Obituary: Gladys Spencer

Gladys Spencer, actress, born Ivanhoe Virginia 1894, died London 12 December 1992.

GLADYS SPENCER was one of the most loved and admired radio actresses over a span of 60 years. This deep affection and respect was shared by colleagues and audiences alike. She infected all around her with her sense of joy, fun and enthusiasm for everything she did.

She never seemed to change from the first time I encountered her in a studio some 30 years ago. She always appeared as a grande dame, perfectly dressed by the most expensive French couturier with a memorable line in small jaunty hats, and usually sporting a veil. 'It's a long time since I've kissed anyone through a veil,' said a senior actor on the last occasion that I worked with her, in her 92nd year. The kiss was, of course, in the French fashion on both cheeks.

Her mother was French and her father English and she was born in the United States.

Although most of her work was in Britain she first studied for the stage under Charles Siblot of the Comedie Francaise before entering RADA. Her bilingualism enabled her to act in French as well an English and after the fall of France she acted in French plays for French forces in this country. It also meant that throughout her career she was much in demand for roles that required an especially European quality.

Her first engagement was with Edith Evans at the Royalty Theatre, London, and she subsequently appeared in 13 West End theatres, in both plays and musical comedies.

During the Thirties she worked increasingly in radio (or on the wireless, as she would have preferred to call it) and, at the outbreak of war, she was one of that band of brilliant, dedicated artists who formed the BBC Repertory Company (the 'Rep') which entertained audiences larger than any that current television commands, with plays broadcast live from studios in Evesham and, later, in Manchester.

She loved radio and the microphone loved her. She had a beautiful, sonorous voice of great range and was at home in a variety of dialects, apart from those of Britain. Although in manner and bearing very much above the salt, she was universally known as 'Glad' and she thoroughly enjoyed mucking in. 'Parrots a speciality' was written into her radio curriculum vitae and woe betide any radio director who cast a speaking bird without first seeking her services.

Gladys Spencer had a great love of music and in later life was much in demand for walking-on roles at the Royal Opera House. Since these were usually in the higher echelons of society she tended to be placed close to up-stage centre in fine array. Thus positioned and costumed 'to be in the midst of all that gorgeous music, I feel I should be paying them rather than the other way round,' she would say.

She loved travelling and in her younger days she toured South Africa with Godfrey Tearle, Canada, Bermuda and the West Indies. Because of family ties she was a frequent visitor to the US: more than one British actor was surprised to eye this dignified elderly actress - an inveterate supporter of her friends whenever they appeared on stage - sitting in a front Broadway stall applauding enthusiastically when they might have imagined her travelling days to be over.

Even when finally confined to her London flat 'Glad' continued her travels, but these were on that journey of wonderment which lies in the imagination. As a player she had the ability to share her wonder with others and give joy.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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 People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain