Dandy Nichols

Dandy Nichols (born Daisy Sander; 21 May 1907 6 February 1986) was an English actress best known for her role as Else Garnett, the long-suffering wife of the racially bigoted and misogynistic character Alf Garnett in the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.[1][2]

Dandy Nichols
Daisy Sander

(1907-05-21)21 May 1907
Fulham, London, England
Died6 February 1986(1986-02-06) (aged 78)
Whitechapel, London, England
Years active1947–85
Spouse(s)Stephen Bagueley Waters (divorced)

Early life and career

Born Daisy Sander in Fulham, London, she started her working life as a secretary in a London factory. Twelve years later, after drama, diction and fencing classes, she was spotted in a charity show by a producer, who offered her a job in his repertory theatre company in Cambridge. During her early career on stage she acted under the name Barbara Nichols but later changed it to Dandy, her childhood nickname.[2]

When the Second World War broke out, she returned to office work but later undertook a six-week tour with ENSA. When the war was over, she returned to the theatre and also began appearing in films: usually comedies and almost invariably as a maid or charlady.[3] The latter role she took on in the music video "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant.[4]

Her successes in theatre include the Royal Court Theatre and Broadway productions of Home.[5][6] Her big screen debut was in Hue and Cry, in 1947, followed with performances in Nicholas Nickleby, The Fallen Idol, The Winslow Boy, The History of Mr Polly, Scott of the Antarctic, Mother Riley Meets the Vampire and Dickens' The Pickwick Papers.[2][7]

Till Death Us Do Part

Dandy Nichols's best-known role was Else Garnett in the landmark series Till Death Us Do Part.[8] The part was originally played in the pilot episode for the series (as part of the BBC's Comedy Playhouse) by future EastEnders actress Gretchen Franklin.[2] However, when it was commissioned as a series, Franklin was unable to break her contract for a West End play and Nichols was cast.[9]

Dandy's role seemed, at first, almost negligible: spending the best part of one early episode reading the telephone book as Alf embarked on another of his tirades. However, Else proved to be a perfect foil for Alf, and could put him down effortlessly with a withering look or cutting remark.[2] Perhaps her finest hour - in an episode shown by the BBC in tribute to Dandy in 1986 - was when, in 1974, Else took a leaf out of Prime Minister Edward Heath's book and went on a "three-day week", forcing Alf to fend for and feed himself on her days off.[10]

In the original scripts, Alf was to refer to his wife as a "silly cow". This was firmly vetoed by BBC Head of Comedy Frank Muir, who thought this was inappropriate. Nichols said that it was "a lot of silly fuss about a silly moo" which was overheard by script writer Johnny Speight and became the series' most enduring catchphrase.[11]

In Sickness and in Health

Till Death Us Do Part came to an end in 1975 but was revived in 1981, entitled Till Death..., and again in 1985.[12] Dandy agreed to appear, but had been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and had to use a wheelchair.[2] Her illnesses were written into the scripts, and the series was appropriately renamed In Sickness and in Health.[13]

The series continued after her death, with Alf left on his own.

Film career

She appeared in numerous films, which included Carry On Doctor, Ladies Who Do, The Holly and the Ivy, The Vikings, the Beatles' film Help!, Georgy Girl, Doctor in Clover, The Birthday Party, The Bed Sitting Room, O Lucky Man!, Confessions of a Window Cleaner and Britannia Hospital amongst others.[1]

Later years

After her role in Till Death Do Us Part, Nichols found work in television, notably playing opposite Alastair Sim in William Trevor's production of The Generals Day.[14] She made appearances in Flint, The Tea Ladies and Bergerac.[1][2] On stage, she appeared in Ben Travers's comedy Plunder, as well as playing alongside Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud in David Storey's Home, in both London and on Broadway.[15][16][17]

Personal life

Dandy Nichols was married to the newspaper editor Stephen Bagueley Waters in 1942,[18] but the marriage ended in divorce in 1955 due to his adultery. Nichols was an atheist most of her life. Her poor health led to a fall in her flat and she died three days later of pneumonia and heart disease on 6 February 1986 aged 78 at the London Hospital, Whitechapel.

Television roles

1966 to 1975
Till Death Us Do Part
Till Death...
In Sickness and in Health
Else Garnett
1971The Trouble With You, LilianMadge
1981The Bagthorpe SagaMrs Forsdyke

Partial filmography


  1. "Dandy Nichols". Bfi.org.uk.
  2. "Nichols, Dandy (1907-1986)". Screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  3. McFarlane, Brian (16 May 2016). "The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth edition". Oxford University Press. p. 557. Retrieved 23 October 2018 via Google Books.
  4. Ant, Adam (4 September 2008). "Stand and Deliver: My Autobiography". Pan Macmillan. p. 195. Retrieved 23 October 2018 via Google Books.
  5. "Production of Home - Theatricalia". Theatricalia.com. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  6. "Home – Broadway Play – Original". IBDb.com. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  7. "Dandy Nichols - Movies and Filmography - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  8. "Dandy Nichols - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  9. "Gretchen Franklin". Telegraph.co.uk. 12 July 2005.
  10. "Else's Three Day Week (1974)". Bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  11. Condon, Paul (15 February 2018). "1001 TV Series: You Must Watch Before You Die". Octopus. Retrieved 23 October 2018 via Google Books.
  12. "BFI Screenonline: Speight, Johnny (1920-1998) Biography". Screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  13. Pickering, David. "NICHOLS, DANDY: British Actor". Museum.tv. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  14. "The General's Day (1972)". Bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  15. "Production of Plunder - Theatricalia". Theatricalia.com. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  16. "Royal Court Theatre recordings at the British Library - English and Drama blog". Britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk.
  17. "Dandy Nichols – Broadway Cast & Staff". IBDb.com.
  18. "Stephen Bagueley Waters". Biographies.net. Retrieved 23 October 2018.

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