Marjie Lawrence (21 January 1932 – 16 June 2010) was an English theatre, film and television actress. A noted highly adaptable and continually working actress, she spoke the first words uttered on ITV.
21 January 1932
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England
|Died||16 June 2010 78) (aged|
Esher, Surrey, England
|Residence||Stratford, London, England|
|Alma mater||Birmingham School of Speech & Drama|
|Spouse(s)||Harry Greene (m. 1955)|
|Children||Sarah, Laura, Robin|
Born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, she undertook weekend acting classes from aged 12 at the Birmingham Theatre School. After completing her schooling, she was accepted to be trained at the Birmingham School of Speech & Drama on a three-year under graduate course.
On graduation, she undertook work with George Dare's touring company in Norfolk, learning and acting in 36 plays over eight weeks. After the company returned to Bacton, she left the company with another actress and started working at the local sanitorium, to earn enough money to afford the train fare to London. After leaving the hospital on finding out that most of the staff had TB, her former landlady introduced her to Lady Rawlinson wife of Sir Alfred Rawlinson, 4th Baronet at North Walsham, who employed her as a cook. Unable to cook, she stayed for the summer of 1953 as the children's nanny.
Moving to Swiss Cottage, London in October 1953, she undertook work as a filing clerk in Victoria, London during the day, while watching for acting opportunities in The Stage. On New Year's Day 1954, she was one of 200 people who attended an audition at the Theatre Royal in Stratford for Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop company. The facilitator for the audition was Harry Greene, while Littlewood put her through a two-hour audition before accepting Lawrence into the company. Greene and Lawrence quickly became a couple.
Theatre Workshop became such a success, that productions would later transfer to London's West End theatre, bringing both Greene and Lawrence to national attention, alongside actors including Sir Sean Connery, Sir John Gielgud, Melina Mercouri, Lana Turner, Jean Seberg and Barbara Windsor.
After Greene and Lawrence married in 1955, the couple left Theatre Workshop and both began working in television. Her last production for Theatre Workshop was in Arden of Faversham, with which the company visited the Paris International Festival in 1954. In 1959 she joined the Theatre Workshop transfer to the West End of Wolf Mankowitz's street market musical Make Me An Offer, with music and lyrics by Monty Norman and David Heneker.
At the launch of independent broadcaster Associated-Rediffusion, the married couple starred in soap opera Round the Redways, about a couple who run a DIY store, with Greene playing an inept repair man; the show ran for seven months. As a result, Lawrence uttered the first words on ITV: "There’s something wrong with this".
Greene as a DIY expert
Desperate to fill the schedules, Associated-Rediffusion took up Marjie's proposal for Harry to film a DIY show based on him doing up their flat on Oppidans Road, off Primrose Hill, North London. First shown on 4 January 1957, Handy Round the Home emphasised practical demonstrations that viewers could copy at home, with his catchphrase, "Safety first; DIY second" making him a household name. This led to Greene writing over 23 books and creating 2,000 hours of DIY programmes over the rest of his career, until his death in 2013.
Greene and Lawrence also set up a building company, which specialised in providing new homes, extensions and bespoke building services to actors and television personalities. By 2000, the firm had provided services to over 32 stars, including Barbara Windsor, Siân Lloyd, Paul McKenna and Neil Morrissey.
Film and TV career
By 1972, Lawrence had given birth to the couple's three children, and was returning to work across theatre, film and television. Through her working relationship with Peter Sellers and Eric Sykes, she had gained the same agent and worked regularly from then until her death in 2010. Her works included:
- Film: After the Ball (1957), Only Two Can Play (1962), Design for Loving (1962), A Place to Go (1963), The Early Bird (1965), Stranger in the House (1967), Inspector Clouseau (1968), Tell Me Lies (1968), Carry On Henry (1971), Hands of the Ripper (1971), I, Monster (1971), Bless This House (1972), The Squeeze (1977), Shiner (2000).
- Television drama: The Rainbow (1988)
- Television comedy: The Benny Hill Show, The Arthur Haynes Show (with Eric Sykes).
- Television series: Coronation Street, Crossroads, Danger UXB, Public Eye, Unnatural Causes, Weavers Green, Z-Cars.
- Theatre: The Bed Sitting Room, The Three Sisters.
She had been ill since 2004 with rheumatoid arthritis, but managed to continue working, latterly appearing in a bed-bound role in the BBC day time soap opera Doctors.
Harry Greene collapsed and died a few days after returning home in March 2013 from a holiday with his daughter Sarah and husband, fellow presenter Mike Smith. Smith would die less than eighteen months after that, in August 2014.
- Kate Harris (6 December 2007). "Interview with Marjie Lawrence". sounds.bl.uk. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "TV's first DIY guru Harry Greene dies aged 89". WalesOnline.co.uk. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Catrin Pascoe and Tim Wilkinson (25 November 2003). "The DIY guru". Western Mail. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "TV DIY pioneer Harry Greene dies, aged 89". BBC Wales. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- Rik Henderson (12 February 2004). Camden New Journal https://web.archive.org/web/20120305190527/http://www.camdennewjournal.co.uk/2004%20archive/120204/r120204_5.htm. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2013. Missing or empty
- Sarah Greene with Katherine Hassell (4 September 2012). "All women must know signs of ovarian cancer". Daily Express. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "Marjie Lawrence". JustGiving.com. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "Former Radio 1 DJ Mike Smith dies aged 59". BBC News. 2 August 2014.