Patsy Rowlands` Obituary
From the Telegraph dated 26/01/2005
 


Patsy Rowlands, the actress who has died aged 71, specialised in frumpy maidens, woebegone housewives and crotchety harridans, most memorably in nine of the Carry On films which she appeared in between 1969 and 1975; she was also a regular on the West End stage and played many a wifely role in television dramas ranging from the 1970s sitcom Bless This House to Andrew Davies's adaptation of Vanity Fair (1998).

In 1969, when Patsy Rowlands was cast as Nurse Fosdick in Carry On Again Doctor, she had already established herself as a talented stage actress, with appearances in musical comedy and serious drama, as well as small film roles in John Schlesinger's A Kind Of Loving and Tony Richardson's Tom Jones. But Gerald Thomas, the director of the Carry On films, was determined to make use of her talent for comedy - beautifully expressed by her doe eyes and mournful face - and she soon became a stalwart of the cast.

In Carry On Loving (1970) she was the lovelorn Miss Dempsey, a housekeeper burning with a secret passion for her employer, Kenneth Williams, while in Carry On At Your Convenience (1971), set in a factory that made lavatories, she was Miss Withering, the long-suffering secretary of the factory's proprietor, WC Boggis (Williams), who is forced to test out the latest models.

By the early 1970s the Carry On genre was beginning to tire, but Patsy Rowlands continued to shine and, as Mildred Bumble, the wife of the incompetent mayor (Kenneth Connor) in the relentlessly crude Carry On Girls, she gave one of her most spirited performances, ultimately casting off her down-trodden image, burning her bra and joining the Women's Libbers. For the rest of her life, despite success in many other television and stage roles, Patsy Rowlands was always associated with the Carry On pictures. She remained, however, resolutely unstuffy about the films that had made her name, pointing out that she had always had a thoroughly enjoyable time making them.

Patricia Rowlands was born in west London on January 19 1934 and educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Whetstone. Patsy's acting talents were encouraged by an elocution tutor, and at the age of 15 she won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.


In 1958 she made her West End debut as Doris Hare's granddaughter in Valmouth, Sandy Wilson's musical about a spa town, and went on to combine serious drama with her work at the Players' Theatre in London, where traditional music hall shows had nurtured the careers of so many comic actors. She also appeared with Laurence Olivier in David Turner's Semi-Detatched (1961), which was directed by Tony Richardson.

Her work in the 1970s included the role of a landlady in Roman Polanski's Tess and she had considerable success on television a
s the nagging Betty, Sid James's neighbour in Bless This House. She also starred in Nigel Kneale's science fiction comedy Kinvig (1981).

In 2001, Patsy Rowlands, who died on Saturday, took the part of Mrs Pearce in Sir Cameron Mackintosh's award-winning production of My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It was to be her last role, as she was diagnosed with cancer while still a member of the cast.

Her marriage to Malcolm Sircom was dissolved. She is survived by her son.

 


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