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Thora Hird DBE

Gordon Wharmby and Dame Thora Hird as Wesley and Edie Pegden in "Last of the Summer Wine"
Born 28 May 1911(1911-05-28)
Morecambe, Lancashire, England
Died 15 March 2003 (aged 91)
Brinsworth House, Twickenham, Greater London, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 1940–2003
Spouse(s) James Scott[1] (1935–1994)

Dame Thora Hird, DBE (28 May 1911 – 15 March 2003) was an English actress.

Contents

Early life and career

Hird was born in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. Her first ever appearance on stage was when she was two months old in a play her father was managing. Her family background was largely theatrical: her mother, Marie Mayor, had been an actress, while her father managed a number of entertainment venues in Morecambe, to include the Royalty Theatre where she made her first appearance, and the Central Pier. Thora often described her father as her sternest critic and attributed much of her talent as an actress and comedienne to his guidance. Although Hird left Morecambe in the late 1940s, she retained her affection for the town, referring to herself as a "sand grown'un", the colloquial term for anyone born in Morecambe.

Initially she made regular appearances in films, including the wartime propaganda film Went the Day Well? (1942, known as 48 Hours in the USA), in which she is shown wielding a rifle to defend a house from German paratroopers. She worked with the British film comedian Will Hay, and featured in The Entertainer (1960), which starred Laurence Olivier, and in A Kind of Loving (1962), with Alan Bates.

Thora Hird gained her highest profile in television comedy, notably the sitcoms Meet the Wife (1963-66), In Loving Memory (1979-86), Hallelujah 1983-1984), and for nearly two decades in Last of the Summer Wine (1986-2003). However, she played a variety of roles, including the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and won BAFTA Best Actress awards for her roles in two of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues. She starred as Captain Emily Ridley in the sitcom Hallelujah! (1981-84) about the Salvation Army, a movement for which she had a soft spot throughout her life. Hird also portrayed Mrs Speck, the housekeeper of the Mayor of Gloucester in The Tailor of Gloucester (1989). She played the screen mother of Deric Longden in Wide Eyed and Legless (aka the Wedding Gift) and Lost For Words which won her a BAFTA for Best Actress.

Hird was a committed Christian, hosting the religious programme Praise Be!, a spin-off from Songs of Praise on the BBC. Her work for charity and on television in spite of old age and ill health made her an institution. Her advertisements for Churchill stairlifts (often misidentified as Stannah) also maintained her in the public eye.

She was created an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1983, and raised to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1993. She received an honorary D.Litt. from Lancaster University in 1989.

In December 1998, already using a wheelchair, Dame Thora played a brief but energetic cameo role as the mother of Dolly on Dinnerladies, a character sarcastic and particularly bitter towards her daughter.

Death

She died, aged 91, in March 2003, having suffered a stroke. Hird's energy and resilience were such that, even following the news that she had suffered a stroke, BBC bosses were still hoping that she would recover in order to appear in the next series of Last of the Summer Wine.

Personal life

Hird was the mother of the actress Janette Scott, and thus formerly the mother-in-law of the singer Mel Tormé.

Television roles

Year Title Role
1963 to 1966 Meet the Wife Thora Blacklock
1968 to 1969 The First Lady Sarah Danby
1969 to 1970 Ours Is A Nice House Thora Parker
1979 to 1986 In Loving Memory Ivy Unsworth
1983 to 1984 Hallelujah! Captain Emily Ridley
1998 dinnerladies Enid
1986 to 2003 Last of the Summer Wine Edie Pegden

Selected filmography

References

  • Dame Thora Hird's autobiography, Scene And Hird (1976)

External links

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