Whitfield is a durable comedy actor whose entire career has been
spent providing excellent support to virtually every major British
comedian on radio and television. In the 1950s she became a radio
favourite playing the perennially engaged "Eth" in the famous Jimmy
Edwards comedy series Take It From Here, but her lasting
stardom was due a to a remarkable run of television appearances
supporting Britain's best loved comedians and her long-running sitcom
series Terry and June. The list of male comedians with whom
Whitfield worked reads like a Who's Who of British comedy
talent and includes Benny Hill, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Morecambe
and Wise, and Dick Emery. However she was most closely associated
with Jimmy Edwards, with whom she co-starred in a number of comedy
playlets under the generic title Faces Of Jim (Seven Faces
of Jim, 1961, Six More Faces of Jim, 1962, and More Faces
of Jim, 1963, (all BBC). She
also appeared in many series with Terry Scott, including Scott
On ..., (1964-74, BBC), and Terry and June, (1979-87,
BBC), which was a continuation of an earlier series Happy Ever
After (1974-78, BBC).
made her debut on television in 1951 in The Passing Show
(BBC) and appeared as support to Bob Monkhouse and Derek Goodwin
in Fast And Loose (BBC, 1954). After guesting in various
sitcoms for 12 years, she landed a starring role in Beggar My
Neighbour (1966-68) a show about ill-matched neighbours.
and June was Whitfield's most famous vehicle, and her portrayal
of a typical long-suffering wife (June Fletcher) with a perennially
adolescent husband (Terry Fletcher, played by Terry Scott) while
not stretching her talent as an actor, nevertheless demonstrated
her amazing consistency and willingness to bring the best out of
any material. Throughout and the 1980s and into the 1990s she also
re-established herself as a radio star working with comedian Roy
Hudd in The News Huddlines in which she demonstrated a hitherto
unknown talent for impersonation, particularly for her "Margaret
British "new wave" of comedy which began to make serious inroads
into British television in the 1980s provided Whitfield with further
opportunities. Comediennes Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders used
the actress in their sketch show, French And Saunders (1987-,
BBC), and Jennifer Saunders later chose her for the role of "Mother"
in Absolutely Fabulous (1992-95, BBC).
Fabulous was a groundbreaking British sitcom of the 1990s, with
a dazzling mix of politically incorrect, outrageousness, and savage
wit. The clever casting of Whitfield as "Mother" allowed Saunders
to utilise the actor's housewife persona in a subversive way, employing
dialogue and plot to investigate areas of the character never glimpsed
in Terry and June.
Absolutely Fabulous and similar shows written by and starring
women are no longer rarities on British television but the majority
of Whitfield's career has been spent supporting male comedians who
dominated the medium, with most of the shows in which she worked
bearing the name of the male stars (The Benny Hill Show and
The Dick Emery Show, among others). She is not the only funny
woman of British television to have had such a comedy-support career,
but she is arguably the busiest. One can only lament that it was
never considered viable in British television to produce The
June Whitfield Show.
Photo courtesy of June Whitfield
ROSEMARY WHITFIELD. Born in London, England, 11 November 1925.
Attended Streatham High School; Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, diploma
1944. Married: Timothy John Aitchison in 1955; child: Suzy. Has
appeared in revue, musicals, pantomime, films, radio and television,
from 1950s; formed long-running situation comedy partnership with
Terry Scott, 1969-88. Officer of the Order of the British Empire,
1985. Freeman, City of London, 1982. Recipient: British Comedy Awards
Lifetime Achievement Award, 1994. Address: April Young, 11 Woodlands
Road, Barnes, London SW13 0JZ, England.
Fast and Loose
1962-63 Faces of Jim
1964-74 Scott On...
1966-68 Beggar My Neighbour
1967 Hancock's Hour
1969 The Best Things in Life
1969 The Fossett Saga
1974-78 Happy Ever After
1979-87 Terry and June
1992-95 Absolutely Fabulous
1994-95 What's My Line?
Carry On Nurse, 1959; The Spy with a Cold Nose, 1966;
Carry On Abroad, 1972; Bless This House, 1972; Carry
On Girls, 1973; Carry On Columbus, 1992.
Take It From Here, 1953-60; The News Huddlines, 1984-;
JW Radio Special, 1992; Murder at the Vicarage, 1993;
A Pocketful of Rye, 1994; At Bertram's Hotel, 1995.
A Bedful of Foreigners; Not Now, Darling; An Ideal Husband,
1987; Ring Round the Moon, 1988; Over My Dead Body,
1989; Babes in the Wood, 1990, 1991, 1992; Cinderella,