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Pat Coombs
Born Patricia Doreen Coombs
27 August 1926(1926-08-27)
Camberwell, London, England
Died 25 May 2002 (aged 75)
Northwood, Greater London, England

Pat Coombs (27 August 1926 – 25 May 2002) was an English actress. Coombs was one of Britain's great character actresses, specialising in the portrayal of the eternal downtrodden female — comically under the thumb of stronger personalities. She was known for many roles on radio, film and television sitcoms. She died aged 75 from complications arising from emphysema at Denville Hall actors' home, Northwood.[1]

Contents

Early life

Born in Camberwell, South London, Coombs was one of three children; her father worked in insurance, for the Employers' Liability, the forerunner of Commercial Union.

Coombs attended the County School for Girls in Beckenham, Kent. After leaving school she began her working life as a student kindergarten teacher before her keenness for acting prompted her to take drama lessons during the Second World War with her friend and neighbour Vivien Merchant.[2] At the age of 19, she won a scholarship to train as an actress at Lamda, where she subsequently taught dialect to students.[3]

Career

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Radio

She first made her name in the post-war era of radio variety as 'Nola', the dim and put-upon daughter of Irene Handl in Arthur Askey's Hello Playmates; their double-act had started as a guest spot on Bob Monkhouse's show. Coombs also gained experience as a comedy stooge in radio shows alongide Ted Ray and Charlie Chester.

Television

An early television break came when she appeared with Tony Hancock in an episode of his series Hancock's Half Hour (1957). She followed this with regular appearances in The Cyril Fletcher Show (1959) and later she became a regular performer in the 1963 series of The Dick Emery Show. She also starred in the sitcoms Barney Is My Darling (1965-66) alongside Irene Handl and Wild, Wild Women (1969) alongside Barbara Windsor.

After a relatively unsuccessful partnership with Peggy Mount in the television series Lollipop Loves Mr Mole (ITV, 1971), the two found a better platform for their talents when they were reunited in Yorkshire TV's You're Only Young Twice (1977-1981), set in a home for the elderly; the two actresses were to become close friends.

During her long career, Pat made two memorable contributions to Dad's Army. In 1970, she played Mrs Hall in the movie, and later in 1975, she played the dual part of Marie/the Clippie in the radio adaptation of A Soldier's Farewell.

Her other television work included Beggar My Neighbour (1967), Don't Drink the Water (1974-75), Up Pompeii! (1969), Till Death Us Do Part (1966-75) and its sequel In Sickness And In Health (1990, 1992), and The Lady is a Tramp (1983), in which she co-starred with Patricia Hayes in a series set among 'down-and-outs'. Coombs was also the subject of This is Your Life in 1978 and appeared regularly as a guest on Noel Edmonds's Saturday night entertainment show Noel's House Party (1992-95) and on the game shows Blankety Blank and Celebrity Squares (1975-79), returning for its revival in 1993-94.

In 1989 she appeared in the popular BBC soap opera EastEnders. For a year she played Marge Green, Brown Owl of the Walford Brownies' pack, where she worked closely with EastEnders stalwarts June Brown, Edna Doré and Gretchen Franklin. Coombs's character was introduced as part of a deliberate attempt to bring humour into the programme, which had come under attack for being too depressing. However many viewers felt that the comic storylines stretched the programme's credibility. The character subsequently became one of many to be axed in 1990 following the introduction of new executive producer, Michael Ferguson. Pat Coombs was said to be extremely upset that the character of Marge only lasted for one year, but the producers felt there was no place in the programme's new plan for a character "whose prime function was to be comic relief".[4]

Following her stint in EastEnders Coombs went on to guest in the BBC comedy Birds of a Feather, Boon and the BBC medical drama Doctors in 2001, which was her last appearance on screen.

Children's TV

Coombs was a regular on children's television. Hers was one of the voices heard in the children's series Ragdolly Anna (1982-1987), she played Policeman Pat in Mooncat and Co (1984) and voiced one of the puppets in the children's show Playbox (1988) alongside Keith Chegwin. She was seen in Rainbow (1981-82), The Basil Brush Show (1977-1979) Supergran and joined Stanley Baxter to play Miss Flavia Jelly in the first two series of Mr Majeika (1988-89) among many others.

Film

Pat Coombs also appeared in many films, including Carry On Doctor (1968), Carry On Again, Doctor (1969), On the Buses (1971), Ooh, You Are Awful (1972) with Dick Emery, and Spike Milligan's Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1972). She also had a minor, uncredited, role as Henrietta Salt in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 1971. [1]

Personal life

Coombs never married. She has said she came close to it twice, but was not sure enough to proceed.[2] She once remarked: "I've never been wildly ambitious; I think if I'd been married, my career would have gone out of the window."[5]

Illness and death

Coombs was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 1995, and became an active campaigner for the National Osteoporosis Society. Her Christmas appeal letter raised £100,000 for the charity's research.

She had just completed a role for Radio 4 alongside June Whitfield in Like They've Never Been Gone when she died on 25 May 2002 from emphysema in Denville Hall actors' home, a west London nursing home to which she had moved to be close to her friend Peggy Mount, who had died six months earlier.[2] Coombs was 75 years old.

References

  1. ^ "Pat Coombs dies aged 75", Evening Standard URL last accessed on 15 February 2007
  2. ^ a b c "Pat Coombs", The Guardian. URL last accessed on 15 February 2007
  3. ^ "Obituary: Pat Coombs", The Independent URL last accessed on 15 February 2007
  4. ^ Brake, Colin (1995). EastEnders: The First 10 Years: A Celebration. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37057-2. 
  5. ^ "Pat Coombs", The Telegraph URL last accessed on 15 February 2007

External links


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