Gwen Nelson

Character & Episode: Mrs Holloway in The Trouble with Women
Born: 30/06/1901, Muswell Hill, London, England (as Gwendoline Alexandra Nelson)
Died: 15/10/1990, Suffolk, England

 

Gwen was a solid character actress who originally wanted to be a singer. She had made her first television appearance as early as 1938 and her West End musical debut in Tough at the Top at the Adelphi Theatre in July 1949. After a number of successful theatre runs she started to concentrate on screen roles and from the early Sixties was cast in many guest roles as elderly ladies.

 

Her television appearances included Z Cars, No Hiding Place, ITV Playhouse, Catweazle, Callan, Clochemerle, Steptoe and Son, Juliet Bravo, Terry and June, Shine on Harvey Moon, Casualty, Hill Street Blues and The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. Her film appearances included Laugh With Me, The Teckman Mystery, Tunes of Glory, A Kind of Loving, Stolen Hours, Doctor Zhivago, The Reckoning, Staircase, Say Hello to Yesterday, Love Among the Ruins, It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet, The Last Remake of Beau Geste and National Lampoon's European Vacation. Her last screen appearance was in an episode of The Bill in 1989 and Gwen died the following year of natural causes.

 
 

Patrick Newell

Character & Episode: Mannering in The Man from Nowhere
Born: 27/03/1932, Hadleigh, Suffolk, England
Died: 22/07/1988, Essex, England

 

Patrick was educated at Taunton School and later was trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). While a student at RADA, he modestly claimed that, once he realised that the talent of fellow students, including Albert Finney and Peter O'Toole, far outstripped his own, he deliberately started putting on weight in order to patent his own niche as an actor. After doing National Service, where Michael Caine was a fellow conscript, he began to be seen frequently on TV, in dramatic and comedic roles, and in the former category, nearly always as a fat villain. An early example of this was in the 1957 TV series Web, when he was just credited as ‘Fat Man’. Later in his entry in Who's Who On Television in the late 70s, Patrick defined himself as "Actor with a weight problem - the more he diets, the less work he seems to get." In press interviews of the time, he stated that landing the role of Mother in the popular Sixties TV series The Avengers was probably the best break of his career. It certainly proved to be his most notable assignment.

 

Despite his size, Patrick was a busy character actor who notched up something in the region of one hundred and sixty film and television appearances, with TV being his main source of work. Early contributions on television were to such series as Emergency Ward 10 (1962), Thorndyke (1964), The Idiot (1966), Send Foster (1967) and Never Say Die (1970). Later, in 1979, he played Inspector Lestrade in Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, and in 1982 Patrick even appeared in two episodes of the landmark alternative comedy series The Young Ones, though by now he had lost a considerable amount of weight due to dieting.

 

Given his rotund appearance and ability for playing slightly stuffy types, he was a natural stooge in several comedy shows, first for the veteran comedian Arthur Askey in Arthur's Treasured Volumes (1960), then for walrus-moustached Jimmy Edwards in three episodes of Six More Faces of Jim (1962), with Ronnie Barker also supporting. A Comedy Playhouse episode, Fools Rush In (1963), as a cook to a retired major (Deryck Guyler), didn't go to a series. The Illustrated Weekly Hudd (1966) had Patrick as a regular support to practically the last survivor of music hall, Roy Hudd; he performed a similar function in Room at the Bottom (1967), a one-series, factory-set vehicle for Carry On star Kenneth Connor.

 

Patrick was also initially cast in the first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant in 1958, but didn't feature in the finished film. This was because when he turned up on the first morning, he saw that the Army sergeant who was to drill the actors for the film was the same one who had drilled him during National Service. Patrick later revealed that he wasn't prepared to go through all that again and had promptly left the production.

 

However, it would be his role as Mother in The Avengers (1968-1969) that he is most fondly remembered. Always in a wheelchair and aided and abetted by the silent Rhonda (played by the now forgotten Australian actress Rhonda Parker), the character proved popular and has been compared to that of Bernard Fox’s role as Doctor Bombay in the popular American comedy series Bewitched (1964-1972), which was running at the same time on British television.

 

After The Avengers, Patrick Newell remained busy, contributing to many TV series in the Seventies and Eighties, including a fine turn in the Nigel Kneale-scripted sitcom Kinvig (1981). Sadly, although Patrick slimmed down considerably in his later years, he still died of an heart attack, aged 56. He had been booked to appear at a cult TV convention in the Midlands - TellyCon - on Saturday 23rd July 1988, only for attendees to be informed that he had regrettably passed away unexpectedly the night before. Patrick left behind him a widow and two children.

 

Section compiled by Darren Senior

Additional research and presentation by Alan Hayes and Denis Kirsanov

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