Dave Matthews presents the Authorised Guide to

Joanna Lumley

Last updated : 6th April 1999

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Joanna Lumley she was born in Kashmir, India on 1st May 1946 where she spent her early life. On moving to England in her teens she took up ballet and then went on to modelling. Acting soon beckoned and one of her earliest opportunities was in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Sevice. The miniscule part she played in this did not reap many rewards, though small roles in a few horror films ensued in the early seventies. She married comedy writer Jeremy Lloyd in 1971 but sadly the marriage did not last long. A short stint in the eternally-popular soap Coronation Street followed plus occasional appearances in the pompous, self-satisfied 'celebrity' gameshow Call My Bluff. But acting opportunities were running out and Jo seriously considered taking herself and her young son to the USA.

Then, at the end of 1975, came the announcement that a new series of The Avengers was going into production and that the search was on for a new girl to partner Patrick Macnee’s John Steed. Speak to Jo and she'll tell you that she had a desperate fight just to get an audition, so was absolutely delighted at the news that she had won the role of Purdey. Although The New Avengers never attained the popularity of its forebear, it nevertheless led to Jo becoming recognised. While waiting to hear about a proposed third New Avengers series in 1979, Jo was asked by Midlands-based ATV to star in a new television series they were considering. Sapphire and Steel was (and remains) one of the strangest, yet fascinating television series ever. It concerned two superbeings (though outwardly human) with extraordinary powers to turn back time, open locked doors, predict the future or determine the age of an object. The premise to the series was that Time was a malevolent force, continually trying to harm mankind. Sapphire and Steel (Joanna and David McCallum respectively) were agents (or 'elements') sent to counteract Time's actions. Six serials were filmed between 1979 and 1982 and there are often murmurings of a revival.

Several movies throughout the 1980's followed, including the two controversial Pink Panther films and she made regular appearances as co-presenter (with Terry Wogan) on the BBC's annual charity programme Children in Need.

However lead roles were becoming hard to secure, though she played opposite Ian McShane in one season of the popular Lovejoy in 1992.

To many Joanna's "comeback" was with the Jennifer Saunders sitcom Absolutely Fabulous where she played Patsy Stone, an eternally-enebriated, domineering and shallow 'fashion advisor', recognising that she is aging, desperately tries to hold on to her youth by sporting a beehive and an eye for younger men. Unfortunately as the show progressed into its second season it never seemed half as funny as it thought it was and relied more on the foibles of the characters than the actual scripts. Many people hailed AbFab as the 'resurrection' of Jo's career but this is unkind as she has never really been out of the limelight.

One other worthy mention is that of her appearance on the first edition of Ruby Wax's show The Full Wax. This included a ten-minute sketch where the two women played themselves. Ruby rescued Jo from a 'drying-out' clinic and the two went off to see various TV producers in the hope of finding Jo a job. To demonstrate her acting skills, Jo donned her Purdey gear and went through a routine of the familiar balletic fighting techniques while Ruby played the New Avengers theme on a cheapo tape recorder. Just hilarious! And far from mocking the show which made her famous, in some way it was actually a tribute to it. Like Gareth Hunt, Jo has always readily admitted the stardom The New Avengers brought her and often recalls how much she enjoyed making the show. To this day Jo remains one of the most popular faces on British television.

Very many thanks to Ashley Brooks for much info concerning Jo’s filmography! Also to a chap called Mark who didn't leave his surname!

Year Film or TV Show title and country Character Comments
1968Some Girls Do (Film, UK)?Just three words and then she gets blown up!!
1969On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Film, UK)English girlBlink and you'll miss her!
1969Morecambe and Wise (TV, UK)-Well according to the IMDB, she starred in this long-running series from the great comedy duo. Must admit I’m a little surprised by this given the date – perhaps she actually starred in it many years later?
1970The House that Dripped Blood (Film, UK)?Good old Hammer shocker. This is an anthology of four short films all centred around an old, empty house. Not certain whether Jo is actually in this film, though.
1970Games Lovers Play (Film, UK – aka ‘Two Girls’)Fanny HillAlso stars Joanna’s future husband Jeremy Lloyd, though the couple divorced before long.
1971Tam Lin (Film, UK – aka The Devil's Widow or The Devil's Woman)GeorgiaJo had a minor part in this film which also starred Ava Gardner and Stephanie Beacham. According to Jo herself, the film was never released.
1971The Breaking of Bumbo (Film, UK)SusieJoanna plays an anti-war demonstrator who has an affair with the eponymous Bumbo Bailey, a young officer in the Brigade of Guards. The film was never given a general release.
1972Steptoe and Son episode 'Loathe Story' (TV, UK)Bunty Kennington-StroudClassic sitcom. Joanna played Harold’s upper-class girlfriend!
1973The Satanic Rites of Dracula (Film, UK)Jessica van HelsingAnother Hammer horror for all us Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee.... and Joanna Lumley... fans!
1973Don't Just Lie There, Say Something (Film , UK)Miss ParkynBrian Rix farce adapted from the reasonably successful stageplay. Stars Rix himself along with Leslie Philips, Derek Griffiths and Doctor Who screamer Katy Manning and levelled at the Carry On audience.
1973Coronation Street (TV, UK)Elaine PerkinsJoanna starred in roughly eight episodes as one in a long, unfortunate line of Ken Barlow’s girlfriends. She was sporting long hair at the time, which was how she was supposed to look for The New Avengers!
1973Are You Being Served? episode ‘His and Hers’(TV sitcom, UK)?Joanna played a sexy sales rep in this episode of the fondly-remembered, long-running sitcom (which now appears to have acquired cult status in the USA!?!). “Glass of water for Mr Grainger, please!”
1974Call My Bluff (TV quiz, UK)-How Joanna got involved in this wretched programme, I don't know (see above comments!).
1975Are You Being Served? episode ‘German Week’(TV sitcom, UK)?Considering her major role in the earlier AYBS episode, it’s a bit odd that in this one (playing a German customer) she has little more than a cameo part.
1976The Cuckoo Waltz (TV sitcom, UK)HarrietOne-off guest appearance alongside soon-to-be-Professionals star Lewis Collins. Filmed just prior to the New Avengers starting production and Jo still sporting long hair. Well worth tracking down for fans of JL!
1976Christmas Supersonic (TV, UK)-As far as I remember, this rival to the BBC's Top of the Pops was only shown in a few southern ITV regions - the other regional companies preferring to produce their own music shows. This Christmas special was presented by Jo with, for some bizarre reason, chat-show host Russell Harty.
1979The Plank (Film, UK)The HitchhikerCult silent comedy featuring a whole showcase of Brit comedy stars.
1979Sapphire and Steel (TV, UK)SapphireSee above comments.
1980An Audience with Dame Edna Everage (TV, UK)-This was the first in a series of shows (still being made today) where famous comedians would host a one-person show in which much of the comedy was 'improvised' by questions being thrown at them by members of an audience made up from celebrities.
1982The Trail of the Pink Panther (Film, UK)Marie JouvetPeter Sellers had died in 1980 and this film was made up of scenes from previous Panther films plus other unused footage spliced with new material. However, it seems this was done without the permission of Sellers' family and a legal battle ensued....
1983Curse of the Pink Panther (Film, UK)Countess ChandraWhatever happened (and I can’t remember!) with ‘Trail of...’ (perhaps it should have been ‘Trial of’?!) it obviously did not prevent this further, though final, Panther film. Anyway, Ashley recommends the mudbath scene! Oooh, errr, missus!
1984Alas Smith and Jones (TV, UK)-Popular comedy sketch series. Throughout this first season various people would leap in front of the camera and announce “Hello – I’m Joanna Lumley”. In the final show it really was Jo: “Hello – I’m Joanna Lumley. And I’m suing!”.
1984Weather in the Streets (Film, UK)KateRomantic fare.
1984Mistral’s Daughter (TV, UK & France)Lally LongridgeRomantic melodrama. Stars Stacy Keach (just after his spell in jail) and Stefanie Powers.
1984The Glory Boys (TV, UK)HelenA three-part action thriller with a terrorist plot. Stars Rod Steiger and Anthony Perkins.
1989Shirley Valentine (Film, UK)MarjorieMuch-admired film about middle-aged Scouse housewife (Pauline Collins) desperate to escape her dull domestic life and husband. Joanna in a cameo here, playing a high-society hooker who was a class-mate of Shirley's and admired her rebellious tendencies. (Many thanks to Tina Steiner for the reminder!)
1990A Ghost in Monte Carlo (TV movie, UK)Lady DraytonMore like an Avengers reunion! Also present are Gareth Hunt, Lew Collins and the music is provided by Laurie Johnson.
1990The Full Wax (TV, UK)-See biog info above.
1992A Perfect Hero (TV mini-series, UK)Loretta StoneWar-time drama from London Weekend Television. I’ve not seen this.
1992Lovejoy (TV, UK)Victoria CaveroPopular drama series with Ian McShane as the seen-it-all antiques dealer. Jo featured in the several episodes.
1993Absolutely Fabulous (TV, UK)Patsy StoneJoanna will probably be remembered for this role even more than The New Avengers. In one episode we get a flashback to the mid-seventies and see Patsy looking remarkably similar to our beloved Purdey!
1993Cluedo (TV gameshow, UK)Miss PeacockTV panel show based on the boardgame.
1994Class Act (TV, UK)Kate SwiftReasonably successful (in the UK, anyway) but short-lived comedy drama about a mis-matched trio of friends with Joanna as a down-on-her-luck wife of a disappeared fraudster.
1994Girl Friday (TV, UK)-Documentary of Joanna’s experiences as a voluntary castaway on a desert/ed island in the Indian Ocean, where she had to fend for herself for 9 days. This was not as idyllic as it sounded as the weather was not exactly kind to her! Spin-off book published. Jo picking some fruit: “They don't look like this in Sainsbury’s!”
1995The Forgotten Toys (TV, UK)voice onlyAnimated film, I think.
1995Halcyon Days (Film, UK and France – aka Innocent Lies)Lady Helena GravesSet in France just prior to World War Two. The film failed to attract much support.
1995Cold Comfort Farm (TV movie, UK)Mrs SmilingUpper-class townie decides to discover the joys of country living when she goes to stay at her relatives' farm..... where everybody is barking mad.
1996Roseanne episode ‘Satan, Darling’ (TV, USA)Patsy StoneA pre-cursor to the US attempt at Absolutely Fabulous
1996Kingdom of the Lost Boy (TV, UK)-Jo narrates the story behind Panchen Lama, the world’s youngest political prisoner. (Many thanks to Julia Milton!)
1996James and the Giant Peach (Film, UK and USA)Aunt SpikerRoald Dahl children's adventure.
1997Parting Shots (Film, UK)Fred (according to IMDB!)Diana Rigg and Gareth Hunt co-starred. This Michael Winner film hasn’t been officially released yet – possibly because The Observer said it was one of the worst British films ever and apparently even Di is hoping it sinks without trace!
1997Prince Valiant (Film, Germany)Morgana Le FeyMedieval adventure.
1997Ruby (TV, UK)-Assembly of well-known Brit actors for this Ruby Wax series.
1997The Mrs Merton Show (TV, UK)-This is a popular comedy chat show with the “novelty” of the elderly host is actually the thirty-something comedienne Caroline Aherne.
1997Kingdom of the Thunderdragon (TV, UK)-Travel-doc through the little-known country of Bhutan as Jo attempts to follow the route taken by her grandparents during the 1930’s. (Thanks to Mark Smith)
1997All Talk (TV, UK)-Another chat show interview – this time hosted by comedy-writer Clive Anderson. A member of the audience asked Jo if she had been asked to appear in the Avengers film, to which she replied "Oh, yes. But I'm far too busy and FAR too expensive!!"
1998The Tale of Sweeney Todd (Film, Ireland)Mrs LovettHas been aired in the US but yet to be seen in the UK.
1998A Rather English Marriage (TV, UK)Lizzie FranksNo details as yet.
1998Coming Home (TV, UK)Diana Carey-LewisTwo-part romantic wartime fare from the BBC. Sorry, can't comment as I didn't see it.
1999Nancherrow (TV, UK)Diana Carey-LewisAlso starring Patrick Macnee – the first time they have worked together since The New Avengers, I believe. This is a sequel to the above-mentioned Coming Home, moving on into the 1950’s. To be honest I found it all utterly soporific but just managed to stay awake just long enough to see Pat's one and only scene (with, as it happened, Jo).
1999Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death (TV, UK)The DoctorA Comic Relief spoof of the classic series with one rather worrying aspect for fans: the sketch shows the Doctor transforming several times, with Jo being the thirteenth actor to play the role (prior to her we saw Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant). Now if I remember correctly the Doctor could only transform 13 times so does this provide the BBC with the perfect excuse to kill off any plans to revive the series?
1999Mad Cows (Film, UK)?Aparently this is a black comedy about a single mother's battle with postnatal depression. Should be released in late spring 1999.

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