|Subject: Re: 'I'm not a dreary cow' - Sheila Hancock
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Date Posted: Thursday, December 04, 03:28:41am
In reply to:
's message, "'I'm not a dreary cow' - Sheila Hancock" on Saturday, November 29, 09:55:38am
Thanks very much Leila. What an interesting idea - asking Sheila to read all these articles about her and then comment. Could be a bit daunting reading what all these strangers have written about you. Anyway as usual Sheila has come up with some interesting insights.
I told Janet about your article and she'll have a look when she can.
>I have just found this aritcle on the The Guardian,
>website, basicly the took Sheila into a room filled
>with clippings of her life and asked her to write an
>article. there is a film on the website for people who
>can access it.
>'I'm not a dreary cow'
>How does it feel to look back at your life through the
>eyes of others? We invited the actor Sheila Hancock -
>who never reads her own press - to look through the
>newspaper cuttings of her life and gave her the chance
>to set the record straight
>I always made it my business not to look at my
>newspaper cuttings, so it's a bit of a shock walking
>into a room full of them. On the whole, I think
>journalists have been kind about me, but they do make
>me sound a bit of a dreary cow. There seems to be so
>much suffering in my life. Right from the start, the
>focus is all death.
>In 1971, my mother died of cancer and within a year my
>first husband Alec Ross died, also from cancer. Of
>course, it was a terrible time for me, and it did
>change me. I lost my religion, for one thing. As a
>child, I was deeply religious and went to church every
>Sunday. But after mum and Alec died, I got really
>bored with talking about the love of God and I
>thought, I can't be bothered. I was no longer
>interested in who caused it and why did it happen, I
>just thought, if somebody's suffering, let's do
>something about it, and if I'm suffering I should pull
>myself together rather than thinking somebody up there
>is going to help me. So I became a humanist and later
>on I became a Quaker.
>In 2002, my second husband John Thaw died of cancer of
>the oesophagus, just as Alec had done, and there I was
>on the suffering treadmill again. Poor Old Sheila,
>Tragic Widow, that kind of thing. Some of the
>headlines right from the start are so sober and pious.
>And yes, I felt awful, and I felt sorry for myself and
>I missed John terribly, but that is certainly not all
>of me. All the time, I've been working and doing shows
>- and having fun a lot of the time. I suppose I have
>always had a sense of duty, and wanted to help people,
>but I'm much larkier in real life than my cuts
>suggest. There's a dreadful headline from one
>interview - "She tells the desolate that all things
>are possible; that things might become better." I
>sound like Mother Teresa. I've never been as nice or
>as selfless as that.
>In lot of ways, I've been selfish. There's a Relative
>Values I did with my daughter Ellie-Jane in the Sunday
>Times, and she gets it just about right. She says,
>"Because she's such an old cow she wants to interfere
>with everything; if there's something going on she
>wants to do it. Like writing. So now she's writing and
>she hasn't just stopped with writing a book; now she's
>decided she wants to write for television so she goes
>on a course for television writers." It's true, and my
>children suffered for that. I was always going off on
>something, and they were neglected. It's not that I
>actually left them, but I did do my own thing a lot.
>Then again, I had to make a living. John started to
>make money eventually, but at the beginning of The
>Sweeney I was still earning a great deal more than him
>through musicals such as Annie, but the children were
>battered around a lot by our relationship and careers
>- metaphorically, that is. There's another headline
>from Ellie-Jane saying, "I despised my mum when I was
>a teenager." And we certainly did have our problems. I
>remember telling her that I loved her but didn't like
>her. But that's the past. These days I get on great
>with all three girls.
>When John and I married, it was before The Sweeney and
>he wasn't very well known. We got a copy of Who's Who
>and John looked up Sheila Hancock and there was a bit
>about me and then he looked himself up and it said:
>"John Thaw, see Sheila Hancock." He was so furious.
>But I always knew he would be successful, and that was
>important to me. My first husband Alec was a very
>good-looking man, but by the time he came out of the
>war, his sort of acting was no longer in demand -
>although he was a working-class boy, he was actually
>very good at suave handsome-men parts. I began to get
>successful when he was out of fashion; it was agony to
>watch him. He never said anything about it, and he
>wasn't jealous, but I couldn't really enjoy my success
>because I would say, "No, I'm sorry, I've got to go
>and see my husband," because I didn't want to be out
>drinking champagne when he was at home.
>There's a quote from John that I had never seen until
>today. "The best thing I ever bought for five quid."
>He's talking about me. Well, the marriage certificate.
>Cheeky sod. He could be fierce, but on the whole he
>was a gentle soul.
>So much has been written about our relationship. A
>fair bit of it by me. The only reason I wrote the book
>The Two of Us was because I received a letter from
>somebody saying they were going to write a
>warts-and-all biography exposing him as an alcoholic.
>I thought if I wrote an honest book about him and me,
>nobody would want to publish a hatchet job from an
>outsider. And it turned out that way.
>In the late 1980s I got cancer, and thankfully
>recovered. We were in the news again. The thing is, I
>can't keep my trap shut. If somebody interviews me I
>tell the truth. I'm not very good at dissembling.
>There was a tabloid headline from 1995, "John and I
>split up when I had cancer - now we know we could
>never live apart ..." At that period, John was
>drinking quite heavily and our marriage was very dodgy
>and we were constantly splitting up and then coming
>back together again. I tried to pretend that things
>were fine, but didn't make much of a job of it. We
>gave interviews pretending that we were together and
>the minute the journalists left I probably said: "I'm
>off, I'm off, I'm leaving you and I'm not coming
>back." It was a very tempestuous relationship. And I
>really miss that.
>My career started off in revues and theatre, and on
>the whole the critics were kind. Funnily enough, the
>nastiest review I ever received was when I was in a
>play with John before we got together called So What
>About love? It was the worst he received, too. There
>was a famous critic called Harold Hobson and he came
>to see it and the review for me was, "She is
>unbearable to the eye and unendurable to the ear," and
>John's review was, "I dreaded his every entrance." We
>used to quote it to one another if ever we got a bit
>uppity; I'd say, I dread your every entrance.
>Looking through my cuts, one thing is pretty obvious -
>journalists are more interested in my life than in my
>work. Maybe that's a bit sad, but then again it does
>get boring when actors go on and on about their method
>What amazes me is that, at 75, I'm still working
>regularly. Last year I was in Cabaret, and I recently
>played the batty seaside landlady in Harold Pinter's
>The Birthday Party. Early in my career I did a lot of
>comedy, and that was great. Then the roles became a
>bit serious. Perhaps that is to do with how I was
>perceived - tragic, serious Sheila again. I loved
>being the sister of Catherine Tate's foul-mouthed Gran
>in her TV sketch show.
>These days, I rarely survive a play. I always play old
>ladies, most of them on their last legs. It pisses me
>off a bit. On stage, I could get away with playing
>quite a bit younger with makeup and good lighting.
>But there's always been one rule for men and another
>for women in the acting world. In sitcoms
>particularly, wives are always much younger than the
>actors who play the husbands. At one point I was told
>I was too old to play John's wife in A Year In
>Provence. True, I was 10 years older than him, but I
>didn't look it.
>Looking back through the decades, I find the old
>pictures of me interesting. I never watch myself in
>things because I always think I look so hideous - I've
>never ever seen myself on TV or in movies. But now I
>think, what a shame because I wasn't that bad looking,
>I was quite nice, and yet like all women I was hung up
>about my appearance. I really did have quite a good
>I think I was always a great appreciator of female
>beauty - if not my own. In one of the newspaper
>cuttings, I said, "Apart from John, I would rather
>spend time with another woman than a man. Apart from
>the fact that I need men for sex, I could easily have
>been a lesbian." I think that's true, I do very much
>like women. But it is a rather unfortunate way of
>saying it - as if men were walking dildos. Maybe I
>didn't say it quite like that at the time, but I
>probably did. It comes across as rather ruthless.
>Personality wise, I don't think I'm much changed over
>the years. I'm still as curious and willing to change
>my mind as ever. That's why I find all the old
>interviews with me a bit disturbing, because I read an
>article where I've said something and think, "What? I
>don't think that! What the hell did I say that for?"
>Women of my mother's generation grew old quietly and
>uncomplainingly. But I do think this is changing. The
>generation that are going to be old now are going to
>remain narky and campaigning. They're not going to be
>prepared to sit around a television in a nasty chair
>and be drugged and behave themselves.
>That's become something of a recurring theme in my
>more recent interviews - that we can be old and lively
>and good fun. Women are still expected to behave in a
>certain way as they get older - you're allowed to be
>maverick and different when you're young, but when
>you're older you're expected to be wise, to be a
>granny, to be a widow. That's all bollocks. We still
>have our appetites, our humour, our ambitions. The
>other day I was on Paul O'Grady's television show and
>some of the Olympic team were there and there were two
>gorgeous guys on and there was Paul and I both
>drooling. There was a picture of one in the nude - a
>very carefully taken picture - and he was beautiful.
>What a piece of work is man!
>The thing that has always surprised people most about
>me is that I love fast cars - and I still do. Why
>should things change just because I'm getting old? Of
>course, there's plenty to be sad about in life, but
>there's still all the good stuff - fast cars, lust and
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