Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mollie Sugden


If you are not a fan of British television, as viewed on PBS, you do not recognize this actress. Like most performers of her era, she was classically trained and spent years in repertory theatres. In her later life, she became known exclusively as a comic performer on various British sitcoms of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Her regular appearances on British television had already established her as a star when, in the early 70s, she snagged the role which would bring her a bit of international fame.

As overbearing battle-ax Mrs. Slocumb on Are You Being Served?, she delivered some classic double entendres. Her most famous running gag can be seen in this compilation clip:

I was not a big fan of Are You Being Served?, though its popularity was such that it spawned its own sequel series, Grace and Favour (which was packaged as Are You Being Served Again? in the US), as well as a feature film. I find the humor very heavy-handed, and the sight gags quite over-the-top (another running gag of the series involved Mrs. Slocumb's ever-changing, ever more outrageous hair color).

It seems to me that those classic Brit-coms came in two flavors. Some were very slap-sticky, such as Are You Being Served? or Fawlty Towers, while others seemed to be more character-based, such as the various Penelope Keith series (To The Manor Born, Good Neighbors) and the Judy Dench classic, As Time Goes By.

But there clearly is (or was) an audience which loved the wild antics of Are You Being Served?, and Mollie Sugden deserves some credit for her contribution to the show's longevity. She died last week at the age of 86.

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