MAVIS PUGH Actress
Born: 25 June, 1914, in Croydon, Surrey. Died: 6 December, 2006, in Chichester, West Sussex, aged 92.
MAVIS Pugh was often cast in sitcoms and dramas as superior, rather stuffy, upper-crust ladies. They were always dotty but very grand. She had spent much of her life in the theatre and came to public attention in two popular television sitcoms: You Rang, M'Lord? and, earlier, Are You Being Served?
Mavis Gladys Fox Pugh was the daughter of a London solicitor and, after schooling at Downs College in Folkestone, she attended a drama college. Her diminutive figure - she was only 5ft - made casting a problem from the outset but this resourceful woman turned her size to her advantage. She spent some years in repertory theatre before forging a partnership with the actor Hugh Paddick. They toured the music halls and clubs, each trying to cap the other's outrageous ad-libbing.
Pugh was offered a season at the Palace Theatre, Watford, in 1956, where she met her husband (also an actor), John Clegg.
It was not until 1974 that Pugh did her first television sitcom, in the first episode of what was to become a BBC classic, Dad's Army. Pugh played Lady Maltby, who loaned Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) her Rolls-Royce to attend a function. Two years later, she was Chief Commander Crisp in It Ain't Half Hot Mum - her husband playing the upper crust Gunner Graham.
From 1976-78 Pugh had the unusual distinction of playing three parts in Are You Being Served? before also appearing in the spin-off Grace Brothers. Pugh joined John Cleese in an episode of Fawlty Towers in 1979, as the owner of a pampered, but badly behaved, Shih Tzu.
In You Rang M'Lord?, Pugh came into her own. It began as a pilot in 1988 and ran for four series from 1990. It was based on the memories of scriptwriter Jimmy Perry's grandfather. He had been a butler in a grand house and the drama parodied the successful television drama Upstairs, Downstairs.
Many of the actors in You Rang M'Lord? were straight from Perry's earlier success Hi-de-Hi, including Pugh, who appeared in two episodes in 1986. Pugh mixed with the close-knit band of regulars with ease and created a wonderfully eccentric Lady Lavender.
Usually dressed in a magnificent over-the-top costume (often puce with feathers), Pugh wore a highly coiffed grey wig that made her immediately recognisable as the lady of the house.
The plot lines of You Rang M'Lord? were complex and labyrinthine. In one priceless episode, for instance, everyone tried to get hold of Lady Lavender's ready cash - which she kept under her bed. She wanted to leave it (and her shares in the family rubber company) to Ivy (Pollard), whom she delighted in calling Ethel. Ivy and the devious Alf (Paul Shane) tried to wangle the funds off her ladyship. Pugh's sly Lady Lavender saw off his underhand ruses.
Pugh also appeared in some films (notably The Class of Miss MacMichael, starring Glenda Jackson, in 1978).
She is survived by her husband.