Friday, April 02, 2010

Happy Birthday Penelope Keith

Most actors would give their eye teeth to be involved in one classic program, let alone two; which makes the career of Penelope Keith all the more extraordinary, since she's had a hand in eight, of which at least three are timeless classics of the Britcom genre...

PhotobucketThe first of these was The Good Life, which first aired in 1975, in which she played the hilariously snooty middle-class homemaker Margo Leadbetter. After three series' of that, in 1979 she undertook the role Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, a gentry woman displaced by les nouveau riches in To the Manor Born, which also ran three series. In 1990 she played the more down-to-earth Jean Price, MP, in No Job for a Lady.

In between these came roles in Sweet Sixteen, Moving, Executive Stress (another favourite of ours), Law and Disorder and Next of Kin; she also hosted a panel show on ITV entitled What's My Line?

Since the 1990s Keith has concerned herself more with stage work, and offscreen has served as High Sheriff of Surrey - one of only three women ever to hold that post. Made an OBE in 1989 for her charitable work (as President of the Actors' Benevolent Fund and with the National Trust in southwest Surrey, where she lives), she was elevated to CBE (which she is shown holding at left) in 2007.

The first three series of The Good Life were recently released on DVD under the show's North American name Good Neighbors; since then it's been devoured and enjoyed anew by the Pop Culture Institute's crack team of researchers*, proving that the classics - show and costar alike - never go out of style. Next stop: all three seasons of To the Manor Born, which has also been released on DVD alongside the superlative Silver Anniversary Special first shown at Christmas 2007.
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