Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Whatever Happened To … Penny Irving?


As you may know, I've been blogging a wide ranging series of blogs for the past three years or so now, all under the banner of "whatever happened to…". These blogs take a look at some of the perhaps less well known, yet still instantly recognisable actors and actresses who appeared in the Carry On films over the years. 

Today I am going to write about an actress and model who, although only appearing in one Carry On film during her career, enjoyed a rather interesting acting career worthy of further discussion. Penny Irving had already been acting for a couple of years when she was offered the part of one of the Birds of Paradise troupe in 1974's Carry On Dick. Working alongside Linda Hooks, Laraine Humphrys and Eva Reuber-Staier, Penny was seen throughout the film performing in The Old Cock Inn. Penny is definitely eye-catching in the role and it's a shame she didn't return for further Carry Ons with the team. So what else did she get up to during her career?



Penny Irving was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire in 1955. Penny first came to prominence as a model, her breakthrough coming in 1972. She graced the front cover of a Top of the Pops compilation LP in the autumn of that year with further modelling work seeing her appear in various magazines and national newspapers. 1972 also saw Penny's very first television appearance, as an extra in an episode of The Benny Hill Show. The following year Penny had an uncredited role as a Girl at a Pool Party in the Anouska Hempel film Tiffany Jones. Also that year Penny played Maggie in the Linda Marlowe adventure film, Big Zapper. 

From 1973 - 1974 Penny had the recurring role of Yvonne in three episodes of the television comedy series, Beryl's Lot, which also featured a certain Mr Robin Askwith. Later in 1974 Penny played the small role of Ann-Marie Di Verney in the Pete Walker horror film House of Whipcord, which also co-starred Carry On Abroad actor Ray Brooks. The same year Penny worked for Peter Rogers, she also appeared in a comedy film for Peter's wife Betty Box. Percy's Progress, which featured familiar Carry On actors such as Carol Hawkins, Diane Langton, Judy Geeson, Elke Sommer and Harry H Corbett, saw Irving play Chiquita. 




Comedy certainly dominated Penny's acting career. As the 1970s progressed she gained more and more roles in well-remembered series. She played a Chambermaid in the 1975 Dad's Army episode My Brother and I, which saw Arthur Lowe play the dual role of both Captain Mainwaring and his roguish brother Barry. Two years later Penny guest starred in an episode of the comedy series Mr Big, playing Linda alongside Peter Jones, Ian Lavender, Carol Hawkins and Prunella Scales. She also played two small roles in a couple of episodes of the iconic The Two Ronnies with Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker between 1975 and 1977. A rare semi-serious role came along later in 1977 when Penny made a brief appearance as a lady of questionable virtue, Pam, in the very first episode of the classic action series, The Professionals - "Private Madness, Public Danger".


Perhaps Penny Irving's most famous roles came in two long running and well loved situation comedies from the late 1970s and early 1980s. First up was her long association with the classic BBC comedy series, Are You Being Served? Between 1976 and 1979, Penny appeared in 22 episodes in the role of Mr Grace's Secretary, Miss Bakewell. Penny also provided support in the 1977 big screen version of the department store comedy. In the film she played Miss Nicholson. From 1980, Penny appeared as yellow coat Mary in the English holiday camp comedy Hi-de-Hi! which made stars of Ruth Madoc, Paul Shane and Su Pollard. Penny appeared in seven episodes of the series, bowing out in 1981. 



And that, as they say, was that. According to the internet, Penny has since retired from the entertainment industry and is now happily living a life away from the limelight in London. Well Penny, if you're out there and you fancy having a natter about your career, get in touch, as I'd love to hear from you! 


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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