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About Hattie Jacques
<The Times October 7, 1980>
MISS HATTIE JACQUES Comic personality of stage, films and television
Miss Hattie Jacques, the well-known comic actress, died yesterday at the age of 56.
No one could have spoken more truthfully than she did when she said that her favouite part was the Fairy Queen in Victorian pantomime. Students of the stage, from the mid 1940s would know that this implied a career at the Players' Theatre, and she will be remembered there, bth in Albemarle Street and Villiers Street.
It might have been said that Hattie Jacques's complicated monarch was a mixture of Carroll's Red and White Queens. Resolutely commanding, she was never confident that things would go right. Invariably for her audiences they did; and her plump and determined regality was familiar at more than one Christmas; not the Queen alone but such cognate personages as Fairy Fragrant and Fairy Antidota. Lively, wry and expressive, she could rule any cast among the happy eccentrics of the Players'; and she had other specialized audiences in radio (ITMA and "Educating Archie"), films and television.
Born in Kent on February 7, 1924, daughter of Robin Rochester Jacques and Mary Adelaide Jacques, she was educated at Godolphin and Latymer schools.
After a Players' debut when she was 20 (August, 1944), she acted with expansive relish in the theatre's pantomime, plays and revues. From 1947-8 she toured with the Young Vic as Smerelda in "The King Stag" and then for nearly three years went on to another run of Players' parts: in "The Sleeping Beauty" (1948) (here the Fairy Queen); in "Beauty and the Beast" (1949; Marygolda); "Ali Baba" (where she appeared 1950, as Cogia Baba besides adapting the script and, with John Sterndale Bennett writing lyrics); and the Fairy Queen in her version, 1951, of "Riquet With the Tuft" (also with John Sterndale Bennett).
She had a break in August, 1952, appearing then at the St Martin's Theatre in a revue, "Bells of St Martins" which suited her generous emphases and had a good scene ("Perspective Pictures") in Imperial Rome when she showed us how to fall out of one of those tricky tilted settings. Later, at various times she was back with the Players'; in 1953 as Fairy Fragrant in her own version of the Victorian "Cinderella"; in April, 1954 directing the Players' Minstrels; and in December 1954 Antidota, in "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood". Her other stage work, besides two more customary Players' shows - a co-adaption of "Ali Baba" (1956); and another "Riquet" (1960) - included the production of a mild musical, "Twenty Minutes South" (1955) which began at the Players' and ended at the St Martin's; Madame Leonie in "Albertine by Moonlight" (Westminster, May, 1956); and parts in a Palladium Revue, "Large as Life" (1958).
Hattie Jacques was a large and comely actress who will also be remembered with affection by all who saw her in a clutch of "Carry On" films; heard her on radio; and never missed her appearance with Eric Sykes in several television series. "When you're my size," she said once, "you're conditioned from childhood to people making jokes against you. You have to learn to make them laugh with, rather than at you." At this she was invariably successful; more, she was a very accomplished comedian, a "feed" valued by many of the leading comedians of the day.
She was serving a tough apprenticeship in the Players' Theatre when Ted Kavanagh chose her to join the memorable "Itma" cast. She fitted easily into that close-knit team making a name for herself as Sophie Tuckshop the greedy schoolgirl.
She met Eric Sykes when he was writing scripts for the radio programme "Educating Archie" and from this meeting developed a very long successful comedy partnership that was still in being when she died. Her plaintive cry: "Oh Eric!" as she witnessed yet another of her Mr Sykes's daydream disasters will be recalled with sad pleasure.
Her marriage to John Le Mesurier was dissolved.