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Prunella Scales

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Occupation  Actress
Height  1.61 m
Role  Actress

Name  Prunella Scales
Years active  1952-present
Spouse  Timothy West (m. 1963)
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Full Name  Prunella Margaret Rumney Illingworth
Born  22 June 1932 (age 83) (1932-06-22) Sutton Abinger, Surrey, England
Children  Samuel West, Joseph West, Juliet West
Parents  Catherine Scales, John Richardson Illingworth
Movies and TV shows  Fawlty Towers, Marriage Lines, Horrid Henry: The Movie, Howards End, Hobson's Choice
Similar People  Timothy West, Connie Booth, Samuel West, Andrew Sachs, John Cleese

Prunella scales

Prunella Scales CBE (born Prunella Margaret Rumney Illingworth; 22 June 1932) is an English actress best known for her role as Basil Fawlty's wife Sybil in the BBC comedy Fawlty Towers and her BAFTA award-nominated role as Queen Elizabeth II in A Question of Attribution (Screen One, BBC 1991) by Alan Bennett.


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Early life

Prunella Scales There is life after a dementia diagnosis Rebecca Ley

Scales was born in Sutton Abinger, Surrey, the daughter of Catherine (née Scales), an actress, and John Richardson Illingworth, a cotton salesman. She attended Moira House Girls School, Eastbourne.

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Scales' parents moved their family to Bucks Mill near Bideford in Devon in 1939 during World War II.


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Scales started her career in 1951 as an assistant stage manager at the Bristol Old Vic. Throughout her career, Scales has often been cast in comic roles. Her early work included the second UK adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1952), Hobson's Choice (1954), Room at the Top (1959) and Waltz of the Toreadors (1962).

Her career break came with the early 1960s sitcom Marriage Lines starring opposite Richard Briers. In addition to Fawlty Towers, she has had roles in BBC Radio 4 sitcoms, and comedy series including After Henry, Smelling of Roses and Ladies of Letters; on television she starred in the London Weekend Television/Channel 4 series Mapp & Lucia based on the novels by E. F. Benson. She played Queen Elizabeth II in Alan Bennett's A Question of Attribution.

In 1973, Scales was cast with Ronnie Barker in One Man's Meat which formed part of Barker's Seven of One series, also for the BBC. Her later film appearances include Escape from the Dark (1976), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978), The Boys From Brazil (1978), The Wicked Lady (1983), The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987), Stiff Upper Lips (1997), Howards End (1992) and Wolf (1994). For the BBC Television Shakespeare production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (1982) she played Mistress Page and the Theatre Night series (BBC) she appeared with her husband Timothy West in the Joe Orton farce What the Butler Saw (1987) playing Mrs Prentice.

For ten years, Prunella appeared with Jane Horrocks in advertisements for UK supermarket chain Tesco. In 1996, Scales starred in the television film, Lord of Misrule, alongside Richard Wilson, Emily Mortimer and Stephen Moyer. The film was directed by Guy Jenkins and filming took place in Fowey in Cornwall. In 1997, Scales starred in Chris Barfoot's science-fiction film short Phoenix which was first aired in 1999 by NBC Universal's Sci Fi Channel. Scales played 'The Client', an evil government minister funding inter-genetic time travel experiments. The same year she played Dr. Minny Stinkler in the comedy film Mad Cows, directed by Sara Sugarman.

In 2000 she appeared in the film The Ghost of Greville Lodge as Sarah. In 2003, she appeared as Hilda, "she who must be obeyed", wife of Horace Rumpole in four BBC Radio 4 plays, with Timothy West playing her fictional husband. Scales and West toured Australia at the same time in different productions. Scales appeared in a one-woman show called "An Evening with Queen Victoria", which also featured the tenor Ian Partridge singing songs written by Prince Albert.

Also in 2003, she voiced the speaking ("cawing") role of Magpie, the eponymous thief in a recording of Gioachino Rossini's opera La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie).

In 2006, she appeared alongside Academy Award winners Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell in the mini-series The Shell Seekers.

On 16 November 2007, Scales appeared in Children in Need, reprising her role as Sybil Fawlty, the new manager who wants to take over Hotel Babylon. She appeared in the audio play The Youth of Old Age, produced in 2008 by the Wireless Theatre Company, and available to download free of charge on their website. She appeared in a production of Carrie's War, the Nina Bawden novel, at the Apollo Theatre in 2009.

John Cleese said in an interview on 8 May 2009 that the role of Sybil Fawlty was originally offered to Bridget Turner, who turned down the part, claiming "it wasn't right for her".

She starred in the 2011 British live-action 3D family comedy film Horrid Henry: The Movie as the titular character's Great Aunt Greta.

Prunella Scales appeared in a short audio story, Dandruff Hits the Turtleneck, written by John Mayfield, and available for download.

She starred in a Virgin Short "Stranger Danger" alongside Roderick Cowie in 2012. In 2013 she made a guest appearance in the popular BBC radio comedy Cabin Pressure as Wendy Crieff, the mother of Captain Martin Crieff.

Alongside West, she has appeared in Great Canal Journeys for Channel 4. Stuart Heritage, writing for The Guardian in November 2016, commented that it "is ultimately a work about a devoted couple facing something huge together. It’s a beautiful, meditative programme".

Personal life

Prunella is married to the actor Timothy West, with whom she has two sons; the elder is actor and director Samuel West. She also has a step daughter, Juliet by husband Timothy West's first marriage.

Her biography, Prunella, written by Teresa Ransom, was published by John Murray in 2005.

She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1992 Birthday Honours List. Her husband Timothy West received the same honour in the 1984 Birthday Honours List.

Other activities

Scales is an ambassador of SOS Children's Villages charity. an international orphan charity providing homes and mothers for orphaned and abandoned children. She supports the charity's annual World Orphan Week campaign, which takes place each February.

Scales is a patron of the Lace Market Theatre in Nottingham.

In 2005, she named the P&O cruise ship, Artemis.

Later life

In January 2013, Scales told the Daily Mail that her short term memory was fading. In addition, she could not remember the year of birth of her two sons, nor when she married West. In March 2014, her husband told The Guardian that Scales was living with Alzheimer's disease. She and Timothy West discussed practical measures in a radio programme about age and dementia on BBC Radio 4 in December 2014. In August 2015, it was reported that Scales's condition had worsened considerably to the point that she can barely remember any of her fifty-three years of marriage to West.


Prunella Scales Wikipedia