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Olive Rita Webb, later known as Olive Rita Thompson, was an English character actress, mainly in comedy roles. She was the eldest child of Henry Augustus Webb (1880–1926) and Rose Jeannette Keysor.[2] She had a younger brother, Henry Richard Webb, also an actor, and two elder identical twin half-brothers, Leslie and Gordon Durlacher, from her mother's first marriage to Samuel Durlacher. She was the niece of Leonard Keysor, the first Jewish serviceman to win the Victoria Cross in the First World War. A half-brother was the actor George Webb.

Career[]

Born in Willesden, Middlesex, England, she is best known for her appearances as a stooge for Benny Hill in his long-running Thames Television series.[3] At under five feet tall, with a booming voice and dyed flame-red hair, she was often cast as a blowsey mother-in-law or Cockney type character.

Following her separation from her husband, she lived with Al Jeffery "Jeffie", an accomplished banjo player, whom she adored. She was called "Podge" by Jeffie and was proud that she still had all her own teeth. She signed her letters: "Dame Rita Webb" and refused to be on the TV show This is Your Life .[4] She and her brother were exceptionally close and they talked every night on the telephone until her death.

In the 1960s she made a number of television appearances with Billy Cotton and alongside Arthur Haynes. Her many other television credits include several appearances in Spike Milligan's Q series, Dixon of Dock Green, Till Death Us Do Part, Sykes, Up Pompeii! with Frankie Howerd, The Wednesday Play and Steptoe and Son. In the Space: 1999 episode "The Taybor" she appeared as a deliberately-unattractive form assumed by the shapeshifter Maya.

She also appeared in supporting roles in many films, including To Sir, with Love (1967), The Magic Christian (1969), Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972), Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975), and Come Play with Me (1977).[5]

In 1968 she appeared, in a cameo role, as a wrestling referee in the Dave Clark television production Hold On, It's the Dave Clark Five.

Rita Webb died in 1981, aged 77, from cancer. Her funeral was held at West London Crematorium and a memorial service took place at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, known as The Actors’ Church. She was survived by Jeffie, her brother Henry, and Henry's three children.[6]

Sources[]

  1. GRO Register of deaths: SEP 1981 15 1754 WESTMINSTER - Olive Rita Thompson, DoB = 25 Feb 1904
  2. "A Short Biography of Rita Webb". http://radiosoundsfamiliar.com/familiar-faces-rita-webb.php. 
  3. "Welcome to Rita's Bleedin' Webbsite!". ritawebb.co.uk. http://www.ritawebb.co.uk/tv70to79.htm. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  4. Who's On TV (ITV Books, 1980)
  5. "Rita Webb". BFI. http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b9fc2c0f9. 
  6. Wikipedia entry
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