Prunella Scales

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Prunella Scales
CBE
Prunella Scales in 2010.JPG
Scales in 2010
BornPrunella Margaret Rumney Illingworth
(1932-06-22) 22 June 1932 (age 81)
Sutton Abinger, Surrey, England
OccupationActress
Years active1952-present
Spouse(s)Timothy West (1963–present)
ChildrenSamuel West
Joe West
 
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For the band, see Prunella Scales (band).
Prunella Scales
CBE
Prunella Scales in 2010.JPG
Scales in 2010
BornPrunella Margaret Rumney Illingworth
(1932-06-22) 22 June 1932 (age 81)
Sutton Abinger, Surrey, England
OccupationActress
Years active1952-present
Spouse(s)Timothy West (1963–present)
ChildrenSamuel West
Joe West

Prunella Scales, CBE (born Prunella Margaret Rumney Illingworth; 22 June 1932) is an English actress best known for her role as Basil Fawlty's wife Sybil in the British comedy Fawlty Towers and her BAFTA award-nominated role as Queen Elizabeth II in A Question of Attribution (Screen One, BBC 1991) by Alan Bennett.[1]

Early life[edit]

Scales was born in Sutton Abinger, Surrey, the daughter of Catherine (née Scales), an actress, and John Richardson Illingworth, a cotton salesman.[2][3] She attended Moira House Girls School, Eastbourne.[4]

Career[edit]

Throughout her long career, Scales has often been cast in comic roles. Her early work included the second UK adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1952), Hobson's Choice (1954) and Room at the Top (1959).

Her career break came with the early 1960s sitcom Marriage Lines starring opposite Richard Briers. In addition to Fawlty Towers, she has had roles in BBC Radio 4 sitcoms, notably After Henry, Smelling of Roses and Ladies of Letters; on television she starred in the London Weekend Television/Channel 4 series Mapp & Lucia based on the novels by E. F. Benson. She played Queen Elizabeth II in Alan Bennett's A Question of Attribution. In 1973, Scales teamed with Ronnie Barker in the (original) one-off Meat, which aired as One Man's Meat as part of a series called Seven of One, also for the BBC. Her film appearances also include the BBC Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor as Mistress Page (1982), The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987), Stiff Upper Lips (1997), Howards End (1992), and BBC Theatre Night in Joe Orton's farce What the Butler Saw (1987) playing Mrs Prentice, where the cast included husband Timothy West with Dinsdale Landen and Tessa Peake-Jones, as well as a cameo in The Boys From Brazil (1978).

For ten years, Prunella appeared with Jane Horrocks in advertisements for UK supermarket chain Tesco. In 1997, Scales starred in Chris Barfoot's science-fiction film short Phoenix which was first aired in 1999 by NBC Universal's Sci Fi Channel.[5] Scales played 'The Client', an evil government minister funding inter-genetic time travel experiments.

In 2003, she appeared as Hilda, "she who must be obeyed", wife of Horace Rumpole in four BBC Radio 4 plays, with Timothy West, her real-life husband playing her fictional husband. Prunella Scales and Timothy West toured Australia at the same time in different productions. Scales appeared in a one-woman show called "An Evening with Queen Victoria", which also featured the tenor Ian Partridge singing songs written by Prince Albert.

Also in 2003, she went to the opera and voiced the role of Magpie, the eponymous thief in a recording of Gioachino Rossini's opera semi-seria in two acts, La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) in which a servant girl is condemned to death for the theft of a silver spoon snatched by a magpie presumably decorating its nest to lure a mate. Scales’ part in the melodrama is tiny but delightful. She neither sang nor spoke; she merely cawed. The rarely staged opera was performed in English for the Peter Moores Foundation series of opera in English, recorded by Chandos Records Ltd., and released on a 2-disc set of CDs under the catalog number CHAN 3097(2). Numerous fine vocal soloists and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir joined Scales and the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of maestro David Parry in a romp of this work of which only the overture ever appears in the concert house, the rest of the opera being largely neglected.

In 2006, she appeared alongside Academy Award winners Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell in the mini-series The Shell Seekers.

On 16 November 2007, Scales appeared in Children in Need, reprising her role as Sybil Fawlty, the new manager who wants to take over Hotel Babylon. She appeared in the audio play The Youth of Old Age, produced in 2008 by the Wireless Theatre Company, and available to download free of charge on their website.[6] She appeared in a production of Carrie's War, the Nina Bawden novel, at the Apollo Theatre in 2009.[7]

John Cleese said in an 8 May 2009 interview that the role of Sybil Fawlty was originally offered to Bridget Turner, who turned down the part, claiming "it wasn't right for her".[8]

She starred in the 2011 British live-action 3D family comedy film Horrid Henry: The Movie as the titular character's Great Aunt Greta.

Prunella Scales has a new short audio story, 'Dandruff Hits the Turtleneck', written by John Mayfield and available for download at www.audible.com.

She starred in a Virgin Short "Stranger Danger" alongside Roderick Cowie.

She most recently made a guest appearance in the popular BBC radio show Cabin Pressure as Wendy Crieff, the mother of Captain Martin Crieff.

Other activities[edit]

Scales appeared on a Labour party political broadcast during the 2005 and 2010 UK general election campaign. She also supports the SOS Children's Villages charity.[9]

Her biography, Prunella, written by Teresa Ransom, was published by John Murray in 2005.[10] She is a patron of the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham.[11] In 2005, she named the P&O cruise ship, Artemis.[12]

Scales is an ambassador of SOS Children's Villages, an international orphan charity providing homes and mothers for orphaned and abandoned children. She supports the charity's annual World Orphan Week campaign, which takes place each February.[13]

Prunella is married to Timothy West, and has two sons; the elder is actor and director Samuel West. She also has a stepdaughter, Juliet. She has a photographic memory and she also speaks French.[14]

The Guardian crossword setter Biggles referred to her 50th wedding anniversary in his prize crossword puzzle (number 26,089) on 26 October 2013.[15]

In March 2014 her husband told the Guardian that Scales was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[16]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Jonathan Dimbleby
President of the CPRE
1997–2002
Succeeded by
Sir Max Hastings