Avril Angers was one of those actresses who, whilst never achieving start status, had a long and successful career across stage, screen, radio and TV, and was regarded by those she worked with as one of the country’s most talented and reliable comediennes.
She was born Florence Avril Angers on 18th April 1918 at a nursing home run by midwife Matilda Rhind at 2 Rossett Avenue L17, off Smithdown Road. It was very much a show business family, fer father being the Liverpool-born musical hall entertainer Harry Angers and her mother, Lillian Erroll, a veteran of concert parties. At the time of Avril’s birth the family were living at 19 Bristol Road L15 in Wavertree but by the time her brother Julian was born in 1919 they had moved to London.
Educated at various schools in England and Australia she made her stage debut in 1936 in the chorus of a show on Brighton pier. In the same year she played the title role in Cinderella at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham alongside the well-known diminutive comedian Wee Georgie Wood. During the war she served in ENSA and spent two years in the Middle East and West Africa entertaining ‘the troops’. It was whilst working with ENSA that she was ‘spotted’ by a BBC producer which led to her radio debut in 1944, a year which also saw her first West End appearance. She began to undertake television work in the late-1940’s, coming to national prominence in the comedy series How Do You View where she took on the role of Rosie Lee, tea-girl to boss Terry Thomas.
In 1954 she was one of the stars of the sit-com Friends and Neighbours, with Janet Brown, Peter Butterworth and Benny Lee and in the same year was given her own show, Dear Dotty, set in the office’s of a women’s magazine. Arguably this was the first occasion on which a female comedienne was given her own series on TV. Over the years her TV appearances included many top shows including All Creatures Great and Small, Coronation Street, Minder, Are You Being Served, The Liver Birds, Dad’s Army, the Dick Emery Show and many more. She appeared in many films, her best role probably being that of Hayley Mills’ mother in the 1966 comedy-drama The Family Way. (Click here to see her in the trailer for the film on IMDB)
Avril Angers was the first really glamorous comedienne of note. She said of herself “I had blonde hair and not bad legs…but being glamorous made it harder. You had to time the gags perfectly” . She also had a shrewd understanding of the vehicles that suited her best, saying “I took to drama such as School for Scandal and She Stoops to Conquer like a duck to water. I didn’t really do Shakespeare. To be honest, by the time you’ve started from the top of a line and got to the bottom of the page you’ve forgotten what the gag was.”
Avril Angers died in 2005 aged 87 at her home in Covent Garden London.
Avril Anger's birthplace; Matilda Rhind's nursing home in 1918, now student apartments.
The Angers' family home at the time of Avril's birth in 1918
The IMDB entry gives a comprehensive listing of her TV and films work. The Wikipedia entry does not add much and there are better accounts of her life in the obituaries which appeared in The Guardian (14.11.2005) and The Independent (19.11.2005) although the Independent incorrectly gives her date of birth as 1922.
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