Wednesday 16 March 2016

Whatever Happened To ... Margaret Nolan?


Margaret Nolan is a legendary figure in the British entertainment industry. Mostly known for her appearances in a host of classic films and television series during the 1960s and 1970s, she epitomised the glamorous so-called "dolly bird" and was often hired for her looks and figure. However Margaret was and is much more than that, so let's look back at her career.

Born in Hampstead in 1943, Margaret began her career as a model before small parts in films came her way. Following brief cameos in The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night and Ferry Cross The Mersey with Gerry and The Pacemakers, it was the similarly brief performance as Dink in the classic James Bond film Goldfinger which really kick started Nolan's acting career. As well as being seen in the actual film as Bond's masseur, Margaret was chosen as the model for the striking and unforgettable title sequence, which sees her painted gold.

The following year, 1965, saw Margaret's first appearance in a Carry On film. She played Miss Jones, the President's secretary, and although eye catching despite little dialogue, it would be a further five years before Margaret returned to the series. The 1970s saw Nolan back at Pinewood for a run of five further Carry Ons. These roles focused on her notable assets which must have been frustrating for the actress although in last year's Carry On Forever documentary she made it clear it was mostly a fun experience working on the films. Carry On Henry, released in 1970, saw Margaret appear as Buxom Lass, chased through the fields by Sid's KIng Henry. The following year Margaret was back for two more films. She turned up in the second half of At Your Convenience to play Bernard Bresslaw's girlfriend in the Brighton sequences. Later in 1971 she filmed a memorable scene as Mrs Tucker with Terry Scott in Carry On Matron.

1973 saw Margaret's biggest supporting role in the series, as beauty contest entrant Dawn Brakes in Carry On Girls. In Carry On Forever, Nolan revealed she was actually pregnant whilst making this film which is quite surprising given the rather physical nature of her fight scene with Barbara Windsor's Hope Springs. Nolan's performance is extremely memorable thanks to that infamous cat fight which was near the knuckle for a Carry On, not to mention that silver bikini! Carry On Dick, released in 1974, was Margaret's last role in the series. In contrast to her previous performances, her role as Lady Daley opposite Bernard Bresslaw was actually quite prim and proper. Being a Carry On though, this didn't stop her losing her clothes when they are held up by Big Dick!

I always loved Margaret Nolan's roles in the Carry Ons. She typified the Carry On Girl and worked well with the series regulars. While Nolan is probably still best known for these six films, she did of course achieve a great deal more in her acting career. Other films included Three Rooms in Manhattan (1964), The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery (1966), Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968) and No Sex Please, We're British (1973) - with fellow Carry On actress Valerie Leon. 


Margaret was also extremely busy on television, clocking up appearances in many classic and well-regarded series. She took on early roles in the likes of The Saint (1963), Crossroads (1964), Danger Man (1965) and The Bed-Sit Girl (1966 - with Sheila Hancock and Dilys Laye). One of her most famous roles came opposite the legendary and much-loved comedian Spike Milligan. Margaret was part of the cast for five series Spike made for the BBC in the 1970s. Margaret made memorable guest appearances in Budgie with Adam Faith, Steptoe and Son with Harry H Corbett, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and an early episode of Last of the Summer Wine. In 1975 she also guest starred in a classic episode of The Sweeney entitled "Thin Ice". Some of her last roles on television included such well-known series as Brideshead Revisited in 1981 and Crown Court in 1983. 

During her acting career, Margaret Nolan also regularly worked in the theatre, both in commercial plays and in more serious works. As well as roles in farces such as Not Now Darling and She's Down it Again, Nolan worked on plays such as How the Vote was Won, Don't Look Now and Daughters of Men. There was quite often a serious political tone to her theatrical work, something which was a far cry from much of her screen work.


Margaret stopped acting in the mid-1980s and seemed to vanish from the public eye. Having married actor and playwright Tom Kempinski in 1963, she had two sons before getting divorced in 1972. From the 1980s until much more recently, Margaret lived in splendid isolation in a remote farmhouse in Spain. Her absence from all of the Carry On reunions and television documentaries was often commented upon so it was a real delight to see her take part in Carry On Forever in 2015, alongside fellow actress Alexandra Dane. 

Although she made a brief return to acting with the short film The Power of Three in 2011, these days Margaret is best known for her work as an artist. As a visual artist, Nolan produces photo montages and collages of some of her early photographic modelling shots. Since returning to London, her work has been exhibited in several galleries. She continues to exhibit her art work and appear at film conventions to meet fans of her earlier screen and theatrical career. 

  I'm glad Margaret Nolan has returned to the spotlight. She was great in the Carry Ons, even if the roles she played did not always display her true acting talents. If you want to learn more about Margaret, you can visit her website.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice article ... but having text overlaid on colour pictures makes it hard to read.