Barbara Mitchell – Actress


Barbara Mitchell, actressAnyone growing up in Britain in the 60s and 70s will remember the remarkable and loveable Barbara Mitchell. If you don’t remember the name you will certainly remember her face. She was an accomplished actress whose adaptable and empathetic style allowed her to move effortlessly from stage to screen. Barbara lived with her husband, rep actor, Rex Graham and their two children Jeremy and Mel in Crescent Road in Kingston upon Thames.

Barbara Mitchell with Peggy Mount. Barbara Mitchell dancing with Leslie Crowther. Barbara with husband Rex and children Melanie and Jeremy.

Barbara Mitchell with Peggy Mount. Barbara Mitchell dancing with Leslie Crowther. Barbara with husband Rex and children Melanie and Jeremy.

Barbara’s career spanned 2 decades and after establishing herself in theatre she moved into films and television. She played support roles in Ealing comedies and British film dramas but Barbara is perhaps better known for her television appearances in the early 70s. In 1970 she landed the part of Ruth Politt, daughter of the eponymous Ada in the highly successful ‘For the Love of Ada’. Irene Handl played, widow, Ada Cresswell, who struck up a relationship with a grave digger (Wilfred Pickles) after he had buried her first husband. Ruth (Barbara) and on-screen husband , Jack Smethurst, did not approve of the relationship and subsequent marriage.

This gentle and poignant situation comedy created by Vince Powell and Harry Driver ran for 4 series over 27 weeks. In September 1971 the show took the number one slot in ratings for 3 of the 4 weeks. For the remaining week it shared top ratings with The Fenn Street Gang, the sequel to Please Sir which both starred Barbara Mitchell as the camp, over-protective mother of Frankie Abbott.

One of Barbara’s on-screen contemporaries was the well-loved comedy actress Peggy Mount. Barbara and Peggy were great friends. They appeared together in the extremely popular comedy, The Larkins. Barbara played Hetty Prout and Peggy, the legendary battle-axe Ada Larkin. Peggy became godmother to Barbara’s son Jeremy who was born in 1962.

Barbara also starred in Beryl’s Lot which ran from November 1973 to June 1977. The storylines revolved around Beryl Humphries (Carmel McSharry), a woman hitting a mid-life crisis who went on a crusade of self- improvement. Barbara played neighbour Vi Tonks bringing her own brand of sympathy and wisdom to this very successful series from Yorkshire Television which ran for an amazing 52 episodes.

Barbara married actor Rex Graham. Following a career in the Gurka’s in Burmah Rex trained at RADA and became well established in rep and played opposite Barbara in productions of ‘The Lady’s not for Burning’ and ‘Whiteoaks’ .

Pictured bottom right: Barbara, Rex and children Melanie and Jeremy pictured at their home in Kingston Crescent Road in 1971 the family lived here until around 1980. Barbara sadly died from breast cancer in 1978 at the age of 47 and Rex died in 1991. Jeremy still lives in Kingston with his wife, Kate and son, Joseph.

There is very little to be found on the Internet about Barbara which is surprising considering her substantial contribution to British comedy and drama in theatre, film, television and radio. This feature is a small tribute to a great personality who dedicated her life to entertainment.

Images owned by J Langstaff

Barbara Mitchell in The Goodies

Barbara Mitchell in Please Sir! film 1971 (at 2:50 mins)

Barbara Mitchell in the Larkins

http://youtu.be/MoUoFdfgm9M

Comments 6

  1. My mother lived all her life in Northampton, and always claimed she went to school with Barbara. I have never seen anything that says where she was born. Does anyone know?

  2. I saw the film version of For the Love of Ada on TV the other evening and was so pleased to see Barbara Mitchell who I remembered fondly from my childhood TV viewing: and was moved to pop in to my local library to google her and to find out what she was up to these days. So very sad to see that she died so young. Her children must be very proud of their lovely Mum.

    Mandy

  3. Wonderful actress ,on TV so much when I was a nipper ,loved her in Please sir and Lizzie Dripping
    RIP Barbara,you left us way too soon

  4. Looking back recently through my collection of old Grand Theatre Wolverhampton theatre programmes, I found that Barbara had appeared with the Wolverhampton Repertory Company throughout the whole 1957 season, appearing in many different roles, It must have been hard work with the actors having to learn new lines when a new play was produced every seven days.

  5. only remembered barbara mitchell after buying love of ada on dvd, she is brillliant,, seeing her on screen with the rest of ada cast is brilliant, they look like they had a fantastic time, there should be more done to recognise these great people

  6. Apart from remembering this lovely lady on the telly and more recently via The Larkins on DVD as a born and bred Kingstonian I also remember the time Barbara visited our sports and social club at Hawker Siddeley one saturday evening. Her presence seemed to generate an aura the building didn`t usually have and she was certainly the centre of attention and rightly so – sadly missed.
    Hazel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.