91 (passed away Mar. 15th, 2003)
May. 28th, 1911
Morecambe, Lancashire, England, UK
Thora Hird's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
In a career than spanned eight decades Thora Hird was widely regarded as one of Britain's finest character actresses. She made over 100 films as well as starring in a host of tv comedies and as a straight actress excelled in the works of the playwright Alan Bennett. Even in her 90s she was working almost daily.
Born in Morecambe, Lancashire, the daughter of the manager of the local Royalty Theatre, she was carried on to the stage in a melodrama at the age of eight weeks. When old enough she joined the Royalty's theatre company although kept on a day job as a cashier in a grocery store. "I spent 10 years working in that grocery store" she recalled, "and I've played nearly all the customers I used to serve - maids, landladies, cleaners, forthright parents. When I'm acting I'll do some little thing I've remembered, so simple." At the theatre she appeared in over 500 plays and in 1941 the comedian George Formby, on a visit to the theatre, recommended her to Michael Balcon at Ealing Film Studios. Put under contract she first appeared in The Black Sheep of Whitehall (1941) with Will Hay and a string of comedy films and dramas followed. In the same vein as the saucy seaside postcards of her Morecambe birth, Hird was usually cast as the all-seeing boarding house landlady, a gossiping neighbour or a sharp tongued mother in law.
In the 1950s Hird was under contract to the Rank Organisation and was established as a major character actress. She worked with some of Britain's finest directors including Herbert Wilcox, Lewis Gilbert and John Schlesinger but by her own account was not easily awed. "I've appeared in hundreds of films and television things, and in some cases I literally mean 'appeared' around the door, that was all. Like anybody earning a liviNg, I took most of the work that came along." She gave outstanding performances in Simon and Laura (1955) and The Entertainer (1960), opposite Laurence Olivier, but one of her best remembered roles was that of the monstrous TV-addicted mother in A Kind of Loving (1962).
As her career progressed she frequently returned to the stage, often in comedies with comedians such as Arthur Askey and Harry Secombe, and in 1964 she was memorably team with the comedian Freddie Frinton in the tv series Meet The Wife. She starred in a succession of hit TV comedies throughout the 70s and 80s but proof of her talent as a straight actress came in 1987 when she starred in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologue, A Creamcracker under the Settee for which she won a BAFTA award. She wrote several volumes of autobiography including Scene and Hird and Not in the Diary and in 1995 was the subject of a South Bank Show (ITV) monograph. One of the show's contributors, the actor Alan Bates, said of her "Thora always had a grasp of her character immediately. She didn't have to work herself into a state to get it right. She is a naturally funny woman whose comedy is on the edge of tragedy. It's instinctive and very understanding of life itself."
- Received OBE in 1983 and DBE (making her Dame Thora Hird) in 1993.
- She was the subject of BBC1's "This Is Your Life" at Christmas 1996.
- Grandmother of Daisy Torme.
- Knighted (in her eighties) as a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) for her contributions to the arts.
- She made guest appearances during the 1990s in such BBC programmes as "Thats Showbusiness" and "One Foot In The Past".
- For several years she was presenter of the BBC1 religious programme "Your Songs Of Praise Choice" (later retitled "Praise Be!") from the mid 1970s.
- Mother of 'Janette Scott' (qv) and thus ex-mother-in-law of 'Mel Tormé' (qv).
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