Tuesday, 16 April 2013
If you've somehow managed never to see a film with Marianne Stone (1922-2009) in the cast, it's highly unlikely you'd be the sort of person to hang around Mounds and Circles. She's British cinema's undisputed queen of the bit part, her 159 film credits a Guinness record that's unlikely to be challenged any time soon. The word "ubiquitous" seems almost insufficient: watch any British film made from the 50s to the 70s and there's a good chance she'll pop up. It's rare for her to appear in more than one scene; it's rare for her character to even get a name: Barmaid, Cleaner, Neighbour - those are the roles you'd generally see her name next to - when she was credited at all. Marianne's filmography reads like a history of British commercial cinema: she did Ealing comedy, Carry Ons, Hammer Horror, the Confessions films and their mucky brethren - about the only thing missing is a Bond film.
Marianne worked with directors all the way along the prestige scale, from Stanley Kubrick (the key but wordless role of Vivian Darkbloom in Lolita) to Robert Hartford-Davis. Brilliant value in the couple of minutes she usually appeared, on the rare occasion she was given a slightly bigger part she always shined. In my favourite of her roles she and Warren Mitchell are hilarious as a dreary suburban couple in 60s sci-fi thriller The Night Caller.
Here she is in one of her earliest screen roles, as a surly waitress telling Lord Dickie of Attenborough he's too late for lunch in Brighton Rock (1947).
And in her very last, playing Wife of Drunk in best-forgotten Eric Sykes sitcom The Nineteenth Hole (1989).
In a new Mounds and Circles feature, we'll be chronicling the many occasions in British film and TV when Marianne makes her always welcome presence felt.
Oh and here's some ultra trivia: Marianne's daughter, radio presenter Kara Noble, was the voice of the computer that interviewed celebrities in kitschy 80s TV show Star Test. Amaze your friends with that.