Hattie Jacques

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Hattie Jacques

Hattie Jacques
BornJosephine Edwina Jaques
(1922-02-07)7 February 1922
Sandgate, Kent, England
Died6 October 1980(1980-10-06) (aged 58)
Kensington, London, England
Spouse(s)John Le Mesurier (m. 1949–1965) «start: (1949-11-10)–end+1: (1966)»"Marriage: John Le Mesurier to Hattie Jacques" Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hattie_Jacques) (divorced)
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Hattie Jacques

Hattie Jacques
BornJosephine Edwina Jaques
(1922-02-07)7 February 1922
Sandgate, Kent, England
Died6 October 1980(1980-10-06) (aged 58)
Kensington, London, England
Spouse(s)John Le Mesurier (m. 1949–1965) «start: (1949-11-10)–end+1: (1966)»"Marriage: John Le Mesurier to Hattie Jacques" Location: (linkback://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hattie_Jacques) (divorced)

Josephine Edwina Jaques (7 February 1922 – 6 October 1980), known professionally as Hattie Jacques, was an English comedy actress.

Starting her career in the 1940s, Jacques first gained attention through her radio appearances with Tommy Handley on ITMA and later with Tony Hancock on Hancock's Half Hour. From 1958 to 1974 she appeared in fourteen Carry On films, playing roles such as a hospital matron. She had a long professional partnership with Eric Sykes, with whom she co-starred in his long-running television series Sykes. She also starred in two Norman Wisdom films, The Square Peg and Follow a Star.

Jacques was married to John Le Mesurier from 1949 until their divorce in 1965.


Early life

Hattie Jacques was born Josephine Edwina Jaques in Sandgate, Kent on 7 February 1922,[1] the daughter of Robin and Mary Jaques.[2] Her father was an RAF pilot and footballer for Clapton Orient and Fulham[3] who was killed in an aeroplane crash 18 months after her birth.[4] Her mother was an amateur actress. Her brother was the artist and illustrator Robin Jacques.

Educated at the Godolphin and Latymer School, she served as a nurse in the VAD and worked as a welder in a factory in north London during the Second World War. Around this time an American soldier, Major Charles Kearney, proposed to her; Jacques later claimed he had been killed in action. While researching for his Jacques 2007 biography, however, author Andy Merriman discovered that Kearney had a wife and children in the United States when he had proposed to Jacques and in 1984 had been living in Massachusetts.[4]

At the age of 20, she made her theatrical debut at the Players' Theatre in London. Almost immediately, she became a regular performer with the company, appearing in music hall revues and playing the Fairy Queen in their Victorian-style pantomimes. It has been reported she sometimes "sang Marie Lloyd songs and ended her act by leaping into the air and doing the splits".[4]

After achieving success in radio, television and film, she returned to the Players' regularly as a performer, writer and director. It was during her time at the Players' that she acquired the nickname "Hattie" – appearing in a minstrel show called Coal Black Mammies for Dixie, she took to the stage blacked up and was likened to the American actress Hattie McDaniel (of Gone with the Wind fame). Thereafter the name stuck.


In 1947 she was seen at the Players' by Ted Kavanagh, the scriptwriter of It's That Man Again (ITMA), and was invited to join the cast of the radio comedy series, between 1948 and 1949, playing the greedy schoolgirl Sophie Tuckshop.

She also performed, from 1950 to 1954, in the radio show Educating Archie as Agatha Dinglebody. It was on this show that she first worked with Eric Sykes, who was providing scripts for the series.

In 1956, she was asked to join the radio series Hancock's Half Hour, with regulars Tony Hancock, Sid James, Bill Kerr and Kenneth Williams. She also appeared in several episodes of Hancock's television series.

Carry On films

She was also appearing in films by this time, and her early films included David Lean's Oliver Twist (1948), Scrooge (1951) and a couple of Norman Wisdom comedies, The Square Peg and Follow a Star. In 1958, she was part of the original Carry On team in Carry On Sergeant and achieved more widespread recognition.

She appeared in fourteen films in the long-running series and portrayed the no-nonsense Matron in five of the films – Carry On Nurse, Carry On Doctor, Carry On Again Doctor, Carry On Camping and Carry On Matron.

Her favourite[5] was Carry On Cabby, in which she was allowed to drop her "battleaxe" persona and play the romantic lead opposite Sid James.

She was known by the team as a warm, kind-hearted and endearing lady and was close friends with many of her co-stars, including Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims, whom Hattie provided with a great deal of advice and practical help. In return, Sims regarded Hattie as her "greatest friend".[6]

Eric Sykes

She first met Eric Sykes at the Players' Theatre in London. Dazzled by her performance, Sykes came backstage to be introduced. It was to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship and partnership.[7]

In 1960 she joined Eric Sykes on his BBC comedy series Sykes and A..., in which they played a brother and sister who got into all sorts of comic scrapes. The joke was that they were meant to be twins, but were physically very dissimilar, Jacques being short and plump, while Sykes was thin and gangly. The show ran from 1960 to 1965 and was revived as Sykes from 1972 to 1979. They took the show on a national and international stage tour. However this put a strain on their professional relationship; in her view Sykes cut her lines and laughs because he resented Jacques's popularity with the audiences.[8]

In December 1980 she appeared posthumously, alongside Sykes, Jimmy Edwards, Bob Todd and Charlie Drake, as Nanny in the Sykes comedy-short Rhubard Rhubarb.[9]

Personal life

Hattie Jacques was married to actor John Le Mesurier from 1949 to 1965 when they divorced.[10] They had two sons, Robin (born 1953) and Kim (born 1956).[11] At the time of their divorce, the media were given the impression that the fault was on Le Mesurier's side. It was later revealed that Jacques had been having an affair with younger man John Schofield (died 2003) a cockney used-car dealer and at the time manager of rock band Brinsley Schwartz. The 2007 book Hattie: the Authorised Biography she claims that Schofield moved into the master bedroom while Le Mesurier retreated to the attic. Jacques and Le Mesurier eventually separated but remained on good terms and Jacques encouraged him to marry his third wife, Joan.

Her affair with Schofield was short-lived however. When Jacques was filming in Rome, Schofield came out to stay and ran off with an Italian heiress. Jacques, who had had a weight problem since her teens[12] began eating "comfort food" and her weight ballooned to nearly 127 kg (20st).[4] Le Mesurier went along with the charade of the marriage breakdown being his fault so as not to damage Jacques's career.

In January 2011, BBC Four produced a film called Hattie, starring Ruth Jones and dramatising Jacques's personal life.[13]


Jaques' blue plaque at 67, Eardley Crescent, Earls Court

Jacques was a chain smoker. In her later years she was plagued by health problems, which included breathing difficulties, arthritis, high blood pressure and swollen, ulcerated legs. As a result of these she was unable to get insurance for films. She carried on working by taking to the road in a stage version of Sykes, which allowed her to continue supporting her favourite charities, as well as keeping up her busy social life.

She died of a heart attack on 6 October 1980, at the age of 58,[14] shortly after completing a television advertisement campaign for UK supermarket Asda.[15] Her family refused to allow Sykes to attend her funeral because they resented the way he had treated her during the stage show, Sykes.[8] She was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium, where her ashes were also scattered.

A memorial plaque to Jacques is in St Paul's, Covent Garden, otherwise known as the Actors' Church.

On 5 November 1995, a blue plaque was unveiled by Eric Sykes and Clive Dunn at her former residence: 67 Eardley Crescent, Earls Court, London.

Radio performances


Selected films



  1. ^ Gray, Frances (January 2011). "Jacques, Josephine Edwina [Hattie (1922–1980)"]. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press). doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/53976. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/53976. Retrieved 21 August 2012.  (subscription required)
  2. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: Jun 1919 1a 1102 Chelsea – Robin Jaques = Mary A. Thorn
  3. ^ Joyce, Michael (2004). Football League Players' Records 1888 to 1939. Nottingham: SoccerData (Tony Brown). pp. 137. ISBN 978-1-899468-67-6. 
  4. ^ a b c d Lewis, Roger (18 October 2007). The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/3668600/Carry-on-Hattie-Jacques.html. 
  5. ^ Andy Merriman – Hattie – The Authorised Biography of Hattie Jacques, Arun Press, 2007
  6. ^ Joan Sims High Spirits, Partridge, 2000
  7. ^ Eric Sykes If I Don't Write it, Somebody Else Will – An Autobiography, Fourth Estate,2005
  8. ^ a b Edge, Simon (18 May 2010). "Hattie Jacques and Her Heartbreak". Daily Express (London). http://www.express.co.uk/features/view/175723. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "Rhubard Rhubarb" at imdb.com
  10. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: DEC 1949 5c 2328 KENSINGTON – John E. Le M. Halliley = Josephine E. Jacques
  11. ^ Do You Think That's Wise McCann, p. 123
  12. ^ "The secret lover who broke Hattie's heart: Hattie Jacques’ son recalls the love triangle he believes killed one of Britain’s best loved actresses"
  13. ^ BBC Four: Hattie
  14. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: DEC 1980 13 1473 KENSINGTON – Josephine Edwina Le Mesurier, DoB = 7 Feb 1922
  15. ^ "Info for Superstores - Asda" at Vuktvadverts.com
  16. ^ a b c d e "British Film Institute Screen Online". http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/482409/. 

External links