Scales, Prunella 1932–

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Scales, Prunella 1932–


Original name, Prunella Margaret Rumney Illingworth; born June 22, 1932, in Sutton Abinger, Surrey, England; daughter of John Richardson (traveling salesman) and Catherine (maiden name, Scales) Illingworth; married Timothy West (an actor), 1963; children: Sam (an actor), Joe. Education: Trained for the stage at the Old Vic School, London, and with Uta Hagen at the Herbert Berghof Studio, New York City. Avocational Interests: Gardening, canal boat.


Contact—c/o Conway van Gelder Ltd., 18–21 Jermyn St., London SW1Y 6HP England.


Actress. Appeared in British television and radio commercials for Tesco supermarkets, 1998, 2002–04; also worked as a drama teacher.

Awards, Honors:

Television Award nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best actress, 1992, for A Question of Attribution; decorated Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1992; LL.D. from University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, 1995; LL.D. from University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, 1996; Patricia Rothermere Award, for contributions to British theater, London Evening Standard Theater Awards, 2001.


Stage Appearances:

(Stage debut) Cook, Traveller without Luggage, Theatre Royal, Bristol, England, 1951.

Lucrezia, The Impresario from Smyrna, Arts Theatre, Cambridge, England, 1954.

Member of ensemble, Reprise (revue), Watergate Theatre, London, 1954.

(Broadway debut) Ermengarde, The Matchmaker, Royale Theatre, 1955.

Nerissa, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford–upon–Avon, England, 1956.

Jacquenetta, Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1956.

Juliet, Measure for Measure, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1956.

Pupil, The Lesson, Oxford Playhouse, Oxford, England, 1957.

Alice Arden, Frost at Midnight, Oxford Playhouse, 1957.

Myrrhine, Lysistrata, Oxford Playhouse, 1957.

Aline, The Man of Distinction, Prince's Theatre, London, 1957.

Margie, The Iceman Cometh, Arts Theatre, then Winter Garden Theatre, London, both 1958.

Nelly Denver, The Silver King, Players' Theatre, London, 1958.

Anna Bowers, All Good Children, Bromley Little Theatre, Bromley, England, 1960.

Marita, Whiteman, Oxford Playhouse, 1961.

Member of ensemble, Not to Worry (revue), Garrick Theatre, London, 1962.

Mabel, The Trigon, Arts Theatre, 1963.

Hermione, The Winter's Tale, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham, England, 1965.

Leontine, The Birdwatcher, Hampstead Theatre Club, London, 1966.

Member of ensemble, Night Is for Delight (revue), Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, England, 1966.

Valerie, Say Who You Are, Vaudeville Theatre, London, 1967.

Cherry, The Beaux' Stratagem, Chichester Festival Theatre, Chichester, England, 1967.

Lika, The Promise, Fortune Theatre, London, 1967.

Jackie Coryton, Hay Fever, Duke of York's Theatre, London, 1968.

The wife, The Unknown Soldier and His Wife, Chichester Festival Theatre, 1968.

Emma Partridge, Children's Day, Mermaid Theatre, London, 1969.

Esther Goonahan, It's a Two Foot Six Inches Above the Ground World, Wyndham's Theatre, London, 1970.

After Magritte, Ambiance Theatre, London, 1970.

Have You Met Our Rabbit?, Ambiance Theatre, 1970.

Mabel, "Bedtime," and Susan, "Butter," in Bedtime and Butter (double–bill), Hampstead Theatre Club, 1971.

Natasha, Three Sisters, Arts Theatre, 1971.

Avonia Bunn, Trelawny of the Wells, Arts Theatre, 1971.

Hilary Plummer, That's No Lady—That's My Husband, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, 1972.

Lady Brute, The Provok'd Wife, Watford Palace Theatre, Watford, England, 1973.

Katharina, The Taming of the Shrew, Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham, England, 1973.

Joyce, The Ruffian on the Stair, Soho Poly Theatre, London, 1973.

The Wolf, 1975.

Anatol, Open Space Theatre, London, 1976.

The Pelican, Round House Theatre, London, 1976.

Henrietta Barnett, It's All Right If I Do It, Mermaid Theatre, 1977.

Betty, Breezeblock Park, Whitehall Theatre, London, 1977.

"Smith of Smiths," Great English Eccentrics (triple–bill), Prospect Theatre Company, Old Vic Theatre, London, 1978.

Natalya Petrovna, A Month in the Country, Bristol Old Vic Theatre, Bristol, England, 1979.

Tag, Miss in Her Teens, Old Vic Theatre Company, Old Vic Theatre, 1979.

Mrs. Prentice, What the Butler Saw, Old Vic Theatre Company, Old Vic Theatre, 1979.

Queen Caroline, The Trial of Queen Caroline, Old Vic Theatre Company, Old Vic Theatre, 1979.

Mrs. Rogers, Make and Break, Lyric Theatre–Hammersmith, then Haymarket Theatre, both London, 1980.

An Evening with Queen Victoria, 1980.

The Merchant of Venice, 1981.

When We Are Married, Whitehall, 1986.

A Question of Attribution, National Theatre, London, 1988.

Single Spies, Shaftesbury Avenue Theatre, London, then National Theatre, Washington, DC, both 1989.

The School for Scandal, Royal National Theatre Company, Olivier Theatre, London, 1990.

Long Day's Journey into Night, Lyttelton Theatre, London, 1991.

Some Singing Blood, Royal Court Theatre, London, 1992.

The Editing Process, Royal Court Theatre, 1995.

Staying On, 1997.

Just the Three of Us, 1997.

The Birthday Party, London, 1999.

The Cherry Orchard, 2000.

The External, 2001.

The Day in the Death of Joe Egg, 2001.

Too Far to Walk, King's Head Theatre, London, 2002.

A Woman of No Importance, Theatre Royal, London, 2004.

Major Tours:

Olivia, Twelfth Night, Oxford Playhouse Company, European cities, 1959.

Hermia, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oxford Playhouse Company, European cities, 1959.

Natasha, Three Sisters, British cities, 1971.

Avonia Bunn, Trelawny of the Wells, British cities, 1971.

King Lear, Prospect Theatre Company, Australian cities, 1972.

Love's Labour's Lost, Prospect Theatre Company, Australian cities, 1972.

Endgame, Prospect Theatre Company, Australian cities, 1972.

Ranevskaya, The Cherry Orchard, British cities, 2000.

Also toured the world in An Evening with Queen Victoria.

Film Appearances:

Morag McLeod, Scotch on the Rocks (also known as Laxdale Hall), Kingsley International, 1952.

Vicky Hobson, Hobson's Choice, British Lion, 1954.

Mary, What Every Woman Wants, Adelphi, 1954.

(Uncredited) Council office worker, Room at the Top, Romulus, 1959.

Estella Fitzjohn, Waltz of the Toreadors (also known as The Amorous General), Continental, 1962.

Decisions, Decisions, 1975.

Mrs. Sandman, The Littlest Horse Thieves (also known as Escape from the Dark), Buena Vista, 1976.

Mrs. Harrington, The Boys from Brazil, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1978.

Glynis, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Atlantic, 1978.

Lady Henrietta Kingsclere, The Wicked Lady, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists, 1983.

Moira O'Neill, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Island, 1987.

Ethel, Consuming Passions, Samuel Goldwyn, 1988.

Hannah Ap Llewellyn, A Chorus of Disapproval, 1989.

Aunt Juley, Howards End, 1992.

Voices of the queen and others, Freddie as F.R.O.7 (also known as Freddie the Frog), 1992.

Margery, Second Best, 1994.

Sherwood's Travels (also known as Never Love a Thief), 1994.

Maude, Wolf, 1994.

Rose, An Awfully Big Adventure, 1995.

The client, Phoenix, 1997.

Aunt Agnes Ivory, Stiff Upper Lips, 1998.

Lady Markby, An Ideal Husband, 1998.

Dr. Minny Stinkler, Mad Cows, Entertainment Film Distributors, 1999.

Sarah, The Ghost of Greville Lodge, 2000.

Voice of Morphinalax, Brand Spanking (animated short), 2004.

Television Appearances; Series:

Martha, The Secret Garden, BBC, 1960.

Eileen Hughes, Coronation Street (also known as Corrie), CBC and ITV, 1961.

Kate Starling, Marriage Lines, 1963.

On the Margin, BBC, 1966.

Jackanory, BBC1, 1970.

Sybil Fawlty, Fawlty Towers, BBC, 1975, 1979, then PBS, 1977.

Dolly, Mr. Big, 1977.

Pickersgill People, BBC, 1978.

Aunt Patty, S.W.A.L.K., 1982.

Miss Elizabeth Mapp, Mapp & Lucia, BBC, 1985–86.

Sarah France, After Henry, ITV, 1987.

"Mrs." Tilston, Searching, ITV, 1995.

Voice of Queen Melissa, The Big Knights, BBC2, 1999.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

(Television debut) Pride and Prejudice, BBC, 1952.

Frau Pollert, Wagner, PBS, 1983.

Marjorie Richardson, The Rector's Wife, PBS, 1994.

Elizabeth Palmore, Signs and Wonders, PBS, 1995.

Storyteller, Look at the State We're In!, BBC, 1995.

Pet shop owner/wife, The Human Face, The Learning Channel, 2001.

Elizabeth Dickens, Dickens, BBC and PBS, 2002.

Presenter and Queen Victoria, Looking for Victoria, BBC, 2003.

Narrator, "The King, The Kaiser, and the Tsar," The Lost Prince, BBC and PBS, 2004.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Doris Rutter, Doris and Doreen (also known as Six Plays by Alan Bennett: "Doris and Doreen"), LWT, 1978.

Miriam, Outside Edge, LWT, 1982.

Marion Brewster–Wright, Absurd Person Singular, BBC, then Arts and Entertainment, 1985.

Mrs. Prentice, What the Butler Saw, 1987.

Aunt Ellie, My Friend Walter, PBS, 1992.

Queen Elizabeth II, A Question of Attribution, PBS, 1992.

Shirley, Lord of Misrule, 1996.

Edith Disney, Dalziel and Pascoe: An Advancement of Learning, Arts and Entertainment, 1996.

Miss Bates, Emma (also known as Jane Austen's "Emma"), Arts and Entertainment, 1997.

Queen Victoria, Station Jim, BBC, 2001.

Dolly Keeling, The Shell Seekers (also known as Rosamunde Pilcher–Die muschelsucher), 2006.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Dolly, The Big Job, BBC, 1974.

Mistress Page, The Merry Wives of Windsor (also known as BBC Television Shakespeare: "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: "Merry Wives of Windsor"), BBC, 1982.

Miss Elizabeth Mapp, Mapp and Lucia, PBS, 1985.

Annie Parker, When We Are Married, BBC, 1987.

Beyond the Pale, BBC, 1989.

Captain, Woodcock, BBC, 1994.

Marjorie, Fair Game, BBC, 1994.

Sara Turing, Breaking the Code, PBS, 1996.

An Audience with Alf Garnett, LWT, 1997.

Funny Women, BBC, 1998.

Richard Briers: A Good Life, 2000.

Reader, Essential Poems for Christmas, BBC, 2004.

The Funny Ladies of British Comedy, PBS, 2004.

"Fawlty Towers" @ 30, 2005.

The Ultimate Sitcom, Channel 4, 2006.

An Audience with Coronation Street, ITV, 2006.

Also appeared in Ghosts.

Television Appearances; Pilot Movies:

Agnes Donen, Never Love a Thief, PAX, 1998.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Gabrielle, "French for Love," TV Playhouse, ITV, 1955.

Eileen Hughes, Coronation Street, 1961.

"The Face of Genius," The Seven Faces of Jim, BBC, 1961.

"Blues in the Morning," Thirty–Minute Theatre, BBC, 1971.

Marion Joyce, "One Man's Meat," Seven of One, BBC, 1973.

Diana Blake, "A Good and Faithful Woman," Target, BBC, 1978.

Gloria Gibbins, "Unlucky Dip," Bergerac, BBC1, 1981.

Susan Peel, "If You Knew Susan," Never the Twain, ITV, 1982.

Judith, "Home Cooking," Unnatural Causes, ITV, 1986.

Thompson, BBC and PBS, 1988.

Aspel & Company, ITV, 1992.

Storyteller, "Nanny Knows Best," Look at the State We're In!, 1995.

Edith Disney, "An Advancement of Learning," Dalziel and Pascoe, BBC, 1996.

Herself, "Married to the Job, Darling," Light Lunch, Channel 4, 1997.

Eleanor Burnsall, "Beyond the Grave," Midsomer Murders, ITV and Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

Anne Parker, "Faith," Silent Witness, BBC, 2001.

This Morning (also known as This Morning with Richard and Judy), ITV, 2001.

Voice of Queen Victoria, "Victoria and Her Sisters," A History of Britain, BBC and History Channel, 2002.

Jocelyn Anderson, "Out with a Bang," Casualty, BBC1, 2004.

Hattie Dymchurch, "When All This Is Over," Where the Heart Is, ITV, 2005.

Breakfast, BBC, 2005.

Also appeared as voice of Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle, "The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and Mr. Jeremy," The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends.



(With Timothy West, Jane Glover, and London Mozart Players) Walton: Facade, 1990.

Taped Readings:

Broomnapped, 1993.

Kaye Umansky's Pongwiffy and the Spell of the Year, 1995.

Lucia's Progress, 1995.

Karen Harris's The Haunting of Hiram, 1996.

Teresa Ransom's Fanny Trollope, Recorded Books, 2001.

Diane Balodis's The Famous Adventures of Jack, Chivers North America, 2001.



Ransom, Teresa, The Authorized Biography of Prunella Scales, John Murray, 2005.


Independent, August 31, 1993, p. 23.