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In "Carry on Regardless" (1961)
24 February 1919
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
|Died||18 July 1998
Northwood, London, England
Marsden was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, but spent her early childhood living in near poverty in Somerset. Her music teacher recognised her talent at the age of six, and became her guardian. She attended the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and during World war II she entertained the troops as a member of ENSA. It was at this time that she met and married her husband, Dr Jimmy Wilson Muggoch, an army doctor from Edinburgh.
From 1958 to 1968, Marsden was among the cast of the radio series Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne, where she played all the female characters. Perhaps her most famous catchphrase was "many, many, many times", delivered in the dry, reedy tones of Bea Clissold, the ancient actress who was renowned for having given pleasure to many, particularly in "The Little Hut" on Shaftesbury Avenue. This long outlasted the Clissold character and was deployed to much audience appreciation on a few occasions in later series, possibly as an ad lib. Another was "'allo, cheeky face!", shouted into the microphone in the less-than-couth London tones of Buttercup Gruntfuttock. Marsden's vocal range was impressive and also included the husky Whitethigh, the strident stereotypical Aussie tones of the ultra feminist (but conflicted) Judy Coolibar, and the cut-glass received pronunciation of Dame Celia Molestrangler (in a series of loose pastiches of the stilted dialogue in 1930s and 1940s romances and melodramas - for example, The Astonished Heart became The Hasty Nose - partnered with Hugh Paddick's 'ageing juvenile Binkie Huckaback', with the denouement inevitably bringing the lovers crashing back to earth).
She also appeared in two Carry On films, Carry On Regardless in 1961 (playing Mata Hari) and Carry On Camping in 1969 (playing Terry Scott's wife, Harriet, with a braying laugh and jolly bossiness).
Her other film roles included Ramsbottom Rides Again (1956), The Boys (1962), The Wild Affair (1963), The Leather Boys (1964), The Best House in London (1969), and Eyewitness (1970). She later played Hermione in the 1982 British film Britannia Hospital, Violet Manning in Peter Yates' 1983 film version of The Dresser, Princess Troubetskaya in the 1986 TV movie Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, and Mrs. Barnacle in the 1987 film version of Little Dorrit.
At the time of her death Marsden had been suffering from heart problems and pneumonia but was believed to be recovering. However, she died suddenly while socialising with friends in the bar of Denville Hall, the Actor's Charitable Trust Home in Northwood in London.
- Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 370. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
- Took, Barry (1989). The Best of Round The Horne. Equation. ISBN 1-85336-162-3.
- Betty Marsden's Obituary on the BBC News website
- Andrew Lloyd Webber: His Life and Works – Walsh, Michael (1989, revised and expanded, 1997),P.85, Abrams: New York
- "Britannia Hospital (1982) : Full Cast & Crew". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
- "The Dresser (1983)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-11-18.