“I pity the young because I think it’s very different for them; and because they see all those reality shows and they think ‘I could have a go at that’ but it doesn’t work out that way.”
“I’m doing exactly the same as I’ve always done. It’s what’s around me that’s changed. I mean, Arthur Askey and Julian Clary, they’re not exactly the same. But the process is the same."
"I know I'm incredibly privileged to do something I love and to meet wonderful people. Acting keeps you moving and gives you a reason to get out of bed. It certainly stops you sitting down and feeling sorry for yourself, because you know there's something you've got to be doing and you've got to get on with it."
“I think the fact I’m still working is my proudest work achievement.”
“The three ages of man: youth, middle age and 'my word you do look well'.”
One of the last surviving members of the golden age of British radio and television comedy, the legendary June Whitfield CBE is ninety years old today.
In her long, long career she played alongside generations of the greatest and most popular British comedians including Roy Hudd, Julian Clary, Morecambe and Wise, Arthur Askey, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Benny Hill, Pat Coombs, Reg Varney, Peter Jones, Leslie Crowther, Ronnie Barker, Bob Monkhouse, Peter Butterworth, Dora Bryan, Richard Briers, Dick Emery, Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell (Steptoe & Son), as well as appearing in three Carry On films. With Terry Scott, first in Happy Ever After then Terry & June (both shows having viewing figures in their millions), she was among the top-rated performers in light entertainment television during the 1970s.
It is, however, for her remarkable "renaissance" as 'Gran' in Absolutely Fabulous that shamefully-not-yet-a-Dame-but-a-national-treasure-nonetheless June found a massive and avid new audience across the world. This much we know.
Her anecdotes about early 20th century theatrical life and her part in it, however, are perhaps less well-known:
In 1952 she was cast in a Noël Coward musical, Ace of Clubs, and found herself swept into a glamorous new life.I dare say 'The Master' wolfed it down...
“After the show, we would go to the Café de Paris – I saw Bea Lillie, Liberace, Marlene Dietrich. And I adored Coward; I wanted to curtsey every time I saw him.
“His parties at his house in Gerald Road in Belgravia were star-studded. I remember he and Kay Thompson playing two pianos on a raised area – wonderful. And we would play 'The Game'. It’s like charades, you act out a book or a play without talking, but of course people would do saucier and saucier things, like 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover'. Although the clever thing was to do it without being saucy.”
While in a Coward show, “you became part of his family”, she recalled. When young June asked a few of the cast back to her house for drinks, 'The Master' requested an invitation. “My mother nearly died on the spot,” she says. “We didn’t get anything special for him though – we only had salads and cold meat, and wine and beer.”
As he did, we adore June Rosemary Whitfield CBE (born 11th November 1925).
Many happy returns, Ma'am!