. Their sons were born six years later.

Frank Thornton, who played Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served? told the BBC: "Mollie, of course, was an excellent comedian.

"If you can play comedy, you can play anything - you can play tragedy as well.

"And if you can only play tragedy, you can't play comedy.

"She was a jolly good actress."

Of their on-screen chemistry in the long-running BBC sitcom, he said: "You can't play comedy if you don't get on. It was a wonderful team."

The BBC's head of comedy Mark Freeland said: "It is with sadness that the BBC learns of Mollie Sugden's death.

"She will be remembered as a truly funny and instantly recognisable actress - a star of 1970s British comedy.

"She lit up the screens in both The Liver Birds and most famously, Are You Being Served?

"Her daftly enormous purple rinse and never-to-be-forgotten catchphrase are the stuff of comedy legend and she takes her place as one of TV's iconic funny women."