Prunella Scales was born Prunella Margaret Rumney Illingsworth in 1932 in Sutton Abingers, Surrey. Her mother, was an actress, Catherien Scales, and Prunella took her last name when she too became an actress. She was educated at a prestigious boarding school for girls in Eastbourne. She left at seventeen to study firstly at the Old Vic Theatre School. and later in New York at the Herbert Berghof Studios. She developed an ability to do a wide range of characters by appearing in a wide range of plays in repertory theatre.
Prunella’s early TV parts included appearances as waitresses and barmaids, but in 1963, she played bus conductress Eileen Hughes in the long-running soap Coronation Street. That same year, she teamed up with Richard Briers for a husband & wife sitcom called Marriage Lines. The show was written for Briers, but made a star of Prunella. 44 episodes were made for TV and another 26 adapted into a radio series.
Between 1975 and 1979 came the twelve episodes of Fawlty Towers that Prunella Scales is most remembered for today. This is just a tiny fraction of her work, yet it has brought her immense fame. Co-stars John Cleese (who played Basil Fawlty) and Connie Booth wrote the show, with Prunella cast as Basil's wife Sybil. She gave her cha-
She has also done a small amount of film work. Hobsons Choice (1954) was an early success with co-stars Charles Laughton and John Mills. She later appeared with Gregory Peck and Sir Laurence Olivier in the film The Boys from Brazil (1978), and also the Sherlock Holmes classic The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978) with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook & Penelope Keith. She also starred in the film Stiff Upper Lips (1998), with Peter Ustinov and her son Samuel West.
Teresa Ransom has written her authorised biography, Prunella, published in 2005.
racter a laugh that Basil described as 'someone machine-gunning a seal'. She also developed her two-word catchphrase "I know". Who can forget the sight of her sitting up in bed, eating sweets and talking to Audrey on the phone, saying
Prunella Scales is married to the actor Timothy West,
Beginning in 1994, Prunella played Dotty Turnbull, the bossy shopper in search of a bargain, in a series of Tesco supermarket commercials, with Jane Horrocks as her long-suffering daughter. She made 70 advertisements over 10 years
Two years later, Prunella began her longest-lasting sitcom role in After Henry (1988-1992). She played Sarah France, a middle-aged woman who has to cope with life after becoming a widow. Sharing a house with her mother (another part for Joan Sanderson) and teenage daughter, just adds to her problems!
Prunella’s other TV roles include the period drama Emma (1997) for which she insisted that her teeth be coloured yellow to suit her character of Mrs. Bates, and episodes of Midsomer Murders (2000), Silent Witness (2001) and Casualty (2004).
Prunella has also had a lot of success playing Queens. In 1980 she was Queen Victoria in stage show called An Evening with Queen Victoria. In 2003 she played Victoria again for TV's Looking for Victoria. She was also cast as our present Queen, Elizabeth II, in Alan Bennett’s A Question of Attribution (1992). Prunella originated the role on stage, which was the first time that a
In between the two seasons of Fawlty Towers she played a thieving wife Dolly in a short-lived sitcom called Mr. Big (1977) and a six-episode series of Alan Bennett plays Doris And Doreen, with Patricia Routledge and Joan Sanderson, who made a memorable appearance in Fawlty
Prunella & Richard Briers in
She has often returned to theatre work throughout her life.
over and over again, "I know...I know..."? In fact, Prunella is nothing like Sybil in real life!
Towers as the hard-of-hearing Mrs. Richards. Prunella is also remembered for her role as Lucia in the 1986 mini-series Mapp and Lucia. She starred as Miss Eliz-
abeth Mapp alongside Geraldine McEwan asLucia Lucas. Although polite to each other on the surface, Mapp and Lucia are bitter rivals who engage in all sorts of devious plots against each other!
Prunella Scales as Sybil in Fawlty Towers
Elizabeth II that when Prunella was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) Her Majesty said, "I suppose you think you ought to be doing this."
reigning monarch had been portrayed in a theatrical production. In 1992 a TV version of the play was made. So perfect was her performance as Queen
in one of the longest-running and most successful British TV advertising campaigns. The final advertisement was shown in 2004. By promoting the slogan 'Every Little Helps', Prunella helped Tesco achieve record profits of over £2 billion!
Prunella Scales & Timothy West
Peter Ustinov & Prunella Scales in
Stiff Upper Lips
Prunella as Dotty in the Tesco commercials
Charles Laughton, Prunella Scales, Daphne Anderson
& John Mills in Hobson's Choice
As Charles Dickens' mother
As Queen Victoria
Geraldine McKewan & Prunella Scales in
Mapp and Lucia
Prunella as Sybil in Fawlty Towers
Prunella signed this photo for me at Autographica
I met actress Prunella Scales at Autographica in October 2007. She has played many roles but is probably best remembered for Fawlty Towers and the Tesco commercials.
She signed a photo of the Fawlty Towers cast for me.
West, and they have two sons. The eldest, Samuel West, is also an actor.
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