When I think of it, the face of actress Una Stubbs has been present in my life for as long as I can remember. From dancing about in the musical films of Cliff Richard, as Alf Garnett’s daughter Rita, to Giving Us a Clue opposite her old dancing mate Lionel, as Aunt Sally to Worzel Gummidge and ending up as the housekeeper Mrs Hudson to Cumberabatch and Freeman in the TV blockbuster, ‘Sherlock.’
Fair to say then she has been a constant in many of our lives for over fifty years.
She was born in 1937 in Welwyn Garden City, though her formative years were spent in Leicestershire. Trained as a dancer at The La Roche dancing school in Slough, she made her stage debut at The London Palladium. She then went on to be a Dougie Squires dancer on the TV Variety show ‘Cool for Cats in 1956, then going to work in cabaret and revues all over central London before joining Lionel Blair’s dancing troupe.
In 1958 she was the face of Dairy Box chocolates in a nationwide advertising campaign. That same year she married the actor Peter Gilmore who would go on to be the face of the 1970s TV series The Onedin Line.
Next, she appeared in the cult TV show ‘The Strange World of Gurney Slade’ featuring Anthony Newley in 1960 and then became a household name in the early 60s as a result of her perky performances in the films ‘Summer Holiday (1963) and ‘Wonderful Life (1964) both starring Cliff Richard.
She followed those with ‘Three Hats for Lisa’ in 1965.
The mid-60s saw her adopt a change of role to play the part of Rita, daughter of Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell) and his wife Else (Dandy Nichols) in the controversial, but ratings winning TV series ‘Till Death do us Part’ written by Johnny Speight.
Rita was married to ‘that scouse git’, actor Anthony Booth, father of course to Tony Blair’s wife Cherie.
She later revived the role in the follow up ‘Till Death’ (1981) and ‘In Sickness and Health’ (1985)
Divorced from Gilmore, in 1969 Una married fellow actor Nicky Henson and became a mother.
Other notable TV work followed including a part in the classic Fawlty Towers episode ‘The Anniversary.’
1979 was a busy year as she starred as Aunt Sally in ITVs ‘Worzel Gummidge’ alongside Jon Pertwee and then as a team captain for the game show ‘Give Us A Clue.’
Two syllables anyone?
Over the years she has also kept active in the theatre as well as continuing to pop up on TV, most noticeably recently as Mrs. Hudson, housekeeper to Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson.
Her outside hobbies include painting and sketching and she has held various exhibitions of her art.
Well into her 80s now, she has remained at the forefront of the UK entertainment industry for over 60 years.
Not bad for a one time hoofer from Leicester.
The Mumper of SE5