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Handl, Irene (1901-1987)


Main image of Handl, Irene (1901-1987)

Irene Handl was nearly 40 before she embarked on her long and distinguished career. She provided idiosyncratic comic support in numerous British films, often playing hard-pressed wives and mothers in I'm All Right Jack (d. John Boulting, 1959) and Morgan - A Suitable Case for Treatment (d. Karel Reisz, 1966) gossipy landladies in Tony Hancock's The Rebel (d. Robert Day, 1960) or eccentric women such as Mrs Hackett in The Wrong Box (d. Bryan Forbes, 1966).

She was born in Maida Vale, London on 27 December 1901 to an Austrian father and a French mother. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s she regularly appearanced in top comedies such as The Belles of St Trinian's (d. Frank Launder, 1954), the Boulting Brothers films Brothers in Law (1956), Carlton Browne of the F.O. (1958) and Heavens Above (1963) and a couple of early Carry On films.

Highlights from her TV work include several episodes of Hancock's Half-Hour (BBC, 1956-60) the title role in ITV's gentle sitcom For the Love of Ada (1970-71), and Never Say Die (1987), Channel 4's sitcom set in sheltered housing for the elderly.

Although often typecast as the benign matriarch (although she never married or had children) her career includes some unlikely appearances in youth culture films such as Wonderwall (d. Joe Massot, 1968), The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (d. Julien Temple, 1979) and Absolute Beginners (d. Temple, 1986) and playing the grandmother in ITV's children's series Metal Mickey (1980-1983). She died on 29 November 1987 aged 85.

Eddie Dyja

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Thumbnail image of Belles of St Trinian's, The (1954)Belles of St Trinian's, The (1954)

Anarchic comedy based on Ronald Searle's popular cartoons

Thumbnail image of Brief Encounter (1945)Brief Encounter (1945)

Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson start a great British romance

Thumbnail image of Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959)Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959)

Classic Foreign Office satire with Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas

Thumbnail image of Carry On Constable (1960)Carry On Constable (1960)

Fourth in the series, welcoming Sid James to the team

Thumbnail image of Carry On Nurse (1958)Carry On Nurse (1958)

The second Carry On, with the team beginning to take shape

Thumbnail image of Heavens Above! (1963)Heavens Above! (1963)

Comedy of clerical misunderstanding starring an on-form Peter Sellers

Thumbnail image of I'm All Right Jack (1959)I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Peter Sellers is a militant trade unionist in this peerless workplace satire

Thumbnail image of Kid for Two Farthings, A (1955)Kid for Two Farthings, A (1955)

Whimsical fable set in London's Jewish East End

Thumbnail image of Millions Like Us (1943)Millions Like Us (1943)

Launder & Gilliat film about the lives of women during World War II

Thumbnail image of Morgan - A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)Morgan - A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)

Seminal Swinging Sixties comedy about an artist and his problems

Thumbnail image of Rebel, The (1960)Rebel, The (1960)

Tony Hancock's big-screen debut stars him as a talentless but ambitious artist

Thumbnail image of School for Scoundrels (1959)School for Scoundrels (1959)

Alastair Sim teaches Ian Carmichael how to be a cad like Terry-Thomas.

Thumbnail image of Weak and the Wicked, The (1954)Weak and the Wicked, The (1954)

A young woman, framed for fraud, journeys through the prison system

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