The Seventies started on a real high for me when I landed a part in General Hospital, the nation’s first daytime soap, playing fat nurse Hilda Price. It paved the way for more TV work and helped me become a household name.
If I’m honest, though , I never felt comfortable with a lot of other roles I took on this decade. It was the era of the Benny Hill shows (which I never did) when women were very much regarded as eye candy.
I had my own rules and I always maintained I would only do nude scenes if they were strictly necessary to the script. In The Sweeney, for example, viewers saw me naked, but I was playing a corpse, which didn’t seem quite as bad. Like the famous Windmill Girls, my reasoning was that if you moved, it was rude! Looking back at these pictures reminds me how much work was around for actors in those days and how versatile I was.
'It was the era of the Benny Hill shows when women were regarded as eye candy’
General Hospital 1972
After six months of sweating it out in a padded suit that stretched from my neck to the tops of my thighs, my character, fat nurse Hilda Price, lost weight after winning a competition to go to a health farm.
The suit hung in my wardrobe and the newly slim nurse Hilda Price was inundated with letters from viewers wanting to know what her diet secret was. Of course I had to come clean…
Within These Walls 1974
This was the exception to the majority of Seventies parts I played and I absolutely loved doing it. It wasn’t glamorous – we used to rehearse in an old church hall on a roundabout near Waterloo – but it was a great job. Prison governor Googie Withers was scary but very nice.
Doctor on the Go 1975
In this, I was blonde for a change! The series also starred the lovely George Layton, a marvellous writer and friend, as well as a fellow actor, and Robin Nedwell – who I was at drama school with. All in all, a nice time.
Confessions of a Driving Instructor 1976
This was the year my screen profile prompted me to have a nose job. Although it looked fine at certain camera angles, it didn’t in other shots. I landed the role because I was married to the producer, Greg Smith. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t done it. I was out of my comfort zone. I was much happier playing more serious roles. I suppose it had its place in social history, but I should have stuck to my guns.
Stand Up Virgin Soldiers 1977
For this I worked with Robin Askwith and Pamela Stephenson during her first appearance in England. Pam and I worked together again six years later and she kicked me under the table for daring to mention it in front of other people!
Yes Honestly 1977
Another ‘shampoo and set’ hair-do for the set of Yes Honestly, alongside actor Tim Carlton. You may not know this, but he is the father of Benedict Cumberbatch, aka Sherlock.
The Fuzz 1977
Quite a sweet series where I got to play a WPC alongside Michael Robbins. Thankfully, they didn’t make me dye my hair blonde.
Pic © Brian Aris