Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Whatever Happened To ... Judith Furse?


I've been blogging about some of the less well known but nevertheless still significant actors involved in the Carry On films. When we think of Carry On actors we think of the likes of Kenneth Williams, Sid James or Barbara Windsor. However the films always boasted a wide range of top quality British supporting players who were instantly recognisable but often never got the recognition they deserved. 

So far I've written about Marianne Stone, Esma Cannon, Carol Hawkins, June Jago, Peter Gilmore and most recently, Michael Nightingale. Today I'm going to look at an actress best known for playing a series of fearsome battle axes in British film - Judith Furse.

Judith Furse played supporting roles in three Carry On films. She first appeared as the school headmistress who has an altercation with a confused Kenneth Williams during one of the many mix ups in Carry On Regardless. We next saw Judith in Carry On Cabby two years later. In Cabby Judith played an outraged passenger in the back of Sid James' taxi. She overhears a conversation between Sid and wife Hattie Jacques, jumps to the wrong conclusions and causes a right old stink!



Perhaps Judith's most memorable Carry On was her final appearance with the team in 1964. Dr Crow was the evil head of S.T.E.N.C.H, the organisation trying to bring down the British Secret Service in Carry On Spying. Despite her best efforts, Dr Crow comes up against the combined talents of Kenneth Williams, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Cribbins and Charles Hawtrey. She never had a chance! I love the scenes where Dr Crow attempts to brainwash Barbara's character, Daphne Honeybutt. Brilliant stuff. Did you know that the voice of Dr Crow was provided not by Judith, but by actor John Bluthal? Bluthal himself had a role in Spying as well as cropping up in Follow That Camel and Henry. 



Sadly that was all we saw of Judith Furse in the Carry Ons. So what else did she get up to in her career? She worked again for Rogers and Thomas in The Iron Maiden, released in 1962. She also had supporting roles in a host of other classic British comedy films of the era, including: Blue Murder At St. Trinian's, In The Doghouse, Mother Riley Meets The Vampire and A Weekend With Lulu. She also appeared in classic films such as Goodbye Mister Chips (with Greer Garson and Robert Donat), The Browning Version (with Michael Redgrave) and The Man In The White Suit (with Alec Guinness). In 1947 she starred alongside Deborah Kerr and Flora Robson as Sister Briony in the classic film Black Narcissus. 



On television she appeared in the likes of Dixon Of Dock Green, The Rag Trade, The World of Wooster and Pardon The Expression. Judith's career dated back to 1938, her first appearance being in an early television play called Goodness, How Sad, directed by Tyrone Gutherie. She made her last screen appearance in 1972 in the Barry Humphries' scripted film The Adventures of Barry McKenzie. 

So what else do we know about Judith Furse? She was born in Surrey in March 1912. She trained at the Old Vic in the early 1930s and spent the next decade learning her craft in various stage productions before making her first screen appearances just before the Second World War. Sadly very little is known about Judith's life away from acting. I did find one page which focussed on her role in the classic Black Narcissus - it is worth a read here



Sadly Judith Furse passed away at the relatively young age of 62 in 1974. If anyone has any further information about Judith, please do get in touch.




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