Wanda Ventham is a veteran English actress who has played prominent roles in both films and television projects. Best known for her performances in the movies ‘Asylum,’ ‘Death Is a Woman,’ and ‘Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter,’ she also received much appreciation for providing stunt work for the film ‘The Blood Beast Terror.’ As a television actress she is recognized for her roles in the series ‘UFO’ and sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses.’ Looking at her career graph today, it is hard to imagine that acting was not her first choice of a profession. During her youth she actually aspired to become an artist and even attended art school for a year. It was during her stint as a scenic painter for the Connaught Theatre that she was first exposed to the world of dramatics and acting. Her priorities changed and she decided to venture into professional acting. After completing a course at the Central School of Speech and Drama, she began auditioning for roles. While her initial years as an actress were not easy, she was eventually able to establish herself successfully in her chosen field. Along with being a famous actress in her own right, she is also recognized as the mother of popular actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
Childhood & Early Life
Wanda Ventham was born on August 5, 1935, in Brighton, East Sussex, England, to Frederick Howard Ventham and Gladys Frances. As a teenager, Wanda Ventham always aspired to be an artist, for which she attended art school.
She worked as a scenic painter for the ‘Connaught Theatre’ in Worthing, West Sussex, but her passion for professional theatre made her quit art. To pursue a career in acting, she joined the ‘Central School of Speech and Drama’ and graduated in 1956.
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With her illustrious acting career spawning more than five decades, Wanda Ventham’s first role dates back to the 1950s, where she played the character of ‘Gina’ in the film, ‘My Teenage Daughter’ (1956).In 1959, she was cast in the movie ‘The Navy Lark’ (1959), where she played the role of ‘Mabel’. After this film, she made an appearance in ‘We Joined the Navy’ (1961).
In the 1960s, she appeared in Peter Rogers Productions, playing small roles in some of his sitcoms, such as ‘Carry on Cleo’ (1964), and ‘Carry on up the Khyber’ (1968). In 1961, she was cast alongside Mark Burns in the mystery movie, ‘Death is a Woman’. Some of other notable movies of 1960s in which she acted include ‘Solo for Sparrow’ (1962), ‘The Big Job’(1965), ‘The Knack…and How to Get It’(1965), ‘Death Is a Woman’(1966), ‘The Spy with a Cold Nose’(1966), and ‘Mister Ten Per Cent’ (1967).
She was cast in a British Horror Film, ‘The Blood Beast Terror’ (1968), wherein she played the role of Clare Mallinger. In this film, Wanda Ventham carried out her own stunts and costumed herself as the giant moth monster.
Her big break came in 1974, with the role of Colonel. Virginia Lake, in the British science fiction series ‘UFO’, which was based on a story wherein Earth is invaded by aliens.
While acting in movies, she also did theatre and television with classics like ‘The Saint’, ‘The Likely Lads’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘Z Cars’, ‘A Family at War’ and ‘Crown Court’. Her lead role in the television series, ‘The Lotus Eaters’ (1972-1973) gained her critical acclaim.
Wanda Ventham appeared in three different roles for the classic series ‘Doctor Who’ over three decades playing characters, such as Jean Rock in ‘The Faceless Ones’ (1967), Thea Ransome in ‘Image of the Fendahl’ (1977), and as Faroon in ‘Time and the Rani’ (1987).
From 1989 to 1992, she played a recurring role as Cassandra Trotter's mother Pamela Parry in the sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses'. Her performance in the series was highly lauded.
After decades of retiring from her acting career, Wanda Ventham returned to the small screen in 2014 to play Mrs. Holmes in the T.V. series ‘Sherlock’. Acting alongside, was her real-life husband ‘Tim Carlton’ and real-life son ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ who plays the lead role of Sherlock Holmes.
Wanda Ventham is best known for her brilliant portrayal of Colonel Virginia Lake in science-fiction television series ‘UFO’ and for her stupendous performance in the sitcom ‘Only Fools and Horses’
Awards & Achievement
In 2014, Wanda Ventham was featured by ‘People’ magazine in its "Most Beautiful People in the World" edition.
Personal Life & Legacy
Wanda Ventham got married to her first husband, James Tabernacle in 1957, they had one daughter, Tracy, from that marriage. She divorced James on 12 November 1974. She married Timothy Carlton, an English Actor, in 1976. The two had met while filming for the drama series ‘A Family at War’ and had appeared together in the BBC drama ‘The Lotus Eater’ in 1973. The couple has a son, Benedict Cumberbatch, who is also a famous actor.
She has two grandsons- Christopher Carlton Cumberbatch and Hal Auden Cumberbatch, she also has a granddaughter Emily Peacock, mothered by Tracy Peacock, daughter from her first marriage.
She was completely painted in gold for her character Thea Ransome, in the ‘Doctor Who series’ – ‘Image of the Fendahl’.