Tuesday 3 October 2017

Whatever Happened to Noel Dyson?

On Sunday during Robin Askwith's fabulous Twitter take over, a video was posted showing a young Robin in an advert for paint. I think it was from the very early 1970s. Anyway one of the actresses in the advert was none other than Noel Dyson. Noel had a long career in films and television with several notable roles so I thought I would put together a blog about her life and work.

Of course to feature here there must be a Carry On connection. Noel appeared in three films in the late 1950s and early 1960s for producer Peter Rogers and director Gerald Thomas. Her first entry into the world of Rogers and Thomas film comedy came in 1959 when she was cast as Mrs Brent in the wonderful Please Turn Over, which starred Ted Ray, Jean Kent, Leslie Phillips and Joan Sims. Obviously spotting her talents for eye-catching character cameos, Noel was quickly cast in a small supporting role in Carry On Constable, the fourth film in the famous British film comedy series, which went into production towards the end of 1959. Dyson played a rather flustered lady who seeks the help of P.C Charles Hawtrey after she has lost her pussy. Ahem. This ends with Hawtrey shooting to the top of a church tower on the end of a bell rope.


Four years later Noel Dyson returned to Pinewood Studios to film another brief Carry On cameo, this time as a district nurse in Carry On Cabby. Noel's scenes see her help Jim Dale's pregnant wife who finds herself giving birth in the back of Sid James' taxi cab. This leads to some wonderfully comedic scenes between Dale, Sid and Charles Hawtrey. The following year Noel worked with Sid James again in an episode of his television comedy drama series, Taxi! Sadly Noel didn't appear in another Carry On, however as the Sixties dawned, her career was about to step up a gear.

On screen from the late 1940s, with her first recorded credit as Mrs Read in a television play of The Guinea Pig, there were many small parts in programmes such as Dick and the Duchess and Private Investigator before being cast in the role of Ida Barlow in a fledging Northern drama serial called Coronation Street. The programme, only expected to run to thirteen episodes through December 1960 and into January 1961, proved an instant hit among viewers although it was originally panned by critics. As original character Ida Barlow, wife of postman Frank and mother to Ken and David, Ida was a kind, gentle woman who took pride in her home and wanted the best for her sons. The first episode went out live at Granada Studios in Manchester on 9th December 1960 and soon made stars of the likes of Doris Speed (Annie Walker), Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner) and Violet Carson (Ena Sharples). 


By the time she appeared in Coronation Street, Noel Dyson was based in London with her husband and family. Having not thought the series would become a regular fixture in the television schedules, Noel decided she could not continue to spend so much time away from her home and when her contract came up for renewal in 1961, she refused to sign it. Dyson's character was killed off in September 1961 after Ida was hit by a bus whilst out shopping. Although rarely if ever mentioned these days on screen, Dyson's character and her legacy continues as her screen son Ken (William Roache) is still in the programme 57 years on.

Following her departure from Coronation Street, Noel continued to appear on the small screen in one off roles for the rest of the decade. Roles in The Wednesday Play, Play of the Week, Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars and The Likely Lads all followed as well as a supporting role in the 1966 Norman Wisdom comedy film, Press For Time. Comedy became her full-time occupation in 1968 when Noel took on the role of Nanny in the Thames Television sitcom, Father Dear Father. The series, which starred Patrick Cargill, ran until 1973 and spawned a big screen spin off. 


Noel's other ongoing role in a television comedy series was as Aileen Potter in Potter, a BBC sitcom starring a post-Dad's Army and fellow Corrie original Arthur Lowe as Redvers Potter, a busybody retired sweet manufacturer. Noel was cast as the long suffering wife of Arthur's character. The series ran from 1979 until 1983 and was written by Roy Clarke. Although Lowe passed away in April 1982, the series continued for one final series with Robin Bailey playing Potter. During the 1980s Noel continued to pop up in a variety of television series such as London's Burning, Me and My Girl, Bergerac and Casualty. Her last credited appearance was a role in the long-running ITV drama series Heartbeat, broadcast after her death in 1995.

Elsie Noel Dyson was born into a wealthy Manchester family on 23rd December 1916. She was given the middle name of Noel as she was born so close to Christmas. Educated at the famous Roedean School in Sussex, a spell at a finishing school in Paris was followed by RADA. Noel graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1938 and initially worked in repertory theatre before the Second World War saw her career go on hold. She signed up to be a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse) and didn't resume her stage career until the conflict came to an end. Noel Dyson was married twice, first to Kenneth Edwards and latterly to Harry Judge. Noel died on 29 June 1995 after suffering from cancer. She was 78 years old.


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