Wendy Craig is an English actress and writer who is best known for her roles as a harassed housewife in domestic comedies. Acting had been a childhood dream for Craig. She had an early start, participating in school plays during her elementary school days. Her talent was further honed when her high school headmistress introduced her to local theatre groups. After finishing high school, she trained as an actress at a prestigious drama school in London. She performed in numerous West End productions and slowly gravitated towards television. She ruled the television sitcom scene during the 1970s and 1980s in memorable roles in series such as ‘…And Mother makes Three’ and ’Butterflies’. Though she became a familiar face playing housewives, this BAFTA-nominated actress also has diverse roles to her credit. She has successfully written scripts for television series as well. Being deeply religious, she has regularly broadcast religious series on the radio. Craig is a great-grandmother now but continues acting which has been her lifelong passion.
Wendy Craig made her TV debut in televised excerpts of stage productions which were shown on BBC. Her first major role was as the lead character Candida in the TV adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s ‘Candida’ in 1961.
During the 1950s and 1960s, she did several major films like ‘Room at the Top’ (1958) and ‘I’ll Never Forget What’s‘isName’ (1967). She was nominated for a BAFTA for the role of Susan Stewart in the 1963 film ‘The Servant’. In 1965, she and Hollywood star Bette Davis worked together in the suspense film ‘The Nanny’.
Craig’s worldwide popularity comes from the many sitcoms that she did from the mid-1960s through the 1980s. It was during this time that she came to be associated with the “much-harried mom” image. She played the lead role of Jennifer Corner in the 1967 comedy series ‘Not in Front of the Children’. From 1971 to1973, she played a single mother Sally Harrison in the series ‘…And Mother Makes Three’. This was a role that many young women could identify with and the series became very popular and so did Craig. This series was followed by ‘…And Mother Makes Five’ (1973-74) where Sally Harrison is now married but her travails as a mom continue.
Wendy Craig etched her way into people’s hearts as Ria Parkinson who rustles up dishes her family does not want to eat in ‘Butterflies’ from 1978 to 1983. The role had more than just a comic touch. Playing a housewife whose husband is more interested in butterflies and who feels drawn to another man, she owned the part.
With the success of ‘Butterflies’, Craig turned to writing. She wrote under the pseudonym “Jonathan Marr.” She had earlier written a few episodes under this name for the series ‘…And Mother Makes Five’. A new series that she penned and acted in was ‘Nanny’. It lasted for three series from 1981 to 1983 and follows the life of a nanny during the 1930s and 1940s.
The next series that she penned was ‘Laura and Disorder’ (1989). This time, she collaborated with her son Ross Bentley on the writing. However, the series did not do well and was cancelled.
Her TV career seemed to have come to a standstill during the 1990s. During this time, Craig, who had always been deeply religious, broadcast a religious series called ‘Pause for Thought’. She had earlier done a similar series called ’Home on Sunday’ for radio. She also worked at the Royal Shakespeare for a while.
Her return to TV happened in 2002 with ‘The Forsyte Saga’ in the role of Aunt Juley. Soon, she was seen in the same type of role that she had become synonymous with in ‘The Royals,’ where she played a warm but slightly whimsical matron. She essayed this role from 2003 to 2011.
This thespian has been a busy actress and has done a variety of roles since 2010: Marion in ‘Reggie Perrin’, Joy Dunphy in ‘Unforgotten’ and Maise in ‘Emmerdale.’ She continues to appear in the medical series ‘Doctors’ and the hit drama series ‘The Worst Witch’.
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Family & Personal Life
Wendy Craig was born in Sacriston, Durham County, England on June 20, 1934. Her given name is Anne Gwendolyn Craig. Her father George Craig was a farmer and her mother was Anne Lindsay. Craig made her first appearance onstage at three years of age. By seven, she knew she wanted to be an actress after being mesmerized by a pantomime show. Once at a school play, she ended up saying the lines for everybody else when they forgot their own lines!
She did her early schooling from Durham High School for girls. She then studied at Darlington High School and Yarm Grammar School. The headmistress of Yarm Grammar was a theatre enthusiast and introduced Craig to the local theatre where Craig got a chance to play the role of Ophelia. After completing her schooling, Craig trained as an actress at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
Wendy Craig was married to Jack Bentley from 1955 till his death in 1994. He was a professional musician who later worked as a journalist and scriptwriter. She has two sons, Alaster and Ross. She also has six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
In 2004, she revealed that Ross was actually the child of playwright Sir John Mortimer. Craig and Mortimer had a brief affair when they were doing a play together in the 1960s. They were both married to different people at the time. Craig’s husband had sworn her to secrecy about her son’s paternity and they had raised Ross as their own son. She revealed the truth herself after she found that there was a danger of it being leaked to the public by another source. There was no paternity test done but Sir John happily accepted Ross as his son and went on record to say that Ross resembled his actress daughter Emily Mortimer.