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Kathleen Harrison
Kathleen Harrison.jpg
Born(1892-02-23)23 February 1892
Died7 December 1995(1995-12-07) (aged 103)
Merton, London, England
Years active1915–79
Spouse(s)John Henry Back (1916–61, his death, 3 children)

Kathleen Harrison (23 February 1892 – 7 December 1995) was a prolific English character actress best remembered for her role as Mrs. Huggett (opposite Jack Warner and Petula Clark) in a trio of British post-war comedies about a working-class family's misadventures, The Huggetts. She later played the charwoman Mrs. Dilber opposite Alastair Sim in the 1951 film Scrooge (US: A Christmas Carol, 1951) and a Cockney charwoman who inherits a fortune in the television series Mrs Thursday (1966–67).

Life and career

Born in Blackburn, Lancashire, Harrison was brought up in London, her father having become borough engineer for Southwark. She was educated at Clapham High School before training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (1914–15).[1] She spent some years living in Argentina and Madeira before making her professional acting debut in the UK in the 1920s.[2]

Harrison made her stage debut as Mrs. Judd in The Constant Flirt at the Pier Theatre, Eastbourne in 1926. The following year she appeared in London's West End for the first time as Winnie in The Cage at the Savoy Theatre. Her subsequent West End plays included A Damsel in Distress, Happy Families, The Merchant and Venus, Lovers' Meeting, Line Engaged, Night Must Fall—also acting in the 1937 film versionFlare Path, Ducks and Drakes, The Winslow Boy and Watch It Sailor!.

She had already made her film debut with a minor role in Our Boys (1915), when she appeared in the film Hobson's Choice (1931). Another 50 films followed, including Gaslight (1940), In Which We Serve (1942) and Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), before making her name in later films.

Before and during World War II, she played small parts in numerous British films, including The Ghost Train (1941), Temptation Harbour (1947), and Oliver Twist (1948), and had a small but scene-stealing role as Mrs. Dilber in Scrooge (US: A Christmas Carol, 1951).

Harrison also played Kaney in The Ghoul (1933) and the matriarch in Mrs. Gibbons' Boys (1962), as well as two BBC productions of Charles Dickens's novels, Martin Chuzzlewit (1964) and Our Mutual Friend (1976). She later commented that Dickens was her favourite author. As her cinema appearances became more infrequent, Harrison turned to television. She starred on television as Mrs Thursday (1966–67), a charwoman who inherits £10 million and the controlling interest in a major company.

The Huggett family

Further information: The Huggetts Trilogy

The Huggett family made their first appearance in Holiday Camp (1947). Harrison played the London East End charwoman Mrs Huggett. The actress continued with the role, alongside Jack Warner as her screen husband, in Here Come the Huggetts (1948), Vote for Huggett and The Huggetts Abroad (both 1949), as well as a radio series, Meet the Huggetts, which ran from 1953 to 1961.[3] Although disliked by critics, almost immediately it became one of the most popular programmes of its day. Harrison turned down the title role in writer Jeremy Sandford's Play for Today Edna, the Inebriate Woman (1971).

Harrison also starred with Warner in the film Home and Away (1956), about a working-class family that wins the football pools.

Personal life

Harrison married John Henry Back in 1916; the couple had three children, two sons, and a daughter. She always pretended to be six years younger than her age, but in 1992 she owned up to reaching 100 and received her telegram from the Queen. Harrison died in 1995 at the age of 103. She was predeceased by her husband, John, and a son.[2]


Motion pictures
Year Title Role Notes
1931 Hobson’s Choice Ada Figgins
1932 Detective Lloyd Minor role Uncredited
1932 Aren’t We All? Unspecified Uncredited
1932 A Blonde Dream Unspecified Uncredited
1933 The Man from Toronto Martha
1933 The Ghoul Kaney
1934 The Great Defender Agnes Carter – Locke’s maid
1934 What Happened Then? Mrs. Munday Uncredited
1935 Inside the Room Nurse Uncredited
1935 Dandy Dick Jane (the maid) Uncredited
1935 Line Engaged Maid
1936 Jury's Evidence
1936 Broken Blossoms Mrs. Lossy
1936 The Tenth Man Confused voter
1936 Everybody Dance Lucy
1937 Aren't Men Beasts! Annie
1937 Wanted! Belinda
1937 Night Must Fall Mrs. Terence
1938 Bank Holiday May
1938 Jane Steps Out Bit role Uncredited
1938 Convict 99 Mabel
1938 Almost a Gentleman Mrs. Barker
1938 The Terror Parlor maid Uncredited
1938 I've Got a Horse Mabel
1938 The Outsider Mrs. Coates
1939 A Girl Must Live Penelope
1939 Home from Home Mabel
1939 Who Is Guilty Polly
1939 Discoveries Kitchen maid
1940 Mad Men of Europe Bit role
1940 They Came by Night Mrs. Lightbody
1940 Gaslight Bit role Uncredited
1940 Tilly of Bloomsbury Mrs. Welwyn
1940 The Girl in the News Cook
1940 The Flying Squad Mrs. Schiffan
1940 Salvage with a Smile The Housekeeper Short
1940 A Call for Arms Mrs. James Short
1941 The Ghost Train Miss Bourne
1941 Major Barbara Mrs. Price
1941 The Remarkable Mr. Kipps Customer Uncredited
1941 Once a Crook Auntie
1941 I Thank You Cook
1941 A Letter from Home The Maid Short
1942 The Big Blockade Bit Role Uncredited
1942 In Which We Serve Mrs. Blake
1942 Much Too Shy Amelia Peabody
1943 Dear Octopus Mrs. Glossop
1943 The New Lot Keith’s Mother Short - Uncredited
1944 It Happened One Sunday Mrs. Purkiss
1945 Waterloo Road Bit role Uncredited
1945 Meet Sexton Blake! Mrs. Bardell
1945 Great Day Pub customer
1945 Caesar and Cleopatra Egyptian woman Uncredited
1946 Wanted for Murder Florrie
1946 I See a Dark Stranger Waitress Uncredited
1946 Carnival Bit role Uncredited
1947 Temptation Harbour Mrs. Slater
1947 Code of Scotland Yard Mrs. Catt
1947 Holiday Camp Mrs. Huggett
1948 Oliver Twist Mrs. Sowerberry
1948 Bond Street Ethel Brawn
1948 The Winslow Boy Violet – the maid
1948 Here Come the Huggetts Ethel Huggett
1948 The Day Begins Early Mrs. Huggett Short
1948 Vote for Huggett Ethel Huggett
1949 Now Barabbas Mrs. Brown
1949 The Huggetts Abroad Ethel Huggett
1949 Landfall Mona’s mother
1949 The Gay Adventure Isobel
1950 Double Confession Kate
1950 Waterfront Women Mrs. McCabe
1950 Trio Emma Brown Foreman
1951 The Magic Box Mother in Family Group
1951 Scrooge Mrs. Dilber
1952 Mr. Ford Says No Lillian Lord
1952 The Pickwick Papers Rachel Wardle
1953 Turn the Key Softly Granny Quilliam
1953 The Dog and the Diamonds Mrs. Fossett
1954 Let’s Make Up Kate
1955 Where There’s a Will Annie Yeo
1955 Cast a Dark Shadow Emmie
1955 All for Mary Nannie Cartwright
1956 It’s a Wonderful World Miss Gilly
1956 Home and Away Elsie
1956 The Big Money Mrs. Frith
1957 Seven Thunders Mme. Abou
1958 A Cry from the Streets Mrs. Farrer
1958 Alive and Kicking Rosie
1961 On the Fiddle Mrs. Cooksley
1962 Mrs. Gibbons’ Boys Mrs. Gibbons
1962 The Fast Lady Mrs. Staggers
1963 West 11 Mrs. Beckett
1969 Lock Up Your Daughters! Lady Clumsey
1979 The Omega Connection Elderly lady
Year Title Role Notes
1954 All for Mary Nannie Cartwright TV movie
1956 Rheingold Theatre Mrs. Mintern Episode: Treasure in Store
1956 Nude with Violin Cherry May Waterton TV movie
1959 BBC Sunday Night Theatre Mrs. Ashworth Episode: Waters of the Moon
1959-1960 Theatre Night Emma Hornett/Gladys Pudney Episodes: Watch It, Sailor!/How Say You?
1963 Comedy Playhouse Woman Episode: Shamrot
1964 Martin Chuzzlewit Mrs. Prig TV series
1964 Laughter from the Whitehall Nannie Cartwright Episode: All for Mary
1966-1967 Mrs Thursday Alice Thursday TV series
1968 Dixon of Dock Green Kitty Putnam TV series
1968 BBC Play of the Month Mrs. Ashworth Episode: Waters of the Moon
1969 NBC Experiment in Television Voice Episode: Pinter People
1973 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Rose Episode: The Coffee Lace
1973 Spring & Autumn Daisy/Ice Cream Vendor
1973 Stars On Sundays Mrs. Wardle Episode: Glories of Christmas
1974 Charles Dickens’ World of Christmas TV movie
1976 Shades of Greene Mrs. Salmon Episode: The Case for the Defence
1976 Our Mutual Friend Henrietty Boffin TV mini-series
1979 Danger UXB Mrs. Dollery Episode: The Quiet Weekend


  1. ^ "Harrison, Kathleen (1892–1995)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60364. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b Hayward, Anthony (8 December 1995). "Obituary: Kathleen Harrison". The Independent. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  3. ^ "Meet The Huggetts". 1954–1961. Retrieved 25 January 2019.