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Irene Handl in the 1966 BBC TV comedy Mum's Boys
27 December 1901|
Maida Vale, London, England
|Died||29 November 1987
Kensington, London, England
Irene Handl was born in Maida Vale, London, the daughter of an Austrian banker father, Frederick, and German mother, Maria (as per the 1911 census). She took to acting at the relatively advanced age of 36, and studied at the acting school run by the sister of Dame Sybil Thorndike. She made her London stage debut in February 1937 and appeared in over a hundred British films in supporting roles, mostly comedy character parts such as slightly eccentric mothers, grannies, landladies and servants. Among many stage appearances, she played Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest in 1975, directed by Jonathan Miller.
Handl had minor roles in such landmark films as Night Train to Munich, Spellbound and Brief Encounter. Her notable appearances included I'm All Right Jack as the wife of Peter Sellers' union leader Fred Kite, Mrs. Gammon the formidable cook opposite Gordon Harker in Small Hotel, Tony Hancock's landlady in The Rebel and Sherlock Holmes' housekeeper Mrs. Hudson in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. She had small roles in two of the Carry on series (Nurse and Constable).
- Goodnight Mrs Puffin, Handl played the comic lead
- Move Over Mrs Markham
- The Importance of Being Earnest
On television she appeared as a guest in a number of comedy series, notably as a regular in the 1958 series Educating Archie and as Cockney widow Ada Cresswell in For the Love of Ada, which would later be adapted for the cinema. She would also appear in Maggie and Her (1978) opposite Julia McKenzie. In the early 1980s, she played Gran in the ITV children's comedy show Metal Mickey. She appeared in a rare aristocratic role in Mapp and Lucia and as another aristocratic character in Eric Sykes' 1982 television film It's Your Move where her chauffeur was played by Brian Murphy. She also appeared as Madame de Bonneuil in the BBC's film of Hotel du Lac in 1986.
In addition to her acting career, she wrote two novels: The Sioux (1965), described by Margaret Drabble as "Strange and unforgettable...Highly original and oddly haunting" and The Gold Tip Pfitzer (1966),
- Thomas, Jane. 'Irene Handl', Bete Noir, 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. 102–03.
- Thomas, Jane. 'Irene Handl: The Last Interview', Bete Noir, 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. 104–116.
Handl died at her flat in Kensington, London on 29 November 1987, from metastasized breast cancer; the death was registered by her agent, Glanville Evans. She was unmarried.
- Irene Handl at the Internet Movie Database
- Performance information in Theatre Archive, University of Bristol
- Biography with photo at Britmovie
- Biography at Leninimports.com
- www.phoenixlodger.co.uk; Irene Handl our house guest: Michael Powell