Betty Marsden

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Betty Marsden
Betty Marsden.jpg
In "Carry on Regardless" (1961)
Born Betty Marsden
24 February 1919
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Died 18 July 1998(1998-07-18) (aged 79)
Ruislip, London, England
Occupation Comedy actress

Betty Marsden (24 February 1919 – 18 July 1998) was an English comedy actress. She was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, but spent her early childhood living in near poverty in Somerset. Her music teacher recognised Marsden's talent at the age of six, and became her guardian.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Originally from Liverpool, she attended the Italia Conti Stage School and ENSA.[2]

In the radio series Beyond Our Ken, she played Fanny Haddock, a takeoff of Fanny Cradock.[1] In the radio series Round the Horne, she played a similar role (Daphne Whitethigh), as well as Lady Counterblast (née Clissold), Buttercup Gruntfuttock (wife of J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock, played by Kenneth Williams), Dame Celia Molestrangler, Judy Coolibar, Dame Bella Goatcabin and every other female role.

In 1958, Marsden played the role of the Fairy Godmother, in the production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at the London Coliseum with Tommy Steele, Kenneth Williams, Yana and Jimmy Edwards.

She escaped the wrath of the critical community in London when her role of Aunt Dahlia was removed from Andrew Lloyd Webber's flop musical Jeeves (1975) before opening night.[3]

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 (playing Mata Hari) and Carry On Camping (playing Terry Scott's wife with a braying laugh and jolly bossiness).[1]

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 the small role of Hermione in the 1982 British film Britannia Hospital [4] and the part of Violet Manning in Peter Yate's film version of The Dresser [5]

One of her theatre roles was in Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw at the Royal Court Theatre, and her many television appearances included a role in Inspector Morse (1990).


  1. ^ a b c Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 370. ISBN 1-84854-195-3. 
  2. ^ Took, Barry (1989). The Best of Round The Horne. Equation. ISBN 1-85336-162-3. 
  3. ^ Andrew Lloyd Webber: His Life and Works – Walsh, Michael (1989, revised and expanded, 1997),P.85, Abrams: New York
  4. ^
  5. ^

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