An actress of extraordinary versatility, Olga Lowe was as adept in a Chekhov drama as she was in a Carry On film. She could also stop a West End musical dead in its tracks.
She was born in Durban, South Africa, and came to London to further her studies. At the age of 17, she travelled to Brazil to support the exotic, hip-shaking singer Carmen Miranda in cabaret. She then joined the glamorous French troupe the Folies Bergere, with whom she toured North America.
She returned to Britain at the end of the Second World War and gained experience in a succession of repertory companies. In 1949, she appeared at the London Palladium, acting as stooge to Harpo Marx, who rarely signed photographs but wrote one to Lowe, inscribed: “To the best trouper I’ve ever worked with.”
Lowe’s big break came when she was cast in the London production of the Rodgers and Hart musical comedy Pal Joey (1954) at the Coliseum. She took the relatively small role of a reporter, performing the clever and witty song Zip. On the second night of the production, the scene that followed her song was delayed for several minutes. She enjoyed further success at the Coliseum the following year with another American musical, The Pajama Game.
Lowe had a long and varied career in the cinema. Among the highlights was the classic wartime movie Where Eagles Dare (1968).
But it was her fate to be chiefly remembered for just one night in a long career. While she was playing alongside Sid James in The Mating Season, at the Sunderland Empire in 1976, he collapsed and died. The tragedy was made even more poignant in that Lowe and James were lifelong friends. As youngsters, they had worked together in their native South Africa.
Olga Lowe was born on September 14, 1919. She died on September 2, aged 93.