LOTSW's Dame June Whitfield
Tea Time Tidbit for the week of September 25, 2017
Dame June Whitfield
Congratulations to Last of the Summer Wine’s June Whitfield, who played Nelly in the series from 2005 to 2010. (She also played another character - Delphi – in an episode in 2001 called "Potts in Pole Position".) This summer, at the age of 91, the actress has finally been – as she puts it – “Damed”!
The award of Dame of the British Empire, for Services to Drama and Entertainment, will be bestowed on Whitfield at a Buckingham Palace ceremony later this year. Being named as a recipient in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List apparently came as a complete surprise to Whitfield, after all, she already has an OBE (Order of the British Empire) and a CBE (Commander of the British Empire), which she received in 1985 and in 1998 respectively.
In Last of the Summer Wine
Having decided that acronyms for those awards stood for “Old but Energetic” and “Caught before Expiry”, Whitfield said she has yet to decide what DBE stands for, but she’s hoping that the Queen will be the one presenting her with the award. When asked if her friends are now genuflecting and curtseying, Dame June reportedly responded “Good heavens, no!” Adding that “most of them are so old they’d never get up again!”
Whitfield’s sense of humor is legendary, and as Britain’s longest-serving comedic actress she has been making people laugh for seventy years. Her first appearance in a television comedy series was in 1954 in a show called Fast and Loose. It ran for two seasons and from then on Whitfield never looked back. Not a year has gone by that Whitfield hasn’t appeared in one comedy series or another – the most recent being Boomers, in which she stars with her LOTSW co-star Russ Abbot. Over the decades, Whitfield has co-stared with so many well-known British comic actors that one of them, Roy Hudd, once affectionately nicknamed her “the comics’ tart”!
In a 1950s BBC radio show
In her late 60s, Whitefield found herself a favorite among younger television viewers, when she played the sweet and slightly daffy "Mother" in Absolutely Fabulous. The series ran from 1992 to 2012 and last year the cast were reunited in a much-anticipated film version.
One of Whitfield’s co-stars in Absolutely Fabulous was Joanna Lumley, who she first met in 1987 at the Chichester Film Festival. The actresses are such good friends, that a couple of years ago when, following a fall, it came time to move out of the Wimbledon home which she’d shared with her husband of 46 years until his death in 2001, it was Lumley who helped Whitfield and her daughter sort out what went and what she’d be able to take with her to her new garden flat.
Whitfield with the cast of Absolutely Fabulous
As Whitfield said of Lumley in a recent interview with The Daily Mail, "there was a little bit of: 'You’re not keeping this, are you?' when she helped me sort out, but my daughter was even more strict. She’d tip a drawer full of stuff onto a bed and say: 'Do you really need 60 pairs of tights, Mum?' "
I’ve no idea what happened to Whitfield’s panty hose, but her collection of theatrical memorabilia and photographs are now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, being catalogued by her daughter, actress Suzy Aitchison.
Last of the Summer Wine airs weekday afternoons at 1pm on MPT.
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