Thora Hird

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Dame Thora Hird DBE (28 May 1911 – 15 March 2003) was an English actress.


Early life and career

Hird was born in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. She first appeared on stage at the age of two months old in a play her father was managing. Her family background was largely theatrical: her mother, Marie Mayor, had been an actress, while her father managed a number of entertainment venues in Morecambe, to include the Royalty Theatre where she made her first appearance, and the Central Pier. Thora often described her father as her sternest critic and attributed much of her talent as an actress and comedienne to his guidance. Although Hird left Morecambe in the late 1940s, she retained her affection for the town, referring to herself as a "sand grown'un", the colloquial term for anyone born in Morecambe.

Initially she made regular appearances in films, including the wartime propaganda film Went the Day Well? (1942, known as 48 Hours in the USA), in which she is shown wielding a rifle to defend a house from German paratroopers. She worked with the British film comedian Will Hay, and featured in The Entertainer (1960), which starred Laurence Olivier, and in A Kind of Loving (1962), with Alan Bates.

Thora Hird gained her highest profile in television comedy, notably the sitcoms Meet the Wife (1963-66), In Loving Memory (1979-86), Hallelujah 1983-1984), and for nearly two decades in Last of the Summer Wine (1986-2003). However, she played a variety of roles, including the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and won BAFTA Best Actress awards for her roles in two of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads monologues. She starred as Captain Emily Ridley in the sitcom Hallelujah! (1981-84) about the Salvation Army, a movement for which she had a soft spot throughout her life. Hird also portrayed Mrs Speck, the housekeeper of the Mayor of Gloucester in The Tailor of Gloucester (1989). She played the screen mother of Deric Longden in Wide Eyed and Legless (aka the Wedding Gift) and Lost For Words which won her a BAFTA for Best Actress.

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