6 November 2013 4:06 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Stage and screen actor known for playing battle-axe aunts, village gossips and servants

When Mel Brooks visited the film set of Up at the Villa (2000), in which his wife, Anne Bancroft, was starring, he proclaimed Barbara Hicks, who has died aged 89, the funniest woman he had ever met. This stalwart character actor, always lodged some way down any cast list as if to prove the truth of Stanislavski's dictum that there are no small parts, only small actors, was a fund of stories, many of them unprintable. And Hicks, though slight of build, with a long face and asymmetrical features, was certainly not a small actor.

As another admirer, Alan Bennett, once told her wistfully: "When you go, Barbara, there'll be a terrible hole in Spotlight." And so there is, for since first appearing on television in 1962 playing Miss Print, a comedy sidekick to Richard Hearne's popular Mr Pastry, »

- Michael Coveney

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