Miss Brahms, Are You Free? – Wendy Richard Dies

One of the staples in my household is on Saturday nights turning the TV to the local PBS station to watch British comedies from the BBC- also known as Britcoms. Here I have watched the shows “Keeping Up Appearances ” “The Victor of Dibley,” “BlackAdder,” “Red Dwarf,” Waiting For God,” and of course “Are You Being Served.”
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“Are You Being Served?”was a long-running British sitcom broadcast from 1972 to 1985. The show centered on a fictional store in London called Grace Brothers and the workers of it’s men’s and women’s department. The show made great fun of the British class system and included recurring characters such as the effeminate Mr. Humphries; Captain Peacock, the haughty floorwalker who fought in World War: the boisterous Mrs. Slocombe with her ever-changing hair color and whose jokes about her cat help make the show; and the lovely Miss Shirley Brahms, a sales representative with a heavy Cockney accent.

Miss Brahms was played by Wendy Richard who has taken her Final Taxi. Richard played that role through the entire run of the series and also appeared in the Are You Being Served? sequel Grace & Favour in 1992 and 1993. (This was repacked in the US as Are You Being Served Again?)

Richard was first seen on BBC TV in a 1960 soap opera, The Newcomers. She has also appeared in Dad’s and in two of the British comedy films series Carry On (Carry On Matron and Carry On Girls) What really surprised me recently is that I purchased the newly digitally reworked version of The Beatles movie Help! (1965) and in the special features DVD was a scene that was not in the original movie that starred our own Wendy Richard. It was a treat being a fan of The Beatles and of Richard.

Richard breathes a life of her own into the Miss Brahms character. She was one of the few members of the cast who was sexy and attention grabbing which means she was always getting advances and flirted with. This was not only by members for the staff but customers as well. Many of the innuendos thrown at her went over her head as she had a “dumb blonde” nature. It is what made the character so well loved.

After the gaiety of Are You Being Served? Wendy Richard joined the cast of the BBC soap opera EastEnders playing the role of played the long-suffering matriarch Pauline Fowler. She played this role from the first episode in 1985 until the character’s death at Christmas of 2006. It was a part she played for over 22 years.

In 2007, Richard was awarded a British Soap Award for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ for her role in Eastenders. In October 2008 it was reported that she was suffering with an aggressive cancer. She died at a clinic in London with her husband John Burns by her side. She was 65.

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The 81st Annual Academy Award Obit List

I watched the Academy Awards last night and waited for the segment that I enjoy watching every year. This is when the Oscars salute the people who have taken the Final Taxi in the last year. They usually have film clips that we can see on our TV screens and play music in the background but this year they did something different by have Queen Latifah sing the song “I’ll Be Seeing You.” She did a wonderful job but the attention was more on her than on those who died during the year. We did not see many of the names due to this.
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In case you missed seeing who was in the tribute last night here is the list:

Cyd Charisse
Bernie Mac
Bud Stone (executive)
Ollie Johnston (animator)
Van Johnson
J. Paul Huntsman (sound)
Michael Crichton
Nina Foch
Pat Hingle
Harold Pinter
Charles H. Joffe (producer)
Kon Ichikawa (director)
Charles H. Schneer (producer)
Abby Mann (screenwriter)
Roy Scheider
David Watkin (director of photography)
Robert Mulligan (director)
Evelyn Keyes
Richard Widmark
Claude Berri (director)
Maila Nurmi (Known onscreen as Vampira)
Isaac Hayes
Leonard Rosenman (composer)
Ricardo Montalban
Manny Farber (film critic)
Robert DoQui
Jules Dassin (director)
Paul Scofield
John Michael Hayes (screenwriter)
Warren Cowan (publicist)
Joseph M. Caracciolo (producer)
Stan Winston (special effects)
Ned Tanen (producer, executive)
James Whitmore
Charlton Heston
Anthony Minghella (director, producer)
Sydney Pollack
Paul Newman

At first I was a little taken back not seeing Heath Ledger’s name on that list. He had just won Best –Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight an hour earlier. Then I remembered that he was on the 2007 list from last year.

There were several others that should have been on that list last night.

First for me was the ‘voice’ of Hollywood- Don LaFontaine. Time was that you could not go to a movie and not hear a preview without hearing his voice. He provided the narration to thousands of movie trailers over the past three decades.

Mel Ferrer, an actor, director, producer in over 100 productions, was also left off the list. Missing as well was John Phillip Law who will be most known as the blind angel in “Barbarella” but I enjoyed his roles in “Jason and the Argonauts” & “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.”

I can never think about Hammer horror films without thinking of Hazel Court so she was missed and also the sexy Eartha Kitt was not listed.

I think the Academy has something about comedians as they forget about them every year. We did not get to see the films that George Carlin was in or those of Harvey Korman, I can see Korman in his scene from Blazing Saddles where he is talking to the band of villains he has hired to destroy Rock Ridge. “Men, you are about to embark on a great crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the west. Now you men will only be risking your lives, whilst I will be risking an almost certain Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor….”
It’s a shame Harvey was not remembered on this night.

Also missing was Patrick McGoohan who most people know from TV’s The Prisoner. He stared in over 30 feature films including as King Edward in Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”, the warden in Clint Eastwood’s “Escape From Alcatraz” and the villain Roger Devereau in “Silver Streak.”

The slap in the face to me was forgetting Anita Page, the last surviving silent film star. This would have be a time to reflect on the early days of the Academy. She starred with Hollywood legends such as Lon Chaney Sr., Robert Montgomery, Ramon Novarro, Joan Crawford, Buster Keaton and Clark Gable. She was also the last living attendee of the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.

I wish one year someone at the Academy Awards would pay tribute to these people who helped pave the way for the actors who received the Oscar last night.