Obituary: Gladys Spencer
Tuesday 22 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.
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall during coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
UK weather: Snow to fall during coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Ellen DeGeneres leads Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany in revealing game of Never Have I Ever
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...
£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...