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  1. #1
    Member Country: Australia heartbeatoz's Avatar
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    Just wondering if there have been any Biographies written on Peggy Mount & Violet Carson, I have just finished listening to Archive on 4's "Death of the Battleaxe" and thoroughly enjoyed it and it got me thinking about these 2 Actresses.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    Doesn't seem to be biographies of either. They're both in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography though

    Mount, Margaret Rose [Peggy] (1915–2001), actress
    by Verena Wright

    � Oxford University Press 2004–11 All rights reserved
    Mount, Margaret Rose [Peggy] (1915–2001), actress, was born on 2 May 1915 at 70 Christchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, the younger daughter (there was no son) of Alfred John Mount, grocer's assistant, and his wife, Rose, n�e Penney.

    Mount's childhood was unhappy. Her invalid father died when she was nine; her sister, a talented pianist, was her mother's favourite. Years later she recalled: ‘My mother told me I was wicked and worthless … I grew up without affection from her’ (The Independent). She was educated at Leigh North Street School, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. At the age of ten she played Rose in Snow White and Rose Red. A horrific scalding accident when she was eleven damaged one leg so badly that amputation was considered. After many weeks in bed she recovered, but she later believed the shock affected her thyroid, resulting in persistent weight problems. ‘I knew I was fat and ugly’, she said later (Daily Mail).

    However, after leaving school at fourteen, Mount's determination to succeed—influenced by the support, friendship, and training from a Methodist drama group—channelled destructive energies into acting. She became a secretary and attended private drama lessons at weekends. Experience was gained by singing and acting in local wartime concert parties. She queued for threepenny ‘late doors’ theatre tickets to extend her knowledge of the stage. In 1944 she made her professional d�but with Harry Hanson's Players at the Hippodrome, Keighley, Yorkshire, in Hindle Wakes by Stanley Houghton. Thus began her rigorous training in provincial repertory theatre, with twice-nightly performances of several plays in short seasons. A film role came in 1954 in The Embezzler, written and directed by John Gilling, where she played Mrs Larkin.

    In 1955 Peggy Mount became the first ‘unknown’ West End lead, playing the authoritarian prospective mother-in-law, Emma Hornett, in Sailor Beware by Philip King at the Strand Theatre. The play, a comedy, had transferred from Worthing, and was later filmed (1956). She enjoyed her success: ‘Who'd have thought a fat character woman would get her name in lights? That's why I love theatre. It's so unexpected’ (The Times, 1 Sept 1986). Critics and audiences enthused: ‘more intimidating than a fixed bayonet … with a voice to match’ (The Times, 14 Nov 2001); ‘a voice that could have made a sergeant major tremble … a figure … that wordlessly and hilariously forbade the taking of liberties’ (The Guardian). The play ran for three years; Mount missed none of the 1 performances. Later she noted the effects on her ‘beautiful contralto voice … the audience was laughing so much I had to really project … [it] roughened my vocal chords and I had a cast-iron diaphragm at the end’ (Sunday Express). Lyons Corner House also suffered: ‘I used to go there with friends. Whenever they told a funny story, my laughter shattered the glasses … so they used to clear the tables when I arrived’ (The Sun, 19 Sept 1977). Peggy Mount acknowledged her battleaxe role as part of a ‘wonderful’ tradition of popular ‘larger than life [female] characters’ performed by actresses including Margaret Rutherford, Hattie Jacques, and Edith Evans (Daily Mail). It led to situation comedy, as Ada Larkin in the ATV series The Larkins, by Fred Robinson (1958–60, 1963–4), opposite David Kossoff, and ‘the nation's favourite dragon’ (The Times, 14 Nov 2001), Gabrielle Dragon in George and the Dragon by Vince Powell and Harry Driver, also for ATV (1966–8), with Sidney James and John Le Mesurier. ‘One old lady wrote [of a hospital operation where the nurses] “wouldn't let me watch in case I burst my stitches”’ (TV Times, 17 Nov 1966). The battleaxe also brought her to the Old Vic Theatre, as Nurse in Franco Zeffirelli's production of Romeo and Juliet (1960): a ‘restrained and subtle performance’ (The Scotsman).

    Mount made several film appearances in the 1950s and 1960s, including The Naked Truth (1958) alongside Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas; One Way Pendulum (1964) with George Cole, Eric Sykes, and Julia Foster; Hotel Paradiso (1966) with Gina Lollobrigida and Alec Guinness; and Carol Reed's film of Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! (1968) as Mrs Bumble. Most of her film appearances drew on her established comic persona; but her later work in theatre emphasized the skills that made her a leading character actress. She returned to the Old Vic in 1969 to play Mrs Hardcastle in a revival of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, and in the 1970s appeared in several touring productions. Her best-received performance in these was her Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's The Rivals. From 1976 she spent three years with the National Theatre, winning critical acclaim for her Donna Pasqua in Il Campiello by Carlo Goldoni (1976; adapted by Susanna Graham-Jones and Bill Bryden) and for her Mrs Hewlett in the revival of Michael Blakemore's production of Ben Travers's Plunder (1978). She also performed with Birmingham Rep in this period, appearing in the title role of Brecht's Mother Courage in 1977. She played her as ‘not merely a survivor … but an unseeing dupe of the greed and corruption of the political system’ (The Guardian). She ‘move[d] an audience without resorting to sentimentality … her acting admitted no trace of self-pity or of the laughter she had been accustomed to provoke’ (Daily Telegraph). For Mount it was ‘a dream part … involv[ing] comedy, drama, love and hate … I adored it’ (Sunday Telegraph). From 1983 to 1985 she was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company; her roles included Mistress Overdone in Measure for Measure (1983) and Muriel Whitchurch in The Happiest Days of Your Life by John Dighton (1984), where the audience ‘applauded every time she left the stage’ (The Times, 14 Nov 2001).

    Mount had another success in television sitcom between 1977 and 1981, repeating her battleaxe as a retirement home resident in You're Only Young Twice, for Yorkshire Television. However, television drama made better use of her artistic range. An early break from typecasting was the comedy drama series John Browne's Body for ATV in 1969, where she played a reluctant detective. In 1988 she played a judge in ‘Punishment without Crime’, an episode of the USA Network series The Ray Bradbury Theater, and also that year appeared in a dramatization of The Trial of Klaus Barbie. She also made cameo appearances in long-running series, including a stallslady outside a ‘psychic circus’ in the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who (1988) and as a nun in the Inspector Morse episode ‘Fat Chance’ (Central Television, 1991). She co-starred with Frankie Howerd in the second series of Yorkshire Television's children's comedy series All Change (1991). Her last television appearance was in the BBC detective series Virtual Murder (1992). She was appointed OBE in 1996.

    Mount suffered from detached retinas for years. At Chichester in 1998, she lost her sight while on stage in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya: ‘The audience had no idea. But … I lost my nerve … my greatest regret. It was always my wish to die working’ (The Independent). Peggy Mount died at the theatrical retirement home, Denville Hall, 62 Ducks Hill Road, Northwood, London, on 13 November 2001 from bronchopneumonia and congestive cardiac failure. She had never married and had no children. Over a long career, Peggy Mount established herself as a skilled professional in theatre, television, and film. Well-respected among her peers, she was ‘equally at home in the broadest of farces or in Brecht’ (The Guardian). Loved by audiences for the ‘honesty and finely-tuned sense of fun [of] a Mount performance’ (The Scotsman), she was ‘a moth round whom everyone gathered’ (ibid.), a woman who ‘enjoyed meeting fans and entertaining friends’ (Daily Telegraph) and who was quite unlike the battleaxe which had brought her to public attention.

    VERENA WRIGHT
    Sources

    SIFT database, BFI [summary of personal information on Peggy Mount] � internet movie database, The Internet Movie Database (IMDb), accessed 1 June 2004 � The bbc.co.uk guide to comedy, BBC - Comedy - Collections - Classic British comedy from the BBC Archive, accessed on 2 July 2004 � TV episode guides, ‘Ray Bradbury Theater’, RAY BRADBURY THEATER, accessed on 2 July 2004 � ‘Inspector Morse, an episode guide’, epguides.com/InspectorMorse/guide.shtml, accessed 2 July 2004 � TV Times (17–24 Nov 1966) [interview, 2 pts] � P. Mount and K. Irwin, interview, Daily Mirror (23 Oct 1971) � The Sun (23 Oct 1971) � P. Mount and L. Prosser, interview, The Sun (19 Sept 1977) � TV Times (22 Sept 1977) � P. Mount and P. Coleman, interview, Sunday Express (21 Aug 1983) � Sunday Telegraph (22 April 1984) � TV Times (1 Dec 1984) � P. Mount and S. Morley, interview, The Times (1 Sept 1986) � Daily Mail (14 March 1996) � The Stage (24 Dec 1997) � The Times (12 May 1998); (14 Nov 2001) � Daily Telegraph (14 Nov 2001) � The Guardian (14 Nov 2001) � The Independent (14 Nov 2001) � The Scotsman (14 Nov 2001) � New York Times (16 Nov 2001) � Los Angeles Times (17 Nov 2001) � Classic Images (Jan 2002) � b. cert. � d. cert.
    Archives


    FILM


    BFINA, Extraordinary, D. Wilcox (director), Thames Television, 5 Aug 1980 � BFINA, current affairs footage � BFINA, performance footage

    SOUND


    BL NSA, current affairs recording � BL NSA, documentary recordings � BL NSA, performance recordings

    Likenesses

    photograph, 1956, repro. in TV Times (1 Dec 1984) � photographs, 1956–60, Popperfoto, Northampton � photographs, 1956–98, PA Photos, London � E. Miller, photograph, 1960 (as the nurse in Romeo and Juliet), Hult. Arch. � photographs, 1961–97, Rex features, London � photographs, 1963–85, Universal Pictorial Press and Agency, London � C. Davey, bromide print, 1973, NPG � photograph, 1975, Hult. Arch. � S. Hyde, bromide print, 1982, NPG � photograph, 1984, repro. in TV Times (1 Dec 1984) � R. Ebdon, photograph, repro. in TV Times (22 Sept 1977) � R. Wilson, photograph, V&A, theatre collections � photograph, V&A, theatre collections � photograph, repro. in The Times (14 Nov 2001) � photograph, repro. in The Independent � photograph, repro. in Daily Telegraph � photograph, repro. in The Guardian � photograph, repro. in The Scotsman � photograph, repro. in TV Times (17 Nov 1966) � photograph (aged ten), repro. in TV Times (17 Nov 1966) � photograph (aged five with parents), repro. in TV Times (1 Dec 1984) � photograph (with Pat Coombs), repro. in TV Times (1 Dec 1984) � photographs, Camera Press, London
    � Oxford University Press 2004–11 All rights reserved

    Verena Wright, ‘Mount, Margaret Rose [Peggy] (1915–2001)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2005; online edn, Jan 2011 [Margaret Mount, accessed 28 Oct 2011]

    Margaret Rose Mount (1915–2001): doi:10.1093/ref: dnb/76507
    Carson, Violet Helen (1898–1983), actress
    by Anthony Hayward

    � Oxford University Press 2004–11 All rights reserved
    Carson, Violet Helen (1898–1983), actress, was born on 1 September 1898 at 1 Corporation Terrace, in the Ancoats district of Manchester, one of at least two daughters of William Brown Carson, a Scottish flour miller, and his wife, Mary Clarke Tordoff, an amateur singer. Violet Carson learned the piano from the age of two and her sister Nellie played the violin. As the Carson Sisters they sang at church functions and wedding receptions.

    At the age of fifteen Violet Carson became a pianist accompanying silent films, for �2 5s. a week, with the cinema orchestra at Manchester's Market Street Cinema, where Nellie was employed as a violinist. The two sisters then formed their own orchestra and moved to the Devonshire Cinema, before Nellie left to join the English Singers and Violet moved to the Scala Cinema in Withington. On 1 September 1926, at the age of twenty-eight, Violet married the road contractor George Frederick Peploe in Manchester Cathedral, but two years later he died. She returned to work, which she had given up during her marriage, and played the piano at the Ambassador Cinema, in Pendleton, Manchester, for six years until ‘talkies’ replaced silent films.

    In 1935 Violet Carson joined BBC radio in Manchester, singing everything from Stanley Holloway-style comic songs to operatic arias. She began in a show called Songs at the Piano and eventually became known as the voice of Auntie Vi in Children's Hour. She worked with the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts during the Second World War, then spent six years as the pianist in the Wilfred and Mabel Pickles radio quiz show Have a Go! She was also a presenter and interviewer on Woman's Hour for five years and acted in many radio dramas. On stage she played the duchess of York in Richard III. But her greatest fame was to come on television, as Ena Sharples, the hairnetted harridan of Coronation Street. She appeared in its first episode, on 9 December 1960, and stayed with the programme for twenty years. When the characters were being cast, the programme's creator, Tony Warren, had remembered the fearsome Auntie Vi with whom he worked as a child actor on radio in Children's Hour. When he told her about the part, Carson commented that it amounted ‘to nothing more than a back-street bitch’. Warren suggested that maybe she thought the role was too difficult, but she retorted, ‘Don't be ridiculous! I have lived with this woman all my life. There is one in every street in the North of England’ (Kay, 12).

    The part was hers and Ena Sharples, the God-fearing battleaxe with a razor-sharp tongue, was an immediate hit with viewers. She was often seen sitting drinking milk stout in the Rovers Return snug with Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst, setting the world to rights. Ena was the matriarchal figure who epitomized the programme's tough, gritty, northern character, and Carson became the serial's biggest star. Her piano-playing talents were often used in Rovers Return singalongs and street shows.

    By the end of the programme's first year Ena was introduced at Tussaud's Blackpool waxworks. In 1965 Carson was appointed OBE in the queen's birthday honours and, eight years later, made an honorary MA by Manchester University. Her only regret about this success was that it did not allow her enough time to do other work, especially acting in the classics on stage. But she became a frequent guest on the popular religious programme Stars on Sunday, giving viewers a chance to hear her fine singing voice. Somewhat sadly, she once said, ‘I don't want to be Sharples—that old bag—all my life. I want people to remember I'm Violet Carson’ (United Press International, 28 Dec 1993).

    Carson took time off from Coronation Street in 1973 after suffering a nervous breakdown and left through ill health seven years later, having completed 1148 episodes. She was last seen in the serial in February 1980, with the character of Ena leaving for Lytham St Anne's to look after an elderly friend of her late husband. Carson died in her sleep at her home at 18 Fleetwood Road in Blackpool on Boxing day 1983, aged eighty-five, having suffered pernicious anaemia during her last years. The pleasure she had brought to millions was rewarded with a memorial service at Manchester Cathedral.

    ANTHONY HAYWARD
    Sources

    A. Hayward and D. Hayward, TV unforgettables (1993) � G. Kay, Coronation Street: celebrating 30 years (1990) � The Times (28 Dec 1983) � CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1984) � b. cert. � m. cert. � d. cert.
    Archives


    FILM


    BFINA, performance footage

    SOUND


    BL NSA, ‘Violet Carson’, BBC Radio 4, 3 June 1981, NP7577W TR1 � BL NSA, ‘A portrait of the actress and singer Violet Carson’, T3825W � BL NSA, performance recording

    Likenesses

    photographs, c.1962–1963, Hult. Arch. � Wood, photograph, 1968, Hult. Arch. � J. Madden, photograph, 1970, Hult. Arch. [see illus.] � J. Jackson, photograph, 1971, Hult. Arch. � R. Jackson, photograph, 1971, Hult. Arch.
    Wealth at death

    �194,602: probate, 13 March 1984, CGPLA Eng. & Wales
    � Oxford University Press 2004–11 All rights reserved

    Anthony Hayward, ‘Carson, Violet Helen (1898–1983)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 [Violet Carson, accessed 28 Oct 2011]

    Violet Helen Carson (1898–1983): doi:10.1093/ref:dnb/65581

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: UK didi-5's Avatar
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    They both had fascinating lives but have fallen off the radar a bit (Violet Carson was far more than Ena Sharples, as good as she was in that role). There don't seem to be any biographies beyond the pieces that have already been quoted.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    One source for Carson is Tony Warren's novel The Lights of Manchester which features characters based on her and Pat Phoenix. Warren had worked with Carson in Children's Hour and found her someone who 'didn't suffer fools gladly' as the obituary writers say

  5. #5
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    Hi,
    Actually, it is true. These actresses were not glamour, but they were still popular, and became household names.

    Violet Carson was more than Ena Sharples. She even used to play the piano in Wilfred Pickles radio show HAVE A GO.

    Peggy Mount, did develope a battleaxe image also. But again there was more to her than the formidable character in SAILOR BEWARE. If you ever heard her being interviewed, she displayed an impressive personality.

    Alan French.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: UK didi-5's Avatar
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  7. #7
    Member Country: Australia heartbeatoz's Avatar
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    Thanks for the information it's such a shame that these 2 wonderful Actresses never had Biographies written, I remember when Violet came to Australia playing the Piano she was fantastic and looked so glamorous compared to her usual Ena we were used to seeing, I always had a soft spot for her because she reminded me of my own formidable Grandma Green.

    I have ordered that Book you recommended CaptainWaggett Thank you plus another called "The Book of British Battleaxes"

    Cheers and Thanks again from Jacki

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain Mark O's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by heartbeatoz View Post
    Thanks for the information it's such a shame that these 2 wonderful Actresses never had Biographies written, I remember when Violet came to Australia playing the Piano she was fantastic and looked so glamorous compared to her usual Ena we were used to seeing, I always had a soft spot for her because she reminded me of my own formidable Grandma Green.

    I have ordered that Book you recommended CaptainWaggett Thank you plus another called "The Book of British Battleaxes"

    Cheers and Thanks again from Jacki
    The 'Battleaxe' book sounds like something I'd enjoy, I'l have a look round for it, Violet was always into haute coutoure, lame coats, fur coats, etc; and why not, she bought pleasure to millions with her portrayal of Ena, there's a photo of her turning on Blackpool illuminations in 1961 standing behing a plaque saying 'Our Violet' where she's wearing a lame coat which she then whipped off and then became Ena much to the delight of the crowds, I also recall her making regular appearances on Stars on sunday when Jess Yates hosted the programme, she'd usually be surrounded by a group of small children singing whilst she played the piano, smiling and joyful, it didn't click with me (as an adolescent) who it was at first until me mam said 'look, that's Ena Sharples', as she'd be without hairnet and her natural silver hair could be seen.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain Mark O's Avatar
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    Last edited by Mark O; 31-10-11 at 02:04 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain Mark O's Avatar
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: UK didi-5's Avatar
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    Great photo of Violet sans hairnet

    I think that since Ena left the Street (in a taxi, heading off somewhere vaguely exotic) it has never quite been the same. She dominated the show along with Pat Phoenix and both of them created great, rounded characters who were recognisable on the streets of Northern England at the time. The types which hung on in the mythical Yorkshire of Last of the Summer Wine (surely Pearl was Ena's pseudo daughter?!).

    Peggy Mount was certainly not just 'Sailor Beware' but her barking at little Esme Cannon not to put the teapot down on her varnished surfaces really makes me smile. She was also terrific in another battleaxe role as Mrs Bumble in 'Oliver!', making Harry Secombe's life a misery ('the law supposes that your wife acts under your instruction', 'if the law supposes that the law is a bachelor').

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain Mark O's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by didi-5 View Post
    Great photo of Violet sans hairnet

    I think that since Ena left the Street (in a taxi, heading off somewhere vaguely exotic) it has never quite been the same. She dominated the show along with Pat Phoenix and both of them created great, rounded characters who were recognisable on the streets of Northern England at the time. The types which hung on in the mythical Yorkshire of Last of the Summer Wine (surely Pearl was Ena's pseudo daughter?!).

    Peggy Mount was certainly not just 'Sailor Beware' but her barking at little Esme Cannon not to put the teapot down on her varnished surfaces really makes me smile. She was also terrific in another battleaxe role as Mrs Bumble in 'Oliver!', making Harry Secombe's life a misery ('the law supposes that your wife acts under your instruction', 'if the law supposes that the law is a bachelor').
    Ena headed off to the Seaside town of St. Anne's in April 1980 to keep house for late husband's friend Henry Foster, never to return unfortunately, Peggy Mount lived in the Essex town of Leigh-on-Sea, close to Southend, I know a woman who ran a family-owned sweet shop in the town back in the day, you always knew when Peggy was coming she said, I can imagine!

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