Tuesday, 3 November 2015

June Whitfield at 90: Rose Garvey in Beggar My Neighbour

I have been profiling some of June Whitfield's most legendary roles on screen in the run up to her 90th birthday on 11 November. I have chosen eight of her most well-known performances, which you can vote for in my special poll - details on that below. As we prepare to celebrate the milestone birthday of this national treasure, let's continue to look back at her career.

One of June's earliest sitcom successes came in 1966 with the now little remembered series, Beggar My Neighbour. Three series were made and broadcast on the BBC between May 1966 and March 1968. The show was written by Ken Hoare and Mike Sharland and June co-starred with fellow legends of sitcom Reg Varney, Peter Jones and Pat Coombs. 

The basic premise of Beggar My Neighbour was quite simple. Based on the age old British obsession with class. June plays Rose Garvey, married to Gerald (Peter Jones, later Desmond Walter-Ellis). They live next door to Rose's sister Lana and her husband Harry (Pat Coombs and Reg Varney). While Gerald is a junior executive and Harry just a fitter in a factory, the tables are turned as Gerald is badly paid while Harry does very well for himself.

Gerald is a snob and makes Rose keep up the pretence that they are doing well even though they are not while Harry's good fortune gives Lana airs and graces. What follows is a classic 1960s sitcom that allows these brilliant comedy actors to do what they do best. It's not earth shattering stuff but it once again demonstrates a kind of series and a kind of comedy that just doesn't feature much anymore. 

Sadly only seven episodes of the original twenty three have survived. I think it's also a shame that this series has never really been repeated, other than brief clips in tribute shows or documentaries. Probably because it was filmed entirely in black and white, television schedulers today have decided not to give it the air time, which I think is a silly mistake! There is still an audience for this kind of comedy today and many people actually like black and white series or films. I think it's time to add this to some of the most frequently repeated telly classics.

If you agree, you can vote for June's role as Rose Garvey here 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

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