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Imrie, Celia (1952-)


Main image of Imrie, Celia (1952-)

With her composed elegance and the air of the Head Girl from the Upper 6th, Celia Imrie has crossed seamlessly from dramatic roles to the comedic world of Victoria Wood. Born in Guildford on 15 July 1952, her early ambitions to be a ballet dancer were dashed by her excessive height. After briefly working as a dance teacher, she made her stage debut aged 16, as a dancing rat in Dick Whittington.

Her television debut came in Upstairs, Downstairs (ITV, 1971-1975) and, following small parts in the films House of Whipcord (d. Pete Walker, 1974) and Death on the Nile (d. John Guillermin, 1978), her first major role was as the love interest, Marianne Bellshade, in the second series of Bergerac (BBC, 1981-91). Her impersonation of Lady Diana Spencer in the comedy special 81 Take 2 (BBC, tx 31/12/81) brought her to the attention of Victoria Wood. A long and fruitful association ensued, in particular as Miss Babs in the soap spoof Acorn Antiques in Victoria Wood As Seen On TV (BBC, 1985-87) and as the HR Manager in dinnerladies (BBC, 1998-2000). She won an Olivier award for the 2006 stage musical version of Acorn Antiques.

On television she has moved seamlessly from serious roles; teacher Miss Jewsbury in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (BBC, 1990), the murderous aunt in A Dark Adapted Eye (BBC, 1994) and as Lady Gertrude in the fantasy series Gormenghast (BBC, 2000), to lighter comedic roles such as Nicholas Lyndhurst's mother-in-law in the sitcom After You've Gone (BBC, 2007-2008) and as receptionist Gloria Millington in the comedy-drama Kingdom (ITV, 2007-2009).

Her film career has blossomed in recent years with diverse roles; the diminutive mother in The Borrowers (d. Peter Hewitt, 1997), mother of the du Pré sisters, Hilary and Jackie (d. Anand Tucker, 1998), as a gravy-obsessed family friend in Bridget Jones's Diary (d. Sharon Maguire, 2001), the formidable Lady Riva Hardwick in Wah-Wah (d. Richard E Grant, 2005), and Matron in St Trinian's (d. Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson, 2007). She memorably had what she called a "scary biscuits moment", when she stripped naked behind strategically placed cherry Bakewells in Calendar Girls (d. Nigel Cole, 2003).

Graham Rinaldi

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Blue Black Permanent (1992)Blue Black Permanent (1992)

Poetic story of an Edinburgh poet told through the eyes of her daughter

Thumbnail image of Bergerac (1981-91)Bergerac (1981-91)

Long-running detective series set on the island tax haven of Jersey

Thumbnail image of New Statesman, The (1987-92)New Statesman, The (1987-92)

Rik Mayall stars as spectacularly corrupt Tory MP Alan B'Stard

Thumbnail image of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1990)Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (1990)

BBC dramatisation of Jeanette Winterson's autobiographical novel

Thumbnail image of Pat and Margaret (1994)Pat and Margaret (1994)

Comic drama about two very different sisters reunited after 27 years

Thumbnail image of To The Manor Born (1979-81)To The Manor Born (1979-81)

Penelope Keith sitcom about an impoverished lady of the manor

Thumbnail image of Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-75)Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-75)

Hugely popular drama about life in an early 20th Century London household

Thumbnail image of Victoria Wood (1989)Victoria Wood (1989)

Six short comic plays featuring Wood and her regular cast

Thumbnail image of Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV (1985-86)Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV (1985-86)

Hit sketch show that spawned celebrated spoof soap Acorn Antiques

Thumbnail image of dinnerladies (1998-2000)dinnerladies (1998-2000)

Victoria Wood's only sitcom, set in a chaotic factory canteen

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Thumbnail image of Wood, Victoria (1953-)Wood, Victoria (1953-)

Actor, Writer, Producer