Yootha Joyce 1927 – 1980

Aug 24th, 1980 | By | Category: Uncategorized

In just seven short years Yootha Joyce, who died just days after her 53rd birthday, on 24 August, 1980, became one of the nation’s favourite comediennes.

She breathed life into the sharp-tongued, man-eating character Mildred Roper alongside her screen husband George, played by Brian Murphy, in two hugely successful ITV sitcoms.

The first, Man About The House, revolved around a trio of young characters played by Richard O’Sullivan, Sally Thomsett and Paula Wilcox and the misunderstandings that arose between them and the Ropers who were their landlords.

However, after three years, Ms Joyce and Mr Murphy, emerged as stars in their own right and were rewarded with a series of their very own – George and Mildred.

Yootha Joyce Needham was born into a musical family in South London on August 20, 1927.

In 1956 she married actor Glynn Edwards, better know as Dave, the landlord of the Winchester Club in Minder. Mr Edwards, from whom she was subsequently divorced in 1968, introduced her to the famous Joan Littlewood Theatre Workshop that boasted a stable of talent including Roy Kinnear, Harry H Corbett, Lionel Bart and Brian Murphy, with whom she would later enjoy so much success.

She made her film debut in 1962 in Sparrows Can’t Sing and through the 1960s became a familiar face through cameos in sitcoms and supporting roles in films.

She will be remembered for playing Milo O’Shea’s girlfriend Miss Argyll in Me Mammy between 1968 and 1971.

In 1973 she was cast as Mildred Roper alongside Mr Murphy in Man About The House, which proved so successful the format was sold to America where it was re-made as Three’s Company.

When the series ended, producers made the most of their growing popularity by giving them star billing in George and Mildred.

The first episode aired in 1976 and began with the couple moving from their working class surroundings to a more middle class residence in Hampton Wick.

Viewers loved the plotlines, which typically involved George unwittingly undoing Mildred’s plans to enhance their social standing. The series became a long-running hit.

Ms Joyce seemingly had the world at her feet in 1980. She and Murphy had made a spin-off feature film of the series and producers were busily creating a sixth run of shows.

However, she was admitted to hospital with liver failure and died with Brian Murphy at her side.

There was a national outpouring of grief at the loss of such a colossal talent and in 2001 friends and colleagues paid tribute in a documentary entitled The Unforgettable Yootha Joyce.

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