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Obituary: Hazel Douglas

Hazel Douglas, who has died, aged 92

Hazel Douglas enjoyed something of an Indian summer playing scatter-brained and often sharp-tongued matriarchs in a career that spanned eight decades.

Having started her professional career with Harry Hanson’s Court Players in the early 1940s, she was most recently seen on television as Derek Jacobi’s acidic mother in Vicious, seemingly oblivious that his flatmate Ian McKellen was also his life partner.

As Bathilda Bagshot in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) she was the resurrected vessel of Voldemort’s deadly snake – a far cry from her early days in repertory in Jersey, Aldershot and with the Carl Bernard Company.

Born in Fulham, west London and briefly evacuated to Newbury during preparations for the Second World War, Douglas spent a year at RADA (where one of her peers was Richard Attenborough) and worked briefly as an assistant stage manager before joining the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

After the war, she made her West End debut in a Sunday-night performance of Michael Pearson’s Against the Tide at the Whitehall Theatre in 1948.

In 1953 she was seen in See How They Run, the inaugural production at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, and returned to the Whitehall Theatre for John Chapman’s farce Dry Rot in 1954, her first appearance with Brian Rix’s resident company at the venue.

Over the next decade and more, Douglas was a semi-permanent fixture with Rix’s farceurs at the Whitehall, while also being seen in Bernard Kops’ Change for the Angel (Arts Theatre, 1960), Trelawny of the Wells (Leatherhead Theatre, 1969) and in Michael Pertwee’s She’s Done It Again (Garrick Theatre, 1969).

Douglas was back in the West End in 1974 sharing the stage with Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray in The Sack Race at the Ambassadors Theatre. The following year, she gave what The Stage described as “a towering performance of all-devouring strength” as Lady Monchensey in TS Eliot’s The Family Reunion in Ipswich.

In 1978 she was a founding member of Southern Exchange, the joint touring venture between Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre, Poole Arts Centre and the Hexagon Theatre, Reading.

She appeared alongside Anna Neagle in Noel Coward’s Relative Values to reopen the Connaught Theatre, Worthing in 1983 and with Harry Worth in Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s Rockefeller and the Red Indians at Basingstoke’s Haymarket Theatre in 1987.

Earlier the same year, Douglas was seen in the title role of Chris Martin’s Who Killed Hilda Murrell? with the TyneWear Theatre Company.

Her sole Broadway appearance was in Bill Naughton’s comedy All in Good Time in 1965.

A steady screen career that began in 1947 gathered pace in her later years when she enjoyed spells in Where the Heart Is (1998-99), At Home With the Braithwaites (2000-03), The Worst Week of My Life (2004) and episodes of Gavin and Stacey (2008) and Psychoville (2011).

Hazel Douglas was born on November 2, 1923 and died on September 8, aged 92.

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