Captain Moonlight: New voice for an old Miss

Share
Related Topics
JUNE WHITFIELD has encouraging, bright blue eyes, a smile that achieves sauce and innocence simultaneously and any manner of voices. All these gifts have, in their time, rescued and prompted the talents of Arthur Askey, Tony Hancock, Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd, Terry Scott, Roy Hudd and Jennifer Saunders. Roy Hudd describes her, she tells you with the smile, as a comic's tart.

There is, it has to be said, very little tarty about Miss Whitfield's house in Wimbledon, where she lives with her charming husband Tim, a chartered surveyor. It is the sort of house to which June might have aspired with her other husband, Terry (Scott), the one she played against for so many years in Terry and June, the comfortable middle-class sitcom now judged a cipher for all that is mockable about comfortable middle-class sitcoms. But this did not stop Miss Whitfield going on to play Jennifer Saunders' mother in Absolutely Fabulous; or appearing with Julian Clary in the mocking Terry and Julian. Game, June.

And now Agatha Christie's Jane Marple on Radio 4, for five days up to New Year's Eve, in Murder at the Vicarage. She loved doing it, she says, and hopes to do more. Television? 'Joan Hickson was the definitive Miss Marple. This is radio: I would have been hysterical if it had been anything to do with TV. Anyway, she did so many they can repeat them.'

But, as she says, with the smile: 'I'll have a bash at anything, really.' Miss Marple is far from the first venture away from comic tarting. Wilde's An Ideal Husband, Anouilh's Ring Round the Moon at Chichester, for example. Comic parts, though. 'I find comedy easier to do. I enjoy taking part in something which makes people laugh rather than something that makes them think or makes them solemn.'

Her career began at Rada at the end of the Second World War. Her father, a businessman from Yorkshire, was not that impressed. One of June's early breaks was playing Cinderella to Wilfred Pickles' Buttons. Her biggest was landing the part of Eth in Take It From Here. If all these names mean nothing to you, congratulate yourself on your youth and consult your parents or grandparents, who will tell you that Eth's catchphrase to her laggardly fiance - 'Oooh, Ron]' - was once very big.

She had wanted to be the next Judy Garland; she ended up supporting a succession of comics instead. Their presence lingers in Wimbledon. June's dog was once owned by Jimmy Edwards. There are playbills all over the breakfast room, and a large photo of Frankie Howerd, a particular friend, on the stairs. June was the foil to Hancock in The Blood Donor. 'I did his first TV series and his last, which wasn't such fun. He was in a bit of a state then.'

Still a supporter, too. She allows, when pressed, that most of the comics she's worked with have 'been a bit eccentric in one way or another', a careful piece of phrasing that will have them all laughing like drains, wherever they are, particularly the bisexual Jimmy Edwards.

Understandable, though, she says; the effect of being up there, at the top, on stage, alone, with nowhere to go but down. Could she have done that? 'No, no, terrified,' she says, vigorously. Happy being a feed. And perhaps a bit too idle to push herself to the limit, she says. Fifty years in the business next year, all the same, and the phone still ringing. The career details are all in her yellow folder. A new series of Absolutely Fabulous at the end of January. Next year The News Huddlines becomes the longest-running audience show. But no pantomime. 'I just thought I'd give an old fairy a rest.'

And, by a fine piece of programming, after Miss Marple on the Monday morning, you will later get the chance to view Carry on Girls, featuring another Whitfield characterisation, Miss Augusta Prodworthy.

(Photograph omitted)

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice