I don’t know why the UK has a better likelihood of having female comedy duos than the US does. I mean, I’m not saying I can think of a ton of them, but I am saying that I can’t think of a single US equivalent to Patsy and Edina, and Joanna Lumley’s partner in it has another one under her belt. It’s inaccurate to pin Lumley’s entire career as comedy, all things considered, but she’s definitely one of the first British women to come to mind for it. In fact, she has one of the most varied careers I’ve covered, which honestly also seems to be something women of the UK are more likely to have.
How varied? I’ve literally never seen her in anything, once I became really familiar with her, where I was surprised to see her unless it was a sort of, “Oh, honey, you can do better” sort of surprise, which is different. I mean, how many women can play both Mrs. Lovett and Mrs. Peacock within a few years of one another and have your only reaction be, “Yeah, I can see that?” She’s worked with Scorsese and Burton. She did Hammer films, in the early days of her career. (Jessica Van Helsing? Why not?) She’s done many, many parodies of British pop culture for charity, too.
And in 1986, she was proposed as the Doctor, beating the current one by thirty years. I mean, she didn’t get the part, but come on. (In fact, one of those parodies involved her being the Doctor’s final incarnation.) One of her shows, Sapphire & Steel, with I-Should-Get-Around-To-Him David McCallum, was in fact intended to be the same sort of thing and draw in the same sort of audience. Did it? I’ve no idea; I’d never heard of it before. But if you’re not kind of nodding along with the ideas in this paragraph, I’m not sure you know Joanna Lumley very well.
She’s written seven books. She’s been a model. She does so much charity that her charity section on Wikipedia has got to be almost as long as her acting section. The woman is busy, and it’s for an amazing array of things. And her voice is so well known that AOL asked her to record their messages for the British version of the service, leaving aside that it kind of doesn’t make sense to have a British America Online. Really, I’m amazed that it’s taken me as long as it has to get to her.
And my goodness, if you haven’t seen The Cat’s Meow, you should. Roger Ebert hated it, and it’s one of the movies where I’m pretty adamant that he was wrong. Not least because of how Lumley managed a certain sort of “I’m Not Middle Aged” energy that feels absolutely appropriate for her character, one she shares with Edward Hermann as William Randolph Hearst. They are both frantically attempting to pretend that they’re not too old for the whole thing, and it gives a fascinating energy to the movie that deserves to be better seen.