Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Remembering Margot Bryant

Margot Bryant, Minnie Caldwell in Coronation Street from 1960 to 1976, was a great real life character - and the complete opposite to Minnie, great fictional character though she was!

Here we feature some quotes about the lady from people who knew her, and a few from Margot herself.

Whilst Minnie stayed in her home town of Weatherfield and, over the years, looked after her mother, Jed Stone and Bobby the cat, Margot had a great spirit of adventure. And whilst Minnie was gentle and whimsical, if something displeased Margot, she didn't mince her words...

"I'm tough. Very tough." - Margot Bryant

"We flew from one place to another in old Dakotas made of cardboard. Often they'd say, 'This plane is unsafe, you'd better change to another plane.' It was great fun and terribly exciting."

- Margot on her experiences in World War II as an entertainer with ENSA. She travelled through Europe and the Middle and Far East.

"Of course cats understand me. Cats are super-intelligent animals. It depends on how you treat them. If you never spoke to a child, it would never learn anything. It's just the same with cats. If you speak to them all their lives, then they understand you."

- Margot Bryant. The one thing Margot had in common with Minnie was a tremendous love of cats.

"Margot was barmy about cats. A friend of mine once telephoned me and said, 'Now I've seen everything. I've seen your Minnie Caldwell, on holiday, in Venice, feeding stray cats from a huge pile of tins, wearing a mink coat.' So I said to Margot, 'I didn't know you had a mink coat,' and she said: 'Oh, that's nothing - I've got a tiger's whisker, and what's more I went in the cage to get it!' So, anything that had four legs and whiskers... Well, obviously, we couldn't give her a tiger, so we gave her Bobby."

- Tony Warren speaking on the 1988 tribute show Minnie Caldwell Remembered.

Margot has had a strange love for animals ever since she was a child and first heard the Bible story of Daniel in the lions' den. At Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester, she went to have some publicity pictures taken with a lion cub - and ended up the best of friends with a fierce Bengal tiger which flopped down beside her like a great fur coat at her feet when she stroked him tenderly on the neck and tickled him behind an ear. Nobody else but the zoo-keeper would go near the beast.

- Ken Irwin, author, The Real Coronation Street, 1970.

Her appearance can be deceptive. Behind that gentle, old lady look there lurks a dragon of a woman. And she chuckles quietly to herself at the thought of the deception she often portrays in the meek-and-mild role which has guaranteed her a comfortable retirement in her old age.

- Ken Irwin, The Real Coronation Street.

... and so Minnie Caldwell became the character who earned so much sympathy from the viewers. What they did not know was Margot's ability to forget key words in her dialogue and substitute others that frequently made no sense. "My father had a dog once," she said. "It was a ferret..."

- Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden) in her 1989 autobiography, The Other Side Of The Street.

I had only been in the studio a couple of days when, opening the door of the Green Room, I heard a little Minnie Caldwell voice saying, "And the car was so filthy I wrote F**** on the bonnet with my finger!" I could hardly believe my ears. "Did Margot Bryant say that?" I asked somebody. "You haven't heard the half of it!" I was told.

- Jean Alexander, The Other Side Of The Street.

She [Margot Bryant] had a way with words which was at times distinctly unladylike, and what's more she couldn't have cared less who happened to be listening.

- Bill Podmore in his 1990 autobiography,
Coronation Street - The Inside Story.

"I liked her. We had our rows. Oh, we had our ups and downs. I once told her she was ruder than Ena Sharples was ever meant to be - because she'd been rude to some people that had come to watch an episode. They said, 'Hello, Minnie, my flower," and she said, 'How dare you call me Minnie, you oaf!' I was livid when I got to the dressing room. I said: 'Margot Bryant, you're ruder than Ena Sharples was ever meant to be!' And, with that, I swept off!"

- Lynne Carol (Martha Longhurst) appearing on the 1988 tribute show Minnie Caldwell Remembered.

"And Minnie was meek and docile - rather sweet, easily squashed... Margot was very sophisticated, rather arrogant, and could be very provocative..."

- Doris Speed (Annie Walker), Minnie Caldwell Remembered.

"What a pity it isn't a kitten!" - Margot Bryant to Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Nugent/Bishop) when the actress brought her new baby into the studio.

- The Other Side Of The Street, Jean Alexander.

"Certainly, she did project a sort of female WC Fields attitude, you know: I do like children, yes - on toast. I was unbelievably touched when she arrived one day and almost in a sort of shamefaced way, said: 'I've made you this.' And she had made me this little shirt for him, you see, which nobody would ever believe... I've treasured it now for twenty years and shall always treasure it because it was one of the loveliest presents I was ever given. But nobody would believe that, because never in a million years would Margot make a shirt for a CHILD, you know, a CAT yes, but..."

- Eileen Derbyshire remembers an unexpected gift, Minnie Caldwell Remembered, 1988.

There was a time when she [Margot Bryant] was having a few problems with her bank manager and he took her to lunch to sort it out. They went to a restaurant in Brighton, near where she lived, and a funeral party happened to be eating at the other side of the room. The chief mourner came solemnly over for the inevitable autograph and said, "I've just buried my wife." Margot looked at him very firmly and said, "Did anybody see you do it?"

- Bill Waddington (Percy Sugden) in his autobiography, The Importance Of Being Percy (1992).

And finally, for Minnie Caldwell Remembered in 1988, Doris Speed recalled how Margot, at that point not playing Minnie as a permanent Street character, visited her dressing room in 1960:

"She came to my dressing room, and she said, 'I've come to say goodbye.' And she wasn't looking one little bit arrogant, she was looking very sad. So I said: 'Oh, Margot, what nonsense, you'll be coming again - you were very, very good - which she was. And she said: 'Was I really?' And she welled over with tears. So there was a little bit of Minnie there, wasn't there?"

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