Margaretta Scott

Margaretta Scott (13 February 1912 – 15 April 2005) was an English stage, screen and television actress whose career spanned over seventy years.[1] She is best remembered for playing the eccentric widow Mrs. Pumphrey in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small (1978–1990).

Margaretta Scott
Born(1912-02-13)13 February 1912
London, England
Died15 April 2005(2005-04-15) (aged 93)
London, England
Resting placeSt Lawrence Churchyard, Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
Years active1926–1997
Spouse(s)John Wooldridge (1948–1958) (his death)
ChildrenSusan Wooldridge
Hugh Wooldridge
Parent(s)Hugh Arthur Scott
Bertha Eugene

Early life

Scott was born in London in 1912 to Bertha Eugene and Hugh Arthur Scott, a distinguished music critic. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she was a classmate of Celia Johnson.[2]

Acting career

Scott began acting as a child, giving private performances of verse-speaking and dance drama for her family and their friends. In 1926, at the age of 14, she made her acting debut on the London stage as Mercutio's Page in a Fellowship of Players revival of Romeo and Juliet.[3] Scott became a leading exponent of the work of William Shakespeare through a series of notable performances in the early and mid-1930s: Cast firstly as the Player Queen and then Ophelia in Hamlet,[4] she followed this with Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing for the Oxford University Dramatic Society.[5]

She appeared as Viola at the New Theatre and as Ophelia and Juliet in a couple of BBC radio productions in 1932. In 1933 she played the first of four summer seasons at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park.[6] She also played Lavinia in George Bernard Shaw's Androcles and the Lion with the rehearsals under the supervision of the author himself.

In 1936 Scott was cast as Rosaline in one of the great productions of Love's Labours Lost at the Old Vic[7] and in the following year performed in more Shakespeare which included her last appearance at the Open Air Theatre until 1984 in Ring Round the Moon.

In addition to these classical roles, Scott's credits in contemporary drama have included the premieres of Emlyn Williams' A Murder Has Been Arranged (directed by the author in 1930), MacLeish's Panic (1936), Morna Stuart's Traitor's Gate (1938)[8] and Sidney Howard's Alien Corn (1939). By 1939 Scott had become one of the United Kingdom's leading young stage actresses.

Trade union organiser

Scott was a signatory of the document that established Equity, the British actors' trade union, in 1934.

Film career

Scott's screen career began in 1934 when she made an uncredited appearance in Alexander Korda's The Private Life of Don Juan. Thereafter she reprised her stage role of Leonora Stafford in the film version of the Ben Travers' Aldwych farce Dirty Work with Robertson Hare and Ralph Lynn and appeared in Herbert Wilcox's Peg of Old Drury with Anna Neagle before again joining Alexander Korda in 1936. Engaged by Korda, Scott made three pictures for London Films:

Second World War

Throughout the war Scott continued to perform in theatrical productions both at home and abroad, touring North Africa and Italy with ENSA in 1944. In addition to seasons at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford upon Avon in 1941 and 1942,[9] her stage credits included Clare Boothe's Margin for Error (1940), the premiere of James Bridie's The Holy Isle (1942) and the first British productions of Lillian Hellman's play Watch on the Rhine (1943)[10] and John Patrick's The Hasty Heart (1945).

Her screen roles meanwhile included Judith Bentley in The Girl in the News (1940),[11] Marcia Royd in Anthony Asquith's comedy Quiet Wedding (1940), Atlantic Ferry (1941),[12] Sabotage at Sea (1942) and Alicia in the Gainsborough Pictures melodrama, Fanny by Gaslight (1944).[13]

Post-war career

In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s Scott continued to play a wide range of roles on stage and screen. Her association with Shakespeare was maintained with performances in the first 1946 television productions of The Merchant of Venice and Othello and, on stage, in Macbeth[14] and Hamlet,[15] in addition to other productions at the Fortune, Saville, Cambridge and Her Majesty's theatres in London. At this time, she appeared in pictures such as The Man from Morocco (1945), Where's Charley? (1952), Town on Trial (1956),[16] The Scamp (1957),[17] Mayerling (1958) and Crescendo (1970).

Scott was active on the concert platform as a narrator/speaker under the batons of Sir Henry Wood, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir David Willcocks and Sir John Pritchard performing scores by Grieg, Honegger, Purcell, Elgar, Prokofiev and her late husband, the British composer, John Wooldridge.

Over the course of the next three decades Scott appeared on stage throughout the United Kingdom and toured in plays abroad including the Far East, Canada and North and South Africa. Apart from world premieres of contemporary plays such as Aunt Edwina (1958) with Henry Kendall directed by the author William Douglas Home; The Right Honourable Gentleman (1964) with Anthony Quayle and Angela Huth's The Understanding (1982) with Celia Johnson and Ralph Richardson, many of her theatre credits in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were revivals of Oscar Wilde's comedies including Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (1968 Tour); A Woman of No Importance (1974 and 1978); The Importance of Being Earnest (1974 and The Old Vic Theatre 1980; also on television); An Ideal Husband (1976/1977 Tour) and Lady Windermere's Fan (Canada 1979). Her last West End role was with Leo McKern in the revival of Hobson's Choice (1984) directed by Frank Hauser.[18]

Television career

Scott was one of the first women to perform Shakespeare on television, in the role of Beatrice in a stage production of Much Ado About Nothing broadcast by the BBC in 1937.[19] In 1946, she portrayed Portia in a made for television production of The Merchant of Venice.[1]

For twenty-five years, from the 1970s, Scott played a number of distinguished parts in popular television dramas. These included Lord Peter Wimsey, Elizabeth R, The Duchess of Duke Street, Upstairs, Downstairs, Lovejoy, and for several years as Mrs Pumphrey with her Pekingese, Tricki Woo, in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. "Ma was 65 when she was cast as Mrs Pumphrey," explained her daughter, Susan Wooldridge. "At that time in her career she'd been doing various jobs, but nothing particularly sensational. Then suddenly out of the blue, which occasionally happens to us actors, this lovely job came along and it was to be her life really for the next thirteen years. It was very special to her. She loved that part of the country. I think she had real Northern roots in her, and she just loved being up there. We still have 'flop bot' as a family expression."[20]

Personal life

Scott was married to the English composer John Wooldridge, who was killed in a car accident in 1958. Their daughter, Susan Wooldridge, is also an actress and their son, Hugh Wooldridge is a theatre director and producer.

Scott died on 15 April 2005, aged 93, from natural causes and is buried with her husband, John, at St Lawrence's Church, Cholesbury, Buckinghamshire.


1934 Dirty Work Leonora Stafford
The Private Life of Don Juan Pepilla uncredited
1935 Peg of Old Drury Kitty Clive
1936 Things to Come Roxana/Rowena as Margueretta Scott
1937 Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice TV
Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel Theresa Cobarrus
Action for Slander Josie Bradford
1938 Will Shakespeare Anne TV
The Constant Nymph TV
Parnell Katherine O'Shea TV
1939 The Taming of the Shrew Katherina TV
Traitor's Gate TV
Katharine and Petruchio Katharine TV
Shall We Join the Ladies? Lady Wrathie TV
1940 Girl in the News Judith Bentley
1941 Quiet Wedding Marcia
Atlantic Ferry Susan Donaldson
1942 Sabotage at Sea Jane Dighton
1944 Fanny by Gaslight Alicia
1945 The Man from Morocco Manuela
1947 Mrs. Fitzherbert Lady Jersey
The Merchant of Venice Portia TV
1948 Counterblast Sister "Johnnie" Johnson
The Story of Shirley Yorke Alison Gwynne
Idol of Paris Empress Euginie
The First Gentleman Lady Hartford
Calling Paul Temple Mrs. Trevellyan
1949 Landfall Mrs. Burnaby
1950 Othello Emilia TV - BBC Sunday Night Theatre
1952 Where's Charley? Dona Lucia
1956 The White Falcon Catherine of Aragon TV - BBC Sunday Night Theatre
The Last Man to Hang? Mrs. Cranshaw
1957 The Scamp Mrs. Blundell
Town on Trial Helen Dixon
1958 A Woman Possessed Katherine Winthrop
1960 An Honourable Murder Claudia Caesar
1970 Crescendo Danielle Ryman
1971 Percy Rita's Mother

Notes and references

  1. Coveney, Michael (18 April 2005), "Margaretta Scott (obit)", The Guardian
  2. Margaretta Scott. The Independent. Author - Alan Strachan. Published 7 May 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  3. The Strand Theatre with Lawrence Anderson as Romeo; Jean Forbes Robertson, Juliet and Robert Lorraine, Mercutio.
  4. Twice in 1930 and at The Haymarket in 1931 with Henry Ainley and later Godfrey Tearle as Hamlet.
  5. With George Devine, William Devlin and Hugh Hunt.
  6. As Viola, Olivia, Celia, Hermia, Adriana and Miranda. Directed by Robert Atkins, Prospero was John Drinkwater, Orsino and Orlando was Jack Hawkins, Ariel was Leslie French.
  7. Directed by Tyrone Guthrie with a cast that included Michael Redgrave, Alec Guinness, Rachel Kempson, Ernest Milton and Alec Clunes.
  8. With Basil Sydney then Jack Hawkins
  9. Juliet, Lady Macbeth and Rosalind
  10. Directed by Emlyn Williams with Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard.
  11. Carol Reed's film of Roy Vicker's novel
  12. With Michael Redgrave.
  13. With Margaret Lockwood and James Mason.
  14. Glasgow Citizens' Theatre in 1949.
  15. With Peter O'Toole at Bristol Old Vic in 1958.
  16. With John Mills
  17. With Richard Attenborough
  18. "1995 Chichester Festival Theatre". Archived from the original on 14 August 2014.
  19. Soares, Andre (18 April 2005). "Margaretta Scott". Alternative Film Guide. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  20. All Memories Great & Small, Oliver Crocker (2016; MIWK)
1936 Screen Pictorial Summer Annual - Advertisement
1939 My Favourite Part cigarette card - front reverse
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