|Mrs. Betty Slocombe|
|Are You Being Served?
& Grace and Favour character
|Portrayed by||Mollie Sugden|
|First appearance||Are You Being Served? (1972)|
|Last appearance||Grace and Favour (1993)|
|Created by||Jeremy Lloyd
Mary Elizabeth Jennifer Rachel Abergavenny Slocombe (née Yiddell) was born in the 1920s in Blackpool. Mrs Slocombe is the Senior of the Ladies Department and known for her unusual hair colours, such as lime green or orange. Throughout the series, her husband was alluded to have either left Mrs. Slocombe, or was possibly arrested by the Fraud Squad. In Grace and Favour, it was revealed Mrs Slocombe's husband, Cecil, had walked out on her one morning (to buy slightly salted butter at Sainsbury's) and ended up a successful land developer. In one episode she accepts what she thinks is a marriage proposal from Mr. Humphries, implying that she is now divorced.
Mrs Slocombe lived with her cat, Tiddles, which she referred to as "my pussy"; this was the source of many a double entendre, most of which Mrs. Slocombe herself completely misses. Mrs. Slocombe also tries to sound posh and refined, but when exasperated or annoyed, she reveals more than a trace of a Northern accent. Mrs. Slocombe's catch phrases were "...and I am unanimous in that..." and "Weak as water!" Mrs Slocombe often mispronounces long words, rendering, for example, "obstreperous" as "obstropulous" and "organism" as "orgasm" and "centimeters" as "centipedes."
Much of her free time was spent prowling public houses, roller rinks and discos with her friend Mrs. Axelby (in an earlier episode, her friend was named Mrs. Elthrop), but due to her middle age, men are less and less attracted to her, which she dismisses as politeness on the part of all men. Mrs. Axelby aside, Mrs Slocombe's best friend appears to be Miss Brahms, in spite of their 28-year age difference; they are often seen gossiping and going against management.
The three junior salesmen, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Humphries, and Mr. Spooner, constantly make sarcastic jokes and remarks about Mrs Slocombe's sex life, age, appearance, size and weight. Nonetheless, of the three, Mr Humphries is also the most congenial towards her. In one instance, for example, when the department was facing the possibility of having an employee sacked, Mr Humphries was quick to jump to Mrs Slocombe's defence. Also the five senior salesmen; Mr. Grainger, Mr. Tebbs, Mr Goldberg, Mr Grossman, and Mr. Klein resent having to share the floor with her.
In a number of episodes, namely "The Clock", "Cold Store", "German Week", "Top Hats And Tails","Forward Mr Grainger", "Do You Take This Man?", and "The Erotic Dreams Of Mrs Slocombe", she is shown to have a fondness for alcohol, mainly gin, and thus gets drunk.
Mrs Slocombe is very vain about her age, once claiming to be "only 46" and another time claiming to be in her 30s. However, in the episode "Fifty Years On", the staff determine that she was born in the 1920s (they also determine that she is 50), and in "Founders Day" Mr. Lucas announces her year of birth as 1926. In "The Junior" Captain Peacock threatens to reveal that she worked at Lyons as a nippy, possibly implying that she was at least in her late teens during WWII, although Lyons Corner Houses existed until 1977 so she could have worked there later.
In the Second World War, as a child, Mrs Slocombe was evacuated to Tiverton in Devon, where she worked on a farm. As she grew older, she became an ARP Warden, where she met her husband who saved her from a bomb in an air raid. When Mrs Slocombe grew older, she became an ambulance driver and was nearly killed by a land mine explosion on Clapham Common. She described the experience several times, saying: "I remember being thrown on my back in Clapham Common during an air raid... the German Airforce was responsible." Mr. Lucas snarkily replied, "All the other times the American Airforce was responsible."
At various times, Mrs. Slocombe has (often while drunk) tried to flirt with various members of the male staff. Though Mrs. Slocombe often sparred with Mr. Lucas, she was heard to remark that he has "very smooth hands" when he accidentally tries to straighten her stockings instead of a display dummy's, and she was very pleasant towards him in the early episodes (although he was young enough to be her son). Mrs. Slocombe has often cast an eye towards Captain Peacock, usually calling him "Stephen" in a conspiratorial tone and complimenting him in an effort to appeal to his masculine ego. At one point, when pretending to be locked in a passionate embrace with Captain Peacock, Mrs. Slocombe is overcome with the smell of Captain Peacock's cologne and comments that he is actually a rather handsome man. (On the other hand, when he once beckoned her, she famously declared, with typical solemnity, "I do not respond to any man's finger.") She was occasionally known to smile and wink at Mr. Humphries. Mrs. Slocombe also once implied that she had a crush on Mr Spooner (although she was just saying this when she heard that he was a pop star, and again, he was young enough to be her son).
Mrs. Slocombe mentions on three occasions that she has a pet canary called Winston, who is seen in "The Apartment". She sometimes refers to her cat Tiddles as a male, even though Tiddles has given birth to two litters of kittens. In every episode, and sometimes during the episode, Mrs Slocombe's hair colour and style changes, and yet it is not noted or mentioned or noticed by any of her fellow workers (in real life, in the filming of the early episodes, Mollie Sugden did dye her hair, but due to hair damage, turned to wigs while filming).
Grace and Favour
- Slide, Anthony (January 1996). Some Joe You Don't Know: An American Biographical Guide to 100 British Television Personalities. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 233. ISBN 978-0-313-29550-8.
- "Fifty Years On". Are You Being Served?. Season 4. Episode 5. 1976-05-05.
- "Heir Apparent". Are You Being Served?. Season 8. Episode 5. 1981-05-07.
- "Founder's Day". Are You Being Served?. Season 5. Episode 3. 1977-03-11.
- Are You Being Served? at BBC Online
- Are You Being Served? at the British Film Institute
- Mrs. Slocombe at the BFI's Screenonline
- Are You Being Served? at the Internet Movie Database