Diana Coupland

Sid James's long-suffering wife in 'Bless This House' - who also sang for Ursula Andress in 'Dr No'


Diana Coupland, actress and singer: born Leeds 5 March 1932; married first Monty Norman (one daughter; marriage dissolved), second 1980 Marc Miller; died Coventry, Warwickshire 10 November 2006.

The face of Diana Coupland was one of the most familiar in television sitcom of the 1970s. She and the veteran Hancock's Half Hour and Carry On actor Sid James portrayed Jean and Sid Abbott, the Putney parents constantly dealing with their teenaged children's antics in the generation-gap comedy Bless This House.

"Oh, my Gawd!" spluttered the exasperated James in just about every episode, as the stationery-company rep Sid tried to maintain the illusion of being head of the household while listing his pleasures alphabetically as "ale, birds and Chelsea" - and sneaking away in pursuit of them.

Jean was the long-suffering wife who was more than a match for Sid, hounding him and invariably emerging the victor from their confrontations. She was also a devoted mother, able to understand much better the views of her children, the unemployed former art student Mike (Robin Stewart) and the free-love-espousing, grammar-school girl Sally (Sally Geeson).

The cosy middle-class shenanigans quickly captivated viewers' imaginations, with audiences of up to 20 million over 65 episodes and six series, as well as a 1972 film spin-off - ended only by Sid James's real-life death. Coupland recalled: "It was such a very happy time of my life. We almost felt like a true family, having worked together for so long. Sid once said to me, "It's such fun and so successful, we'll still be working on Bless This House till one of us kicks the bucket." How right he was."

Although Bless This House (1971-76), created by the prolific comedy-writing partnership of Vince Powell and Harry Driver, was Coupland's most memorable role in front of the cameras, she also created a bit of film history by singing "Underneath the Mango Tree" in the first James Bond film, Dr No (1962) - dubbed over the miming of Ursula Andress for the scene in which the Swiss-born sex symbol's character, Honey Ryder, emerges from the sea. At the time, Coupland was married to Monty Norman, who composed the film's original music, including the enduring theme tune, orchestrated by John Barry.

Born in Leeds in 1932, Coupland abandoned ambitions to become a ballet dancer after suffering injuries in a riding accident. She made her broadcasting début as a singer at the age of 11 when the producer Barney Colehan, based at the BBC's Leeds studios, gave her a spot in one of his radio shows. Three years later, she was singing full-time at the city's Mecca Locarno and, within another 12 months, was performing at the circuit's Tottenham Court Road ballroom after her parents moved to London.

She then worked with big bands, becoming a resident singer with Teddy Foster, Geraldo, Cyril Stapleton and Stanley Black, performing in top night-clubs such as the Nightingale and Churchill's, appearing in variety shows with stars such as Max Miller and Benny Hill, and performing in the BBC television entertainment show Hit Parade.

Her first venture into feature films came when she dubbed the singing voice of Lana Turner in the wartime spy thriller Betrayed (1954) for the song "Johnny Come Home", which was released as a single under her own name.

Coupland's career changed course when she demonstrated to the legendary director Joan Littlewood, founder of the radical Theatre Workshop, the score of a new musical, Wolf Mankowitz's Make Me an Offer (with music and lyrics by David Heneker and Monty Norman). Once the session ended, Littlewood told her: "And I hope you'll be playing Sally." As a result, Coupland starred in the show with Daniel Massey (Theatre Royal, Stratford East, 1959). Seven years later, she was later in a "Play of the Month" television adaptation of it.

Her film acting début came with the role of a nurse in The Millionairess (based on the George Bernard Shaw play and starring Sophia Loren, 1960), following it with pictures such as The Family Way (directed by Roy Boulting, 1966), Charlie Bubbles (with Albert Finney, 1967), Spring and Port Wine (as the timid wife of a tyrannical patriarch - and playing the mother of Susan George - in the writer Bill Naughton's working-class family saga, 1970), The Twelve Chairs (the Mel Brooks-directed comedy, 1970) and The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (starring Peter Cook, 1970). Coupland also acted the wife of Reg Varney - in the role of an ageing holiday-camp drag artist - in The Best Pair of Legs in the Business (1972).

But she was best known on television, initially coming to viewers' attention in the first series of the sitcom A Little Big Business (1964) as Naomi Lieberman, who was married to the highly educated Simon (Francis Matthews), the son following in the career footsteps of his dyed-in-the-wool, Jewish furniture-maker father Marcus (David Kossoff). (Constance Wake took over the role for the second and final series.)

Coupland was cast in Bless This House after being spotted by its producer- director William G. Stewart in an episode of the classroom sitcom Please Sir! (1969), as Connie Eversleigh, mother of the dollybird schoolgirl Sharon (Penny Spencer).

Switching to drama, she played Norma Moffat, alongside Alan Badel, in A Raging Calm (1974), Stan Barstow's small-screen version of his novel set in a West Riding town. For a while, she appeared as Marion Terson in the twice-weekly serial Triangle (1981-82), about the lives and loves of those on a passenger and freight ferry in the North Sea, before reverting to comedy in High and Dry (1987) as Mrs Briggs, one of the residents in a post-war Yorkshire resort where restoration of a Victorian pier was undertaken - with very little money available.

Coupland, who had a six-week stint as Maureen Carter, Irene Raymond's battleaxe of an aunt, in EastEnders (2000), was last seen on screen in an episode of the crime series Rose and Maloney (2005).

On stage, she acted in Shelagh Delaney's The Lion in Love (Royal Court Theatre, 1960), Peter Gill's production of Jeremy Seabrook and Michael O'Neill's Life Price (as Rube, Royal Court Theatre, 1969), the Ray Cooney farce Not Now Darling (Savoy Theatre, 1980), a revival of Alan J. Lerner's musical Gigi (Lyric Theatre, 1985) and Richard III (as the Duchess of York, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1995) during a second consecutive season with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The actress's second husband, Marc Miller, directed her in both Dickens of London (in which she played the novelist's wife Catherine, 1976) and Triangle. Among her work for charity, she was honorary president of the Shakespeare Hospice.

Anthony Hayward

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Associate - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Law Costs - London City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...

Austen Lloyd: In-House Solicitor / Company Secretary - London

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee