Beatrice Bellman, more commonly known as Beattie, was a character from a series of television advertisements by British Telecom, famously played by Maureen Lipman. She was created, originally named Dora, by Richard Phillips, a Jewish advertising copywriter, based on his mother.
The first ad was screened in December 1987.
Beattie was a stereotypical Jewish mother and her adventures largely involved her nagging her family over the telephone, thus promoting communication. This theme would be carried with the "it's good to talk" line used in the following campaign fronted by Bob Hoskins.
The most frequently quoted Beattie skit gives an idea of the tone of the campaign: Beattie receives news of her grandson Anthony's poor GCSE results, but her pride cannot allow her to accept how poor they are. On finding that he passed pottery, she observes that "people will always need plates", and then on finding that the other subject he passed was sociology, she declares "an ology! He gets an ology and he says he's failed. You get an ology, you're a scientist!"
This last sentence lent its name to the scriptbook published in 1989, You Got An Ology?
The name Beattie was a play on "BT", as British Telecom was often called, and was suggested by Lipman herself.
Curiously, there is no overt reference in the screened adverts to Beattie's Jewishness, although she is one of Britain's best known fictional Jews. She does not appear to be especially frum; a mid-shot of her refrigerator reveals no visibly kosher contents, and she never mentions anything specifically Jewish. The viewer is left to infer her identity from her (mildly) Yiddish-influenced manner of speaking and the casting of a Jewish actress in Maureen Lipman. Curiously by contrast the script-book is very Jewish, even plugging Rakusen's margarine, Tomar. It seems the main "Jewish" humour within it (according to the writer) is that when one Jew telephones another Jew, it is immediately understood on both sides that he or she will come and visit - hence Beattie's appearance in a telephone advertisement.
- Beattie, played by Maureen Lipman.
- Harry, her long-suffering husband, played by Geoffrey Chiswick. He once knew a girl called Beryl, who his old friend Leslie believes he married.
- Rose, Beattie's sister, who lives in Sydney in Australia. She likes gossip and has, despite the Australian influence, a more noticeably Yiddish accent than Beattie. This is probably not intentional; Maureen Lipman played both characters and presumably attempted to vary the voice for each.
- Cyril, Rose's husband, played by Clive Swift. He doesn't speak; a characteristic perhaps reminiscent of his character in Keeping Up Appearances.
- Lionel, Beattie's brother in Toronto, played by Brian Greene. Beattie is worried about him.
- Norma, Lionel's wife, played by Sandra Caron.
- Dolly and Gerald, played by Miriam Margolyes and Bernard Bresslaw respectively, a nervous couple who drop in on Beattie and Harry unannounced.
Beattie's Son, Daughter, and Their Spouses
- Melvyn, Beattie's son, played by Linal Haft. Melvyn is a successful business executive who possesses a car phone (a prestigious item in the 1980s, in which the adverts are set.) He has a modern air-conditioned and well-catered office, but Beattie fears that he doesn't eat properly and has been known to offer to bring him jumpers and sandwiches of Canadian cheddar. He is often seen avoiding talking to his mother.
- Bernice, Melvyn's wife, played by Christina Avery. She is rarely seen but has a speaking part in the Directory Enquiries ad.
- Elaine, played by Caroline Quentin, Beattie's daughter. She's reputed to be a beatnik and is married to Raymond, who is never seen.
- Anthony, Melvyn and Bernice's eldest son, played by Jacob Krichefski. Anthony is a typical struggling teenager, who has to deal with his failures at GCSE and his struggle over his driving test over the course of the adverts. Anthony is something of a nebbish.
- Oliver, Melvyn and Bernice's younger son, played by Alistair Kent. He wears tape over his glasses and looks a little nerdy. He sings to Beattie on her birthday, who declares him as having the "voice of an angel". Maureen Lipman claims to have recruited him from her synagogue.
- Natalie, Melvyn and Bernice's daughter, played by Hayley Napper, who does not speak.
- Zara, played by Kate Orton, Elaine's young daughter.
- Mr. Edwin, played by Richard Wilson. He keeps a dress shop, Edwin Modes, and is frustrated by Beattie's insistent stock-checking on every size, colour and style of dress they have.
- Mr. Patel, a newsagent played by Zia Mohyeddin. He advertises phonecards and sympathises with Beattie's plight - "children. You work your fingers to the bone... they never write... they never phone... they never fax." Despite his surname being most common amongst Hindus, and being rather rare amongst Jews, he has a rather Yiddish inflection. This may be for humorous purposes, comparable to Goodness Gracious Me's sketch about conversion to Judaism.
In between Buzby and Bob Hoskins, British Telecom ran one of its most successful campaigns with actress Maureen Lipman playing a Jewish grandmother with a heart of gold; Beattie. Memorable Beattie moments including her being reduced to tears by her grandson's singing Happy Birthday, her reluctance to buy a dishwasher as it wasn't good enough for Mrs Jones and her reassuring comments to her grandson Anthony over his exam results in this advert.
— Connected-Earth, a museum of communication funded by BT.
He's got a phobia for telephones! He's telephobic!