Angela Scoular: Stage and screen actress who starred in two James Bond films

Sunday 23 October 2011 06:03

A pert and pretty actress who was both talented and versatile, Angela Scoular is possibly best known for appearing in two James Bond films, in both of which she provided memorable moments of dalliance for the agent. As Agent Buttercup she shared a bath scene with Bond (David Niven) in Casino Royale (1966), and as Ruby Bartlett she frolicked among the bed sheets with George Lazenby's Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).

Though she may be best remembered for these roles, her work ranged from soap opera (Coronation Street) to Shakespeare, and from The Avengers to Wuthering Heights. She was also known in later years as the wife of actor Leslie Phillips, who was over 20 years her senior. The pair fell in love in 1977 while appearing in the same play. Scoular was pregnant at the time, from a previous relationship. Phillips and Scoular moved in together and at the same time cared for Phillips's ex-wife, Penny Bartley, who had been crippled by a stroke – but while they were acting in Australia in 1981, Bartley died in a house fire. Scoular and Phillips married the following year.

Born in London in 1945, Scoular was encouraged to seek a career in acting by her mother's younger sister, the actress Margaret Johnston, and she was only 18 when she won her first television role in the police series No Hiding Place (1963). She studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and in 1965 she played Juliet in the Academy's staging of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet featuring Clive Francis as her Romeo, a production that was filmed in black and white and shown on television.

She made her big-screen debut in Casino Royale, which was made by a different production company to the other Bond films, and tried unsuccessfully to spoof the genre. Scoular's other Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the only film to feature George Lazenby as 007, also met with a poor reception initially, but it is now widely regarded as one of the finest of the series. As cheeky Ruby, she gets to bed Bond after writing her room number in lipstick on his inner thigh.

Between the Bond movies, Scoular was busy in both film and television – she had a small role in Chaplin's last film, the dire A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), and in the same year she played Cathy, the headstrong heroine of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights in a TV mini-series which attempted to get the whole novel into four 50-minute episodes. Ian McShane was her Heathcliffe.

She was one of the girls to whom a young man tries to lose his virginity in Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1968), and in Great Catherine (1968), based on Shaw's play about the Empress of Russia, she was the British ambassador's daughter with whom a captain (Peter O'Toole) would rather dally than fulfil his assignment to sexually satisfy Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). She worked with Phillips for the first time in Doctor in Trouble (1969), in which she was cast as the voluptuous young lady whom Doctor Burke (Phillips) chases aboard an ocean liner, having to disguise himself as a female photographer to avoid detection and the wrath of the ship's captain (Robert Morley), whose cousin happens to be his old nemesis, Sir Lancelot Spratt (James Robertson Justice).

Scoular also appeared in episodes of The Avengers ("The Super Secret Cypher Snatch"), Coronation Street (as Sue Silcock) and Crown Court, and appeared in several West End plays, including Peter Shaffer's double bill The White Liars and Black Comedy, with Ian McKellen, James Bolam and Liz Fraser at the Lyric Theatre in 1968, and Hamlet with Alan Bates and Celia Johnson at the Cambridge Theatre in 1971. She was part of a marvellous ensemble in Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular with Fenella Fielding and Paul Eddington at the Criterion in 1974, and three years later, at the same theatre, she played in Michael Pertwee's comedy Sextet. Though the run was short, Scoular fell in love with the play's star, Phillips, and they soon began living together.

In her last London show, she supported John Mills in Little Liars, which ran for eight months at Wyndham's in 1983, its cast including Connie Booth and Dominic Guard. Later films included the sexploitation comedies Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1976) and Adventures of a Private Eye (1977).

As she grew older, Scoular became the victim of depression and anorexia, but she nevertheless had success as the sexually voracious Lady Agatha Shawcross in the television series You Rang, M'Lord?, a merciless pastiche of Upstairs, Downstairs which ran from 1988 to 1993.

Tom Vallance

Angela Scoular, actress: born London 8 November 1945; married 1982 Leslie Phillips (one son from a previous relationship, four stepchildren); died London 11 April 2011.

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