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Pauline Collins

Pauline Collins in November 2012.jpg
Collins in 2012
Born (1940-09-03) 3 September 1940 (age 83)
Exmouth, Devon, England
Alma mater Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Occupation Actress
Years active 1963–present
John Alderton
(m. 1969)
Children 4

Pauline Collins OBE (born 3 September 1940) is a British actress who first came to prominence portraying Sarah Moffat in Upstairs, Downstairs (1971–1973) and its spin-off Thomas & Sarah (1979). In 1992, she published her autobiography Letter to Louise.

Collins played the title role in the play Shirley Valentine for which she won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress, and the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. She reprised the role in the 1989 film adaptation of the play, winning the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She also starred in the television dramas Forever Green (1989–1992) and The Ambassador (1998–1999). Her other film appearances include City of Joy (1992), Paradise Road (1997), Albert Nobbs (2011), Quartet (2012), and The Time of Their Lives (2017).

Early life and career

Collins was born in Exmouth, Devon, the daughter of Mary Honora (née Callanan), a schoolteacher, and William Henry Collins, a school headmaster. She is of Irish extraction, and was brought up as a Roman Catholic in Wallasey, Cheshire. Her great-uncle was Irish poet Jeremiah Joseph Callanan.

Collins was educated at Sacred Heart High School and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Before turning to acting, she worked as a teacher until 1962. She made her stage debut at Windsor in A Gazelle in Park Lane in 1962 and her West End debut in Passion Flower Hotel in 1965. During the play's run, she made her first film, Secrets of a Windmill Girl, released in 1966. More stage roles followed.

Collins played Samantha Briggs in the 1967 Doctor Who serial The Faceless Ones and was offered the chance to continue in the series as a new companion for the Doctor, but declined the invitation.

Other early TV credits include the UK's first medical soap Emergency Ward 10 (1960), and the pilot episode and first series of The Liver Birds, both in 1969.

Collins first became well known for her role as the maid Sarah in the 1970s ITV drama series Upstairs, Downstairs. The character appeared regularly throughout the first two series, the second of which also starred her actor husband, John Alderton, with whom she later starred in a spin-off, Thomas & Sarah (1979), and the sitcom No, Honestly written by Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham, as well as in a series of short-story adaptations called Wodehouse Playhouse (1975–1978). She co-narrated BBC One's animated British children's TV series Little Miss with Alderton in 1983.

In connection with her Upstairs, Downstairs role, Collins recorded a 1973 single for Decca: What Are We Going to Do with Uncle Arthur? (performed by her character several times during the series) backed with With Every Passing Day (a vocal version of the show's theme).

She was a subject of the television programme This Is Your Life in April 1972, when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews.

Shirley Valentine and recent years

In 1988, Collins starred in the one-woman play Shirley Valentine in London, reprising the role on Broadway in 1989 and in the 1989 film version. The film won a number of awards and nominations; Collins was nominated for the Oscar as Best Actress and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. Both the play and the feature film used the technique known as breaking the fourth wall as the character Shirley Valentine directly addresses the audience throughout the story.

After Shirley Valentine, Collins starred with her husband in the popular ITV drama series Forever Green, created and written by Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham in which the fictitious couple escape the city with their children to start a new life in the country. It ran from 1989 to 1992 over 18 episodes. .....

Collins' film credits include 1992's City of Joy, 1995's My Mother's Courage [de], 1997's Paradise Road, and 2002's Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War, which also featured Alderton. In 1999 and 2000, Collins starred as Harriet Smith in the BBC television drama Ambassador. Other television credits include The Saint, The Wednesday Play, Armchair Theatre, Play for Today, Tales of the Unexpected, Country Matters, and The Black Tower.

In 2002, she guest-starred in Man and Boy, the dramatisation of Tony Parsons' best-seller. In 2005, she appeared as Miss Flite in the BBC production of Charles Dickens' Bleak House.

In 2006, she became the third actor to have been in both the original and new series of Doctor Who, appearing in the episode "Tooth and Claw" as Queen Victoria.

Later in 2006, she appeared in Extinct, a programme where eight celebrities campaigned on behalf of an animal to save it from extinction. Collins campaigned to save the Bengal tiger and won the public vote.

In December 2007, she appeared as the fairy godmother in the pantomime Cinderella at the Old Vic in London.

In 2011, she was cast as part of the comedy-drama Mount Pleasant. She played the role of Sue, Lisa's mother, in the first two series running into 2012. She did not return to the third series in 2013, and her character was killed off in the fourth series in 2014.

In late 2015, she appeared as Mrs Gamp in the BBC TV series Dickensian.

Collins was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2001 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

Personal life

Collins married actor John Alderton in 1969 and lives in Hampstead, London with her husband and their three children Nicholas, Kate, and Richard. She also has an older daughter, Louise, with actor Tony Rohr. Collins gave Louise up for adoption in 1964 when she was a penniless single mother. They were reunited when Louise was 22 years old. Collins's book, Letter To Louise, documents these events.


Year Title Role Director Notes
1963 Emergency – Ward 10 Nurse Elliott Phil Brown TV series (1 episode)
1966 Secrets of a Windmill Girl Pat Lord Arnold L. Miller
The Marriage Lines Jean Robin Nash TV series (1 episode : "Big Business")
Pardon the Expression Miss Wainwright / Val Michael Cox TV series (3 episodes)
The Corridor People Syrie's maid David Boisseau TV series (1 episode : "Victim as Black")
Theatre 625 Clara James Ferman TV series (1 episode : "Amerika")
The Saint Marie-Therese Gordon Flemyng TV series (1 episode : "The Better Mousetrap")
Blackmail Freida Straker TV series (1 episode : "Please Do Not Disturb")
The Three Musketeers Kitty Peter Hammond TV (1 episode : "Branded")
The Making of Jericho TV film
1967 Doctor Who Samantha Briggs Gerry Mill The Faceless Ones (5 episodes)
Softly, Softly Marilyn Bill Hays TV series (1 episode : "Somebody Important")
1968 B and B Chantal TV series (1 episode : "Pilot: B and B")
Armchair Theatre Betty / Mary Murtagh Guy Verney
Marc Miller
TV series (2 episodes)
1969 The Old Campaigner Winnie Haldane TV series (1 episode : "French Farce")
Comedy Playhouse Dawn / Marjorie TV series (2 episodes)
The Liver Birds Dawn TV series (5 episodes)
The Wednesday Play Angelina / Joan Percival Marc Miller (X2)
John Mackenzie
TV series (2 episodes)
Parkin's Patch Doreen Ashworth Raymond Menmuir TV series (1 episode : "A Pair of Good Shoes")
1970 The Mating Machine Elizabeth Howard Ross TV series (1 episode : "Who Sleeps on the Right?")
1972 Thirty-Minute Theatre The Girl Gilchrist Calder TV series (1 episode : "King's Cross Lunch Hour")
Country Matters Ruby TV miniseries (1 episode : "Crippled Bloom")
1971–1973 Upstairs, Downstairs Sarah Moffat Various directors TV series (13 episodes)
nominated – British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
1973 Armchair 30 Carol Piers Haggard TV series (1 episode : "Carol's Story")
1974 No, Honestly Clara Burrell-Danby David Askey TV series (13 episodes)
1975 BBC Play of the Month Lady Teazle Stuart Burge TV series (1 episode : "The School for Scandal")
1975–1976 Wodehouse Playhouse various characters various directors TV series (13 episodes)
1979 Thomas & Sarah Sarah Moffat various directors TV series (13 episodes)
Play for Today Eileen Stephen Frears TV series (1 episode : "Long Distance Information")
1980 Tales of the Unexpected Pat Lewis Graham Evans TV series (1 episode : "A Girl Can't Always Have Everything")
1983 Little Misses and the Mr. Men Narrator, various female characters Trevor Bond
Terry Ward
TV series
1984 Knockback Sylvia Piers Haggard (X2) TV movie
nominated – CableACE Awards for Best Actress in a Theatrical or Dramatic Special
1985 Tropical Moon Over Dorking Myra Robert Chetwyn TV movie
The Black Tower Maggie Hewson Ronald Wilson TV miniseries (5 episodes)
1988 Tales of the Unexpected Eve Peregrine Barry Davis TV series (1 episode : "The Colonel's Lady")
1989–1992 Forever Green Harriet Boult David Giles
Sarah Hellings
Christopher King
TV series (18 episodes)
1989 Shirley Valentine Shirley Valentine-Bradshaw Lewis Gilbert BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Evening Standard British Film Awards – Best Actress
Golden Apple Award – Female Discovery of the Year
nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1992 City of Joy Joan Bethel Roland Joffé
1995 My Mother's Courage [de] Elsa Tabori Michael Verhoeven
1996 Flowers of the Forest Aileen Matthews Michael Whyte TV movie
1997 Paradise Road Daisy 'Margaret' Drummond Bruce Beresford
1998–1999 The Ambassador Harriet Smith various directors TV series (13 Episodes)
2000 Little Grey Rabbit Jean Flynn TV series
One Life Stand Karaoke Crowd May Miles Thomas
2002 Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War Thelma Caldicot Ian Sharp
Man and Boy Betty Silver Simon Curtis TV movie
2003 Sparkling Cyanide Dr. Catherine Kendall Tristram Powell TV movie
2005 Bleak House Miss Flite Justin Chadwick
Susanna White
TV series (10 episodes)
2006 Doctor Who Queen Victoria Euros Lyn TV series (1 episode : "Tooth and Claw")
What We Did on Our Holiday Lil Taylor Jeremy Webb TV movie
2009 From Time to Time Mrs. Tweedie Julian Fellowes
2010 Agatha Christie's Marple Thyrza Grey Andy Hay TV series (1 episode : "The Pale Horse")
Merlin Alice Alice Troughton TV series (1 episode : "Love in the Time of Dragons")
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Cristal Woody Allen
2011 Albert Nobbs Margaret 'Madge' Baker Rodrigo García
2011–2012 Mount Pleasant Sue Dewi Humphreys
Ian Barnes
Dermot Boyd
TV series (14 episodes)
2012 Quartet Cissy Robson Dustin Hoffman
2015 Dough Joanna John Goldschmidt
The Time of Their Lives Priscilla Roger Goldby
2015–2016 Dickensian Mrs Gamp Tony Jordan
Tony Jordan
TV series (20 episodes)
2017 The Time of Their Lives Priscilla Roger Goldby
2017 Byrd and the Bees Beatrice Finola Hughes

Awards and nominations

See also

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