Penelope Keith

article - Penelope Keith

Dame Penelope Anne Constance Keith, DBE, DL (née Hatfield; born 2 April 1940) is an English actress and presenter, active in all genres, including film, radio, stage and television and primarily known for her roles in the British sitcomsThe Good Life and To the Manor Born. She succeeded Lord Olivier as president of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund after his death in 1989, and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to the arts and to charity.[1]

Actress; High Sheriff of Surrey; Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey

Penelope Keith

Born
Penelope Anne Constance Hatfield

(1940-04-02) 2 April 1940 (age 81)

Sutton, Surrey, England
Occupation Actress and presenter
Years active 1959–present
Spouse(s)
Rodney Timson

(m. 1978)

Children 2

Keith joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963, and went on to win the 1976 Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance for the play Donkeys’ Years. She became a household name in the UK playing Margo Leadbetter in the sitcom The Good Life (1975–78), winning the 1977 BAFTA TV Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance.

In 1978, she won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for The Norman Conquests. She then starred as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in the sitcom To the Manor Born (1979–81), a show that received audiences of more than 20 million. She went on to star in another six sitcoms, including Executive Stress (1986–88), No Job for a Lady (1990–92) and Next of Kin (1995–97). Since 2000, she has worked mainly in the theatre, with her roles including Madam Arcati in Blithe Spirit (2004) and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (2007).

. . . Penelope Keith . . .

Penelope Anne Constance Hatfield was born in Sutton in 1940.[2] Her father, an army officer who was a Major by the end of the Second World War, left her mother Connie when Keith was a baby, and she spent her early years in Clacton-on-Sea and Clapham. Her great uncle, John Gurney Nutting, was a partner in the coachbuilding firm of J Gurney Nutting & Co Limited, and Keith recalls sitting in the Prince of Wales’s car. [3]

Although not a Roman Catholic, at the age of six she was sent to a Catholic boarding school in Seaford.[4] Here she became interested in acting,[2] and she frequently went to matinées in the West End with her mother. When she was eight years old, her mother remarried and Penelope adopted her stepfather’s surname, Keith. While she did not get on with her stepfather, her mother was a “rock of love” to her. She was rejected by the Central School of Speech and Drama, on the grounds that, at 5’10” (1.78 m), she was too tall. However, she was then accepted at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and spent two years there while working at the Hyde Park Hotel in the evenings.[5]

Keith began her career working in repertory theatre around Britain, including Lincoln, Manchester, and Salisbury. Keith’s earliest appearances were in The Tunnel of Love, Gigi, and Flowering Cherry. In 1963, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and acted with them in Stratford and at the Aldwych Theatre in London.[4]

. . . Penelope Keith . . .

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. . . Penelope Keith . . .

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