If the Sixties were a golden decade for dramatic parts, the Seventies would be dominated by comedic performances. And although she would appear in dramatic parts every so often, it is this decade that she will be mostly remembered as a comedy actress.It was on "The Benny Hill Show" that most people will remember Rita Webb. Benny put her to good use in his shows in many diverse sketches. She adored working with him and the show was a hit all over the world! And Rita Webb as one of its semi-regulars was an audience favourite.
Spike Milligan was another Comedienne Rita had the good fortune of working with. She featured in many of the "Q" series as well as "Oh in Colour" and "The Melting Pot". In a sketch in "Q7" while Spike is burgling her house, she is given a letter telling her it was commissioned by the Queen. Rita excitedly cries "Oh your Majesty! What a great honour to be done by her. Tell me the whole story so I can flog it to the Daily Mirror"
Another "Til Death Us Do Part" came her way in 1972. This time she played the part of a hotel landlady which was quite reminiscent of the character "Kath" in Joe Orton's "Entertaining Mr Sloane". Given the chance she would have done an excellent job in that play! Donning a blonde wig and speaking in a posh accent she holds court behind the bar as Norman Bird (as her silently suffering husband), Dandy Nichols, and Una Stubbs silently look on, Rita queens it up saying.”He knows what he wants alright. He told me straight out he did! 'I want something large' he said. 'Not little' I like you just as you are, he said. Oh he wouldn't let me slim you know. Oh he wouldn't let me take a pound off. He'd leave me if I did. Well I suppose most men are like that really. They like something they can get hold of. They like a woman to be a woman! Not like that Twiggy. Oh I do feel sorry for her. Poor girl such a sexless thing (laughs nervously) Oh he won't leave me alone you know. And he's ever so jealous of poochie here (strokes her pet dog on the bar). Poochie sleeps between us you see. And some nights, when he starts, poochie naps at him! That dampens his arder. Well I mean to say there are some nights when you want to be left alone, aren't there?".
Other "Til Deaths" followed. In the "Demon Drink" episode Rita plays Adrienne Posta's mum and celebrates her birthday down the local pub. Her daughter who is a prostitute as bought her a fur coat. Rita proudly says "She's a good girl. She bought me this (strokes her new fur coat) Might be immoral what she does, I mean some might not approve. But it's only toffs she goes with. Real Gentlemen some of them and very respectable all of them! She wouldn't go with them otherwise."
Rita's final "Til Death" was in 1975 playing one of her now familiar "Old Bags" she calls Warren Mitchell's Alf Garnett a” Bloody for-eyed little thief" shouts at Patricia Hayes "What's it gotta do with you? Yer nosey old cow!".
But by far the funniest lines come between Rita and Felix Bowness's "Gay" character. After Felix asks Alf about the Christmas money so he can buy his boyfriend a present, Rita shouts "This place has gone right bleedin' down innit! Used to be a decent pub once. Full of 'Bloody Queers!' now. Won't be safe for a woman to go into soon". Felix shouts back at her "Anywhere should be safe for you to go into dear. Blimey if you were the only women alive, I'd still prefer Mr Garnett!" he goose’s Alf as everybody in the pub laugh.
Rita as "Potty ada" in "Steptoe and Son"
Another classic performance came in 1972 as she appeared once more on "Steptoe and Son" in an episode titled "Oh what a beautiful mourning" Rita as "Potty Ada" flounces into the room shouting the odds "Ah caughtcha! Yer was bleedin' well going off without me wasn't yer?" a relative replies "No Ada dear we were not going without you" Rita undeterred "Yes yer bleedin' well was!"he snaps back at her "No we were not Ada and this is a funeral and we don't want any swearing" Rita raises her voice and shouts "Call that bleedin' swearing! Wait til I get to the cemetery!".She shrugs her shoulders as Mollie Sugden shouts "Well if she's going, see she's got her knickers on". Rita spits back "I've got me drawers on don't you worry" (and lifts up her skirt to prove it!) adding "They don't come off as often as yours!" Mollie's shocked reply fires back "What do you mean by that?" and Rita with venom spits back "What do I mean? You had a lovely bleedin' war didn't ya, all them Canadians!" the two get hustled out of the house as they carry on shouting at each other.
On the dramatic front Rita had a beefy part in an episode of BBC's series "Churchill's People" playing alongside her good friend Arthur Mullard as she had done so many times before.
The part of "Mrs Trundle" showed what Rita Webb 'The Actress' was capable of. Rita's "Trundle" holds court as she says "It's a hazard of the profession as Mr Scrape should know that a lady of the town sometimes finds herself with child. And I think it only right that her protectors grant her three months lying in. Diet and lodging at one pound a week. Twelve pound a nurse for the month and the use of linen two pounds. A minister for the christening two pounds, the christening supper three pounds and for the disposal of the child another five! And one pound, for the serving maid. Twenty-five pound sir!" among the cast was Tom Conti in the starring role.
Rita's final performance in the long running BBC drama "Dixon of Dock Green" came in 1972 playing the part of "Ada Barnes" in an episode called "Ada". The actor "Peter Byrne" told me "I didn't know Rita socially, only through her numerous appearances on 'Dixon of Dock Green' but she was a fine versatile actress and much loved in the profession, not just for her undoubted talent. But for her rich use of Anglo-Saxon expletives! Her usual greeting was "Allo Darlin', how the F..K are you." She was a throw back to the days when we were classed as Rogues and Vagabonds-what a pro!
Rita also appeared in the hospital drama "Angels" as the chirpy "Mrs White". In one scene a nurse comes to give her a bed bath. Rita quips "Oh no not again, honestly you nurses are fanatics for cleanliness! I only had one of those bed baths yesterday. Now I ask yer, how could I have got dirty since then just lying ere?" the young nurse nervously goes to the trolley as Rita gives her a kindly word "Listen ducks I'm a tough old girl, yer can't hurt me"
one of the best scenes comes when she rushes up to "Sister Young" (Nadia Cattouse) enthusiastically reminiscing she says "Ere Sister, do you remember 'make do and mend' during the war? They were great days wasn't they? Well you know sheets were rationed, and ours were full of holes! So I pinched my husbands enormous 'Union Jack' for a top sheet. He was livid, 'it's a sacrilege' he said, you know him being British Legion an all. 'Never mind about that! I says, we'll be safe under the flag! And I can't tell yer what he said in reply! But I went short!!" she shuffles away in her pink quilted dressing gown cackling with laughter!
"Sykes" was another show Rita appeared on several times. She played a traffic warden in one episode, marching up to Eric Sykes with pad in hand saying "Who's a naughty boy then?" Eric cheekily replies "Is he a naughty boy" Rita quips "Your a naughty boy, and don't start. I've heard it all before. You're a doctor; you've run out of petrol, you've fainted. And I’m the spitting image of Elizabeth Taylor!" after much banter she comes unstuck when the car she is giving Eric grief over, isn't even his, as it drives off Rita quips "I hate this job, I should have carried on with me modelling"
In another episode "Holiday in Bogsea" Rita is the posh spoken, rule obsessed hotel owner 'Mrs Butterworth' .When Richard Wattis asks about the bathroom Rita replies "You may use it freely, except when the weather is fine, then I prefer you to go down the yard" Wattis replies "I mean a bath" and Rita in true Edith Evan's "Lady Bracknell" style snaps "A Bath! When do you require one?"
Another "Sykes" episode "Commercial" had Rita cast as "Miss Applerod" who owned a drama school. When Eric makes a visit to her school, she introduces herself where by he repeats her name and she replies "Ah you recognise me, ah the penalty of fame. I really must get myself some dark glasses"
Rita as Slatternly Woman in"Space 1999" (1976)
Space 1999" gave Rita a rare chance to do sci-fi when The character "Maya" (Catherine Schell) changes herself into an 'ugly old hag' to free herself from the hideous looking "Taybor" (Willoughby Goodard) who has locked his "thing of beauty" behind glass forever! As Maya changes we first see Rita as "The Slatternly Woman" as the camera closes in on Catherine Scehell's eyes, the glass shatters and Catherine has turned into Rita who starts to cackle. Taybor is horrified at the site before him. Rita follows him around the space ship telling him in a cackling voice "I have locked myself in this form and will stay with you forever!" Taybor tries not to look at her hideous face as she says "Taybor you know everything about hyper space, but you know nothing about inner space. I will be the judge of where I want to be! And I want to be back on Alpha!" Taybor begs her to change back and stay. Cunningly she says "Alright Taybor I will stay with you. It will be your pleasure to look at me in this form, a female reflection of yourself, forever!" The thought of living with the "Old Hag" instead of the beautiful "Maya" destroys him and the scene ends.
Rita and John Inman in a scene from "Odd Man Out"
As the Seventies drew to a close Rita made a fleeting but memorable appearance in the 1979 adaptation of"Quatermass", starring John Mills. Rita is seen briefly as a charm seller, With the Skeleton of 'Gut Sucker' hanging by her side she rants "This is 'Gut Sucker’; Killed at the battle of Cat wick camp and his power has never left him. Every one of these envelopes contains the magic of 'Gut Sucker', never known to fail”. She may only have had seconds of screen time, but the viewer never forgot her and this was the power of her performances. Once seen, however briefly, it was hard to forget Rita Webb!
Rita & "Gut Sucker" in Quatermass-1979
70's TV Listings
The Benny Hill Show-04.02.70, Thames
Going For a Song-03.02.70 (recorded), BBC, Bristol, as Customer
Omnibus: Dance Of The Seven Veils-15/02/70 as Salome, BBC
As Good Cooks Go:Frying Squad-18.02.70, as Rita Hachet, BBC
The Norman Wisdom Show-1970
The Jimmy Tarbuck Show-1970, ATV
Oh In Colour-11.10.70, BBC2
Oh In Colour-18.10.70, BBC2
Oh In Colour-25.10.70, BBC2
The Benny Hill Show-27.01.71, Thames
Des O'Connor Show-24.07.71, ATV
Never Mind The Quality Feel The Width: Holiday With Kosher Strings-17.08.71, Thames
The Dick Emery Show-01/01/72 (rec 25.11.71) BBC
The Benny Hill Show-22.12.71, Thames
Steptoe And Son: Oh What A Beautiful Mourning-06.03.72,BBC
Place In The Sun-1972, LWT
Opportunity Knocks: The Script writers Chart Show-24.04.72 as Mrs Bouquet (News at 25-1)
Til Death Us Do Part: Holiday In Bournemouth -27.09.72,as Hotel Owner, BBC
Dixon Of Dock Green:Ada-16.12.72, as Ada Barnes BBC1
Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game-13.09.73 (recorde), BBC
A Speight Of Marty-05.08.73, BBC, Marty's Mum
Sykes: Uniform-12.11.73,as Traffic Warden, BBC
Ready Freddie Starr-16.02.74, LWT
Stars In The West-Bristol-1974
The Last Turkey In The Shop Show-23.12.74, BBC2,
Til Death Us Do Part: The Demon Drink- 12.02.74, as Rita, BBC
Sykes: Holiday In Bogsea-24.10.74, as B&B owner, BBC
The End Of The Pier Show: Not Quiet Right Upstairs-24.11.74 BBC2, Musical comedy
Comedy Playhouse: The Melting Pot-17/01/75 as Charlady
Love Thy Neighbour-30/01/75, as Lady Grizelda. Thames
Til Death Us Do Part: Christmas Club Books-05/02/75, as woman in pub, BBC1
Churchill's People: The Fine Art Of Bubble Blowing-12.05.75, BBC1, as Mrs Trundle
Keep Britain Slim-05.06.75, as Guest, Thames
The Melting Pot: Episode 1-11.06.75, BBC2
The Melting Pot: Episode 4-1975 (Unaired)
The Melting Pot: Episode 5-1975 (Unaired)
Shades Of Greene: Special Duties-23.09.75, Thames, as Landlady
Sykes: Commercial-24.10.75, as Mrs Appleyard, BBC
Q6-20.11.75, Sketch, BBC
Angels: Linda-24.11.75, as Mrs White, BBC1
Angels:Confrontations-01.12.75, as Mrs White, BBC1
Hughie`s Full House-28.04.76, Thames
Space 1999-EP: The Taybor-05.11.76, as Slatternly Women
The Benny Hill Show-26.01.77, Thames, featuring The Sum Television Awards Sketch
The Benny Hill Show-23.02.77, Thames
The Benny Hill Show-23.03.77, Thames
Rudy Schokker Cries No More 31/03/77 Voice for English version BBC2
The Benny Hill Show-02.11.77, Thames
Odd Man Out: Shall We dance?-17.11.77, Neville's mistaken blind date. Thames
This Is Your Life: Nicholas Parsons-01.03.78, Thames
Mind Your Language: How's Your Father-17.03.78, as Lil, LWT.
Bruce's Big Night Out: Show 10-09.12.78, LWT
Enid Blyton's Famous Five: Five Have A Wonderful Time-31.12.78, Mrs alfredo, Southern
The Ken Dodd Laughter Show-15.01.79
The Ken Dodd Laughter Show-29.01.79
The Ken Dodd Laughter Show-05.02.79
The Ken Dodd Laughter Show-12.02.79, Romantic mood Sketch
3-2-1: Merrie England-24.10.79, YTV, Rita Webb & Norman Wisdom
Quatermass: EP1: Ring stone Round-31.10.79 as Charm Seller
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