Marion Pertwee

The Stage

Marion Pertwee, whose maiden and stage name was Marion McLeod, was a leading light of numerous summer seasons and pantomimes throughout the fifties and sixties. Born on May 15, 1928, she was the daughter of theatrical parents who had met and married when they were both appearing in a show at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

As a schoolgirl, Marion had aspirations to go into showbusiness and won medals for her dancing. Her elder brother John played the piano for her and in later years John and another brother, Norman, formed the famous broadcasting and stage act The Maple Leaf Four.

Marion went on to work as a singer and dancer and with her gift for comedy was in demand for revue-style seaside shows.

In 1955 she was appearing for the producer Henry Luttman in a summer show at the Gorleston Pavilion when she met the then unknown actor Bill Pertwee, who was making his professional debut in the show. They married the same year.

With encouragement from the comedian Charlie Chester they devised their own musical comedy spot and were booked into variety by the agent Evie Taylor. It was Taylor who enthusiastically helped them work out their act, have musical arrangements written, photographs taken and new costumes made. The act played in variety all over the UK. Bill later claimed: “We closed more theatres than anyone.”

By the late fifties, with variety in decline, the couple went on to individual careers in theatre, radio and television. When Marion gave up working professionally she became a director and producer for many amateur theatre companies. Sadly, ill health prevented her from working in theatre in her later years.

She was a respected historian and helped Bill with several of his books including Stars in Battledress and By Royal Command: A History of the Royal Variety Show.

Bill and Marion were widely regarded as one of the happiest couples in showbusiness. Bill was a devoted husband and despite his numerous television commitments he always put Marion before his own career.

Marion Pertwee died in hospital in Surrey on May 27, 2005, aged 77. She is survived by Bill and by their son Jonathan.

A memorial service is being organised by Dad’s Army creator Jimmy Perry and will be held at St Paul’s, the actor’s church in Covent Garden on July 12, 2005 at noon. All are welcome.

Patrick Newley

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