Childhood & Early Life
Mollie Sugden was born Isabel Mary Sugden, on July 21, 1922, in Keighley, West Riding of Yorkshire, into an upper-middle-class family. Her father ran a successful iron and steel foundry company in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
She discovered the beauty of acting at a tender age, when she heard a woman receiving praises and laughter for reciting a funny poem. She was 4 years old at that time and made up her mind to do something similar someday.
The following Christmas, she was asked to recite a funny poem. She stood on a chair in front of a crowd and made people laugh. She received a lot of praises, and that was when she decided to pursue a career in comedy.
She attended the ‘Keighley Girls’ Grammar School’ in her hometown. By then, she had developed an interest in acting. She was chosen to represent 800 British schoolgirls to perform at a concert that took place in Amsterdam.
As soon as she finished her high school, the Second World War broke out. Like many other girls of her locality, she worked in an ammunition factory, making shells for the ‘Royal British Navy.’
Following the culmination of the war, she decided to chase her childhood dream of becoming a performer. She enrolled at the ‘Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and following her graduation, she stayed back in London, doing repertory theater.
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She worked in a repertory theater company, with actors such as Eric Sykes and Roy Dotrice. She worked in theatrical plays for the next 8 years and also did comedy radio shows.
She made her official TV debut as an actor with the 1959 TV short titled ‘The Way of an Angel.’ She also appeared in small guest roles in series such as ‘Suspense,’ ‘Benny Hill,’ and ‘First Night.’
She got her first major acting breakthrough in 1962, when she was signed to play ‘Mrs. Crispin’ in the black and white sitcom ‘Hugh and I.’ She appeared in 32 episodes of the series, until 1966.
In the mid-1960s, she also played guest roles in series such as ‘Armchair Theatre’ and ‘Z Cars.’ She then appeared in the guest role of a storyteller in five episodes of the comedy series titled ‘Jackanory.’
She was also cast to play a mother in eight episodes of the series titled ‘Just Jimmy.’ Despite impressing the audience with her raw charm as a comedian, she was unable to get key roles for many years, owing to her unconventional looks. As she was mostly cast as a comedian, she had the image of a character actor and not that of a lead actor.
In the early 1970s, she made guest appearances in multiple series, such as ‘Turkey Time,’ ‘Up Pompeii!,’ ‘The Goodies,’ ‘For the Love of Ada,’ and ‘Mandog.’
Starting in 1971, she played ‘Mrs. Hutchinson’ in the series titled ‘The Liver Birds.’ She appeared in 49 episodes of the series.
Meanwhile, she earned the first lead role of her career when she was signed to play ‘Mrs. Slocombe,’ a sales assistant, in the sitcom titled ‘Are You Being Served?’ Constantly changing hair color became her character’s signature style, and this was her idea.
The series became hugely successful and earned the status of a cult classic. It ran for 10 seasons, spanning 69 episodes. Mollie appeared in all the episodes of the series.
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In 1973, she earned a recurring role in the comedy series ‘Son of the Bride.’ She then appeared in many other small roles, in series such as ‘Three Comedies of Marriage’ and ‘Men of Affairs.’
She was also known for her recurring role of ‘Nellie Harvey’ in the series ‘Coronation Street.’ She appeared in 23 episodes of the series, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.
Following the culmination of ‘Are You Being Served?, she was chosen to play the lead role in another sitcom, ‘Come Back Mrs. Noah.’ However, it was not much of a success and was canceled after six episodes.
In the early 1980s, she played the supporting role of ‘Nora Powers’ in the series ‘My Husband and I.’ She appeared in 15 episodes of the series. She also played supporting roles in series such as ‘Cluedo’ and ‘Are You Being Served? Again!’
In the later years of her career, in the early 2000s, she appeared in small roles in series such as ‘The Bill’ and ‘Revolver.’
Her final appearance was in the series ‘Little Britain’ in 2003.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Mollie Sugden married William Moore, a British character actor, in 1958. They had two children, twins Robin and Simon. Mollie and William stayed together until his death in 2000. She also had five grandchildren from her two sons.
She shared a close friendship with the famous Icelandic singer Bjork.
She passed away from heart failure on July 1, 2009. She was 86 years old at the time of her death.