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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
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: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick