Mavis Pugh

Actress cast as dotty aristocrats


Mavis Gladys Fox Pugh, actress: born Croydon, Surrey 25 June 1914; married 1959 John Clegg; died Chichester, West Sussex 6 December 2006.

The actress Mavis Pugh was frequently cast in aristocratic roles, most memorably the dotty Lady Lavender in the "upstairs downstairs" television sitcom You Rang, M'Lord?, from the successful writing partnership of Jimmy Perry and David Croft. It was comedy in the tradition of British variety theatre, with elements of farce thrown in - something Pugh had excelled at in her earlier theatre career - and featured an amalgam of stars from the writers' two previous hits, It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Hi-de-Hi!

Lord Meldrum (Donald Hewlett), the 1920s stately home owner, tried to have his gin-drinking mother Lady Lavender (Pugh) declared mentally unstable when she promised her shares in the Union Jack Rubber Company first to the maid, Ivy Teasdale (Su Pollard), then to Ivy's father, the scheming butler Alf Stokes (Paul Shane), whose raison d'être appeared to be to swindle his employers out of money.

Alf plotted to relieve her Ladyship of cash when he discovered that she kept a stash under her bed. However, he was forced to move faster than he intended when Lady Lavender threw the money out of a window into the street. Laying his hands on what he could, he hid some in one of his Lordship's antique vases, only to discover later that Meldrum had donated the vase to the Bishop's Auction for Distressed Gentlewomen. Finally, the family completely lost their fortune after the devastation wreaked by a beetle attack on their Malayan rubber plantation and the effects of the stock- market crash.

These were typical of the comic storylines in a popular programme that began with a pilot in 1988 and was followed by four series (1990-93), based on anecdotes about Jimmy Perry's grandfather, who had been a butler in a house in Berkeley Square, London, and parodying the television period drama Upstairs Downstairs.

Mavis Gladys Fox Pugh, the daughter of a London solicitor, was born into a middle-class family in Croydon, Surrey, in 1914, and her acting talent was spotted in school plays at the Downs College, Folkestone, in Kent. Frank Royd and Haydee Gunn, former members of the touring Compton Comedy Company and parents of one of her friends, ran the International School of Acting, to which Pugh won a scholarship.

After working in repertory theatre in Amersham, the tiny 5ft 1in actress played a child on tour in My Wife's Family (starring the music-hall comedian Ernie Lotinga, 1939), before making her West End début as Beth in Little Women (Westminster Theatre), then taking over the title role from Joan White to give a notably energetic performance in Junior Miss (Saville Theatre, 1943, and British tour) and playing the newspaper reporter in We Must Kill Toni (1954), alongside Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray at the Westminster Theatre.

For many years, the theatrical impresario Harry Hanson booked her at repertory theatres across Britain, including the Camberwell Palace, where she forged a memorable partnership in farces with the radio star Hugh Paddick, each of them trying to outdo the other with their ad-libbing.

Spotted by the writer Jimmy Perry at the Golders Green Hippodrome while she was touring in the farce Talk of the Town Hall (1956), Pugh was invited to join his company at the Palace Theatre, Watford, where she met the actor John Clegg, whom she married in 1959.

Both were to appear on television when Perry subsequently had comedy writing success in partnership with David Croft - Clegg getting his biggest role as "Lah-de-Da" Gunner "Paderuski" Graham in It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

Pugh made her television début in 1974 in Croft and Perry's first joint success, Dad's Army, as the first of a string of upper-class characters, Lady Maltby, who loaned Captain Mainwaring her Rolls-Royce. Then she was Chief Commander Crisp in It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1976) and, in two episodes of Hi-de-Hi! (in 1986 and 1988), the Hon Winifred Dempster, mother of the naïve entertainments manager Clive (David Griffin) who was pursued by the senior Yellowcoat Gladys Pugh (Ruth Madoc). She also took three different roles in Are You Being Served? (in 1976, 1977 and 1978), which Croft wrote with Jeremy Lloyd.

In a 1979 episode of Fawlty Towers, the sitcom written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, Pugh played an elderly guest who ordered "a little saucer of warm milk" and a plate of sausages for her beloved Shih Tzu dog, which then bit both Manuel (Andrew Sachs) and Polly (Booth), before being poisoned by the sausages.

She also had small roles in the films The Class of Miss MacMichael (starring Glenda Jackson, 1978) and in the prostitute-murder drama Brothers and Sisters (1980).

Anthony Hayward

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Media baron Rupert Murdoch owns News Corps and 20th Century Fox
theatrePlaywright David Williamson is struggling to find a big name to star as the media mogul
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
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

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Business Intelligence Consultant - Central London - £80,000

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?