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Sheila Steafel RIP

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  • Sheila Steafel RIP

    The White Lady has left Motley Hall.


  • #2
    RIP Sheila, you where great, very talented. I remember you most in the Ghosts of Motley Hall. Excellent.


    • #3
      The obit never mentioned her appearances Dave Allen that's where I noticed her first, in fact she could pass for Mollie Sugdens younger sister. Rest in peace dear lady I enjoyed your talent.


      • #4
        Sheila Steafel, gifted comic actress whose career highlights included ‘The Frost Report’ and Radio 4’s ‘Week Ending’ – obituary

        27 AUGUST 2019 • 6:01PM

        Sheila Steafel, the actress who has died aged 84, was a comic performer equally at home on stage, television and radio, best known for playing the lion’s share of the female characters in David Frost’s sketch show The Frost Report in the 1960s and later in Radio 4’s weekly satirical revue Week Ending, in which she became one of the first regular impersonators of Margaret Thatcher.

        In her forties, at the height of her career, it seemed there was nothing she could not turn her hand to. “Sheila Steafel is sharp, witty, nimble, expressive, versatile and full of fun,” enthused The Daily Telegraph’s Eric Shorter in 1981. “She can sing, she can clown, she can dance, she can do almost anything to keep you entertained. And her timing is a joy.”

        Small, neat and precise, with hooded eyes and a crooked smile – she considered her looks to be an acquired taste, “rather like Gorgonzola cheese” – Sheila Steafel first came to national attention at the age of 31 in The Frost Report (BBC One, 1966), bringing her repertory of funny faces to her role as “the obligatory crumpet”
        alongside John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker.

        Sheila Steafel promoting her autobiography 'When Harry Met Sheila' in Waterstones, Reading, December 2010

        “She purses her lips like a lopsided rosebud,” noted one critic, “wriggles her eyebrows like tadpoles and gives sideways looks of slyness and suffering.” Her comic talents led in 1968 to her being cast in ITV’s Horne A’Plenty, a television vehicle for Kenneth Horne, then starring in radio’s outrageously camp Round the Horne.

        Later on she reverted to the straight roles with which her career had started, playing Mistress Quickly, tipsy and bemused, in The Merry Wives of Windsor for the Royal Shakespeare Company (1985), and appearing at the Strand in 1989 as Madame Lyebedev in Chekhov’s Ivanov and as Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing, upstaging Felicity Kendal’s Beatrice as she performed a tango with a rose clenched in her teeth.

        Her stint on Radio 4’s Friday night sketch show Week Ending began in 1977, when she became the first woman to join what had hitherto been an all-male cast. Her impression of Margaret Thatcher, then the leader of the Opposition, was one of the hits of the show (previously she had been played by David Tate in a high voice) and she remained in the role for five years.

        She maintained, however, that she was rarely an accurate impressionist, with one exception: “I’m the only person in the world who can do Shirley Williams properly.”

        The character with whom she was perhaps most associated was Miss Popsy Wopsy, a failed chorus girl who was the “niece” of the chairman Leonard Sachs in the BBC One music hall programme The Good Old Days; she once serenaded the young Prince Charles in character at a Lord’s Taverners charity event.

        Sheila Steafel, third from left, with Ronnie Barker in the foreground and other cast members of The Frost Report after winning the Rose d'Or at the 1967 Montreux festival

        Sheila Frances Steafel was born to Jewish parents on May 26 1935 in Johannesburg; her first taste of show business was winning an under-fives tap-dancing contest at a South African Eisteddfod. She was educated at Barnato Park Johannesburg Girls’ High School, from which she was almost expelled after writing a racy play.

        After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand she set her sights on London, saving for the air fare by working as a dental nurse. She had a passion for art and used the dental plasters and instruments to sculpt heads.

        Intending to study at Rada, she twice failed to make the grade and instead trained for the stage at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, supporting herself by waitressing at a Lyons Corner House and working as an usherette at the Players’ Theatre.

        She wrote to every television producer whose name appeared in the Radio Times seeking work and in the 1960s appeared in everything from dramas (Z­ Cars) to sitcoms (Sykes), but kept her stage career running in tandem, appearing in multiple roles in A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine (New End, 1979), an anthology of songs and jokes in which her impersonation of Harpo Marx was judged by The Sunday Telegraph to be “outstanding”.

        On television that year she impressed with her “neat discretion” as Carrie Pooter in Basil Boothroyd’s adaptation of The Diary of a Nobody.

        With Bernard Cribbins in the ITV drama The Close Prisoner

        In 1981 she starred in the first of many one-woman shows in a pub in Ealing, west London, before transferring first to the Edinburgh Festival, then to the West End with Steafel Variations (Apollo, 1982) and, three years later, with Steafel Express (Ambassadors, 1985). She was disappointed with the reviews, Francis King in The Sunday Telegraph judging her gifts in the latter insufficiently strong or varied.

        In 1985 she performed a one-woman stage version of Yard Sale, a radio monologue written for her by Arnold Wesker. She also tried her hand at opera, playing The Witch in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel in 1983; she said it was an experience she “wouldn’t want to forget, unlike the audience”.

        In the cinema she appeared in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD (starring Peter Cushing as Dr Who), Quatermass and the Pit, Otley, Bloodbath in the House of
        Death and Michael Winner's universally derided Parting Shots.

        Playing a pub singer opposite Dennis Waterman in Minder, 'Fatal Impression', 1989

        On television she supported Spike Milligan, Roy Hudd, Jimmy Tarbuck, The Goodies, Frankie Howerd and Kenny Everett, but was proud to have held her own as part of the distinguished ensemble cast in the late 1970s children’s series The Ghosts of Motley Hall, in which she found the comedy in the role of the mournful, elegant White Lady.

        In her later career she was often a director’s first choice for a Jewish matriarch, notably as Fanny Brice’s mother in a revival of Funny Girl at Chichester in 2008. She continued appearing on television into her eighties, with parts in Unforgotten, Holby City and Doctors.

        Meanwhile she kept up her interest in art, a second career as a portraitist taking off after she was commissioned to paint Sir Michael Hordern for the Garrick Club.

        She married, in 1958, Harry H Corbett, who played the younger Steptoe in Steptoe and Son on television; the marriage was dissolved in 1964. Her memoir When Harry Met Sheila appeared in 2010, followed in 2012 by Bastards, a collection of short stories.

        Sheila Steafel, born May 26 1935, died August 23 2019
        Last edited by Maurice; 27th August 2019, 10:23 PM.


        • #5

          A great comic talent.


          • #6
            Click image for larger version

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            Sheila in JUST LIKE A WOMAN (1966)


            • #7
              A very talented & funny lady! R.I.P.
              I never knew she'd been married to Harry H Corbett!