A recurring theme I have with my schedule is praying that people will live long enough for me to get that far down the schedule. It turns out I could’ve added Norman Lloyd when I first had him brought to my attention in November 2019, because the next spot on my schedule at the time was last August, and he didn’t die until recently. But you don’t risk it with centenarians, you know? And so it has been with Vivian Pickles, the delightfully named British actress who will turn ninety later this year. As I write this, I’m hoping she’ll live twenty-four more hours. This is my life now, I guess.
Funnily enough, in one of her most famous roles, she was arguably too young for the part. As in, younger than I am now. She is sixteen years older than Bud Cort, and while I guess that means she’s technically old enough to be his mother, there’s a long distance between “technically” and “reasonably given the characters.” I don’t see Harold’s mother being a teen mother, you know? On the other hand, I absolutely see her as a fifty-year-old who’s been pushing herself to appear younger ever since she was old enough to vote. So there’s that.
Of course, I first saw her as the slightly dim Grimsworthy in Candleshoe. She’s the cousin of Harry Bundage, ably played by Leo McKern, and she’s the one who finds the first clue that sets the plot in motion. She is also initially inclined to treat Jodie Foster’s Casey as a child, which goes over about the way you’d expect. She’s got a cruel side that’s revealed very briefly, but it makes it even better when she receives her comeuppance.
Oh, she’s played the doomed Mary Stuart, of course, and the appalling Mrs. Bennet. (Which she was also too young for, as she made it even before Harold and Maude.) Her most recent work was in a 1999 episode of Midsomer Murders. She did a Jeeves and Wooster, but alas it’s not in the season that I picked up on DVD a bit ago. Still, she seems a perfect fit for the show. I haven’t seen a lot of her work, but if you wanted a certain variety of Englishwoman, Vivian Pickles was your best bet.
Yes, I’ll admit I was surprised to see that she was still alive; she’s on the list of “people I’d originally planned for the other column.” And goodness knows people are allowed to retire even if what they’re doing is the arts. So she hasn’t worked since 1999. You know, when she was almost seventy. (She might have done stage since then, but it’s a lot harder to search and also I don’t think she has.) She wrote a book in 2014, so that’s fine. I’m sure she’s living the best life a nearly ninety-year-old minor British actress can. More power to her.