Yootha Joyce 20th August 1927 – 24 August 1980
Perhaps best known for her role as Mildred Roper in the 1970’s sitcoms Man About The House and George and Mildred, Yootha Joyce had an interesting and varied career.
Born Yootha Joyce Needham in Wandsworth, London, she was the only child of musical parents Hurst Needham, a well-known singer, and Jessica Revitt, a concert pianist.
Evacuated to Hampshire during World War II, she left school at 15, then trained at RADA where Roger Moore was a fellow student and toured with Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA).
In 1958, she married the actor Glynn Edwards, best known for playing Dave, landlord of the Winchester Club in Minder. It was through her husband that she first came to prominence in the renowned Joan Littlewood Theatre Workshop, appearing at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be and going on to make her film debut in 1962 in Sparrers Can’t Sing.
Yootha Joyce and Glynn Edwards divorced in 1968.
In an all too short career she appeared in many sitcoms and films. Tragically the ill fated movie of the hit sitcom George and Mildred was to be her last work. Amidst growing concern over her health Yootha Joyce was admitted to hospital in the summer of 1980. She died, in hospital, of liver failure four days after her 53rd birthday on 24th August 1980. Her good friend and screen husband, the actor Brian Murphy, was at her bedside. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.
To the shock of many who new her an inquest into her death revealed she had been drinking upwards of half a bottle of brandy a day for ten years.
The world of comedy had lost a great talent.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Yootha Joyce became a familiar face in many one-off sitcom roles and supporting parts in films, with her first main recurring role being Miss Argyll, frustrated girlfriend of the title star Milo O’Shea in three series of Me Mammy (1968–71). Prior to that, she played a cameo role in The Pumpkin Eater as a psychotic young woman opposite Anne Bancroft, delivering a performance that has been called one of the “best screen acting miniatures one could hope to see.”
Her talent for comedy was also used to good effect in programmes such as Steptoe and Son and On the Buses. She made appearances in the movies Catch Us If You Can, A Man for All Seasons and Charlie Bubbles, as well as TV spin-off films Never Mind the Quality Feel the Width, Nearest and Dearest and Steptoe and Son Ride Again. She also appeared as a customer in the pilot episode of Open All Hours and in a ‘dark’ 1967 movie about a family of young children, entitled Our Mother’s House, which starred Dirk Bogarde.
However it was 1973 when she came to prominence when she was cast in the role of Mildred Roper, man-hungry wife of George Roper the landlord in the hit sitcom Man About The House which ran until 1976. The series told the story of two young women and a young man sharing the Ropers’ upstairs flat and the sexual tension and misunderstandings such living arrangements provide.
When that series came to it’s natural end a spin-off series was written for the characters of George and Mildred. This hit our screens the same year and saw the Ropers moving from the London house in Middleton Terrace which they had owned in the previous programme and into a newer suburban property in Peacock Crescent, Hampton Wick.
Much of the new series centred on Mildred’s desire to better herself in her new surroundings, but always being thwarted, usually unwittingly, by her lifeskills-lacking husband’s desire for a quiet life.
Yootha Joyce’s final television appearance was on Max Bygraves’ variety show, on 14 January 1981. She sang The Carpenters song, “For All We Know”.