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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

24th February 2013

Top Picture: Pattie Combs

Bottom Picture: Peggy Mount

Pat Coombs

They were the also rans, those actors and actresses who appeared night after night on our TV screens but never actually made it to top billing. One of these wonderful support stars was Pat Coombs who for over 50 years appeared on radio and television often playing spinsters, eccentrics and the lady dither. She was often the stooge to some of the funniest men on radio television such as Bob Monkhouse, Archie Andrews, Reg Varney, Arthur Askey and Dick Emery and she co-starred in numerous sitcoms. Probably the most unforgettable was the one set in a retirement home and called ‘You're Only Young Twice’, here she starred alongside another of those well known names Peggy Mount, the archetypical ‘battleaxe’.

Pat was born on August 27th 1926 in Camberwell and was always known as Pattie to her friends. She was educated in Beckenham, before leaving school only to return as a nursery teacher. Keen on acting, she took drama lessons during the Second World War. At the age of 19, she won a scholarship to train as an actress at LAMDA, where one of her contemporaries was Diana Dors. After acting in repertory theatre in Scunthorpe, she worked all over Britain, before breaking into radio and making her name in Hello Playmates (1954-55), starring Arthur Askey and David Nixon written by Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin. In this she played the dim-witted and unmarriageable  Nola, the daughter of Irene Handl with whom she became good friends. She continued working on radio with stars such asTed Ray and Charlie Chester, but it wasn't long before television beckoned.

An early TV appearance came alongside Tony Hancock in "The Great Detective" episode of Hancock's Half Hour (1957. She followed it with regular appearances in The Cyril Fletcher Show (1959), written by Johnny Speight. Other early TV appearances were with Bill Maynard, Terry Scott, Jimmy Edwards and Dick Emery who was a great admirer of her work. She became a regular on The Dick Emery Show in 1963 and this led to her first sitcom role, as Miss Hobbitt in ‘Barney Is My Darling’ (1965-66), written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman. In 1966 she appeared in a Comedy Playhouse episode entitled ‘Beggar My Neighbour’. In this Pattie played Lana Butt, married to Harry (Reg Varney) who were constantly at war with their neighbours - Lana's sister Rose Garvey (June Whitfield) and brother-in-law Gerald (Peter Jones, later Desmond Walter-Ellis) - who were always broke, in contrast to the opulent Butts. The one-off production was quickly turned into a series that ran for three series between 1967 and 1968.

In 1971 Pattie appeared in the sitcom ‘Lollipop Loves Mr Mole’ in which she and Rex Garner played Violet and Bruce Robinson, who return from Africa and go to live with Bruce's ever-obliging brother, Reg (Hugh Lloyd), and his domineering wife, Maggie (Peggy Mount), in their cottage in Fulham and this was the start of an enduring partnership with Peggy Mount. She then played Dorothy, the eccentric spinster sister of Cyril Blake (Stephen Lewis in the role of the retired Inspector Blake from On the Buses), in ‘Don't Drink the Water’ (1974-75). ‘You're Only Young Twice’ (1977-81) as mentioned above, saw Pattie in a retirement home for elderly women, Paradise Lodge. In it she played the meek and dithering Cissie Lupin while Peggy Mount was the less-than-retiring Flora Petty. It was a series in which Peggy Mount was expected to be the lead but she was perfectly upstaged by Pattie.

Patricia Hayes joined Pattie to play Old Pat and Lanky Pat respectively in the Channel 4 sitcom ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ (1984) written by Johnny Speight, before she teamed up with Hugh Lloyd once more. Together they played Mr and Mrs Carey in ‘In Sickness and in Health’ (1985-92), the sequel to Speight's landmark sitcom ‘Till Death Us Do Part’. She joined Stanley Baxter to play Miss Flavia Jelly in the first two series of ‘Mr Majeika’ (1988-89). Although most of her professional life was spent in comedy she also played character roles in drama and was in the BBC's 1985 version of ‘Bleak House’. She was also much in demand for voiceovers for television commercials and in the children's series ‘Ragdolly Anna’. She joined Noel Edmonds on his House Party where she appeared as Prudence Prendergast for three series and was often a guest on the Bob Monkhouse hosted quiz ‘Celebrity Squares’.

Pattie appeared in a number of well-known British films, two Carry Ons, Spike Milligan's ‘Adolf Hitler - My Part in His Downfall’,’ Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Dad's Army’ and’ Ooh...You Are Awful’!

In 1989 she appeared in her favourite TV show EastEnders as Marge Green, Brown Owl of the Walford Brownies. Her axing from the show caused viewer outrage and fans started a campaign to get her reinstated; but this was not successful.

A heavy smoker all her life, Pattie was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 1995. She quickly became involved with the National Osteoporosis Society becoming its patron three years later and, through her Christmas appeal letter, helped to raise more than £100,000 for it. In 2001 she appeared as a bed-ridden patient in ‘Doctors’ and as a regular in the BBC radio series ‘Like They've Never Been Gone’, alongside Roy Hudd and June Whitfield. She had recorded the last episode just two weeks before she died. Pattie's last TV appearance was as herself in a tribute show to Dick Emery. She lived the last 3 years of her life at the actor's rest home in Denville Hall, Middlesex - Pattie had never married and lived with her parents until she was in her forties. For many years she had a sister who lived on Hayling Island and she would often stay with her sister and she was a familiar face around the Island.

Patricia Doreen Coombs passed away on 25th May 2002. Roy Hudd told The Stage newspaper "Pattie really was totally unique. She was a wonderful character actress and marvellous to work with."
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You Write:

Linda writes: 

Re chimney sweeps: My daughter had a chimney sweep at their wedding. Friends of mine who turned up to see them coming out of the church saw the chimney sweep sitting on a gravestone and thought he was a tramp and asked him to move on before we came out of the church. He saw the funny side of it and wasn't offended.

Where are they Now?
I have someone trying to get in touch with David Wheeler, Raymond Ellis and Elizabeth Dolly. Can you help?

News and Views:

Rick Huxley, bassist with the Dave Clark Five, died on February 11th at his home , he was 72. Though he had suffered from emphysema, he was described as being in good health with no cause of death. Formed in Tottingham in 1957, Rick joined the group (originally as a guitarist) the following year and played on 27 charted records, including "Over And Over", "Because", "Bits And Pieces" and "Catch Us If You Can” and appeared in their own movie, "Catch Us If You Can"  in 1965. They disbanded in 1970. Rick worked in real estate in later years. The Dave Clark Five was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Said Dave, "He always made me smile and I'll miss that immensely. He was never arrogant and flashy. He was a gentleman and very low key. He was a very, very talented musician and a great friend." Rick's death leaves Dave and guitarist Lenny Davidson as the last remaining members.

A look in the Archives and by request:-

Dancing Lessons at School
There must be many among our numbers who still go cold when they hear the strains of 'Wheels Cha Cha'. Me for one! What is even sadder is that I remember it was performed by the Max Harris Group and recorded on the Fontana label. In those far off days if you really wanted to put in extra dancing practice the record could be bought from RA Fraser Ltd on the Havant Road in Drayton for 3/4d. How do I know? I worked in the store part time after school, in the holidays and on Saturdays and I actually sold the record to some of our number who sheepishly came in to buy a copy. But what was the purpose of those dancing lessons? And who went? Was it an attempt to give us some form of social grace? Who were the instructors and where did they come from? They were not the normal school staff and was there ever a School Dance when we could show off our newfound skills? Here my memory fails me. I think we changed partners for each different dance, I remember tackling the Quickstep with Jenny but other dances I think I was partnered by someone else. How quickly one forgets events, but the steps that I learnt then are still emblazoned in the back of the mind.
 I can still dance when required, although I was never very happy with the Foxtrot and I would still rather not tackle that particular dance unless I was pushed. All this was before days of the School Proms that are held now!

On this day 24th  February 1960-1965

On 24/02/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was Some Like It Hot. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was that the last coarse-groove 78 rpm record was issued.

On 24/02/1961 the number one single was Are you Lonesome Tonight? - Elvis Presley and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

On 2402/1962 the number one single was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was unknown Sean Connery cast as 007 in Dr No.

On 24/02/1963 the number one single was Diamonds - Jet Harris & Tony Meehan and the number one album was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was Liz Taylor films Cleopatra.

On 24/02/1964 the number one single was Diane - Bachelors and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Steptoe & Son (BBC) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the week was Malcolm X visits Cassius Clay's training camp.

On 24/02/1965 the number one single was Tired of Waiting For You - The Kinks and the number one album was Rolling Stones Number 2 - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.

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