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Rosalind Knight

Picture courtesy of British Film Institute
p Rosalind with her father in 1957 in a publicity photo taken when they were appearing together on television as Fanny and Wackford Squeers in a BBC production of Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.

Rosalind Knight is Esmond's daughter by his first wife, Frances Clare. She has enjoyed a long and varied acting career and continues to work in film and television productions. As a child Rosalind harboured no great desire to become an actress and was inclined to feel that her parents were rather dull talking shop all the time. That all changed, however, during the 1949 Christmas school holidays when, at sixteen years old, she saw a performance by the Young Vic Company which had been started by Glen Byam Shaw, an actor and director who had been a contemporary of Esmond's at Westminster School.

In the bombed out ruins of the Old Vic Theatre in London, Rosalind saw performances of two productions, The Snow Queen and As You Like It (the heroine of which she was named after), and this made a great impression upon her. "I wanted to be part of it with all my soul", she explained. The following year, whilst still a pupil at Cheltenham Ladies College, Rosalind auditioned twice for and was accepted by the Old Vic Theatre School, and there she studied for two years under Glen Byam Shaw himself and George Devine, the man who later was to start the highly influential Royal Court Theatre.

Having been spotted in a student show, Rosalind was offered a position as Assistant Stage Manager with the Midland Theatre Company in Coventry. The job was tough as it involved both stage management and acting, but it was valuable experience. One of the highlights was a production of Hobson's Choice in which Rosalind played Ada Figgins next to Patrick Magoohan as Henry Hobson. From Coventry she moved to a similar role with the Ipswich Repertory Company where a fellow Assistant Stage Manager was playwright Joe Orton. After two years she joined a touring group, the West of England Theatre for an 8 month period. It was here that she was seen by a film producer which led to her being offered the part of a schoolgirl in the 1957 film Blue Murder at St Trinian's. In the same year she and Esmond played father and daughter in a BBC production of Nicholas Nickleby.


p Rosalind Knight's first credited film role was as Annabel, one of the notorious schoolgirls in Blue Murder At St Trinian's (1957).

The St Trinian's role in turn led to parts in two "Carry On" films (the second and third of the series) which to the cinema-going public have proved the most memorable of Rosalind's career and still generate fan letters more than 40 years later. In Carry On Nurse (1959) she played Nurse Nightingale, the myopic student nurse who keeps vigil over an unconscious patient with exceptional focus and loses her specs in a hospital sluice. Carry On Teacher appeared the same year and this time Rosalind played Felicity Wheeler, the prim school inspector whose amorous hopes are continually thwarted!

p Rosalind (right) as Felicity Wheeler squaring up

to Joan Sims in Carry On Teacher (1959).

Rosalind Knight as Nurse Nightingale

p As the hapless Nurse Nightingale -

Carry On Nurse (1959)

Meanwhile Rosalind had met Michael Elliott, a young, ground breaking television director who had trained at the BBC and worked there for some years. They were married in July 1959.

Michael was keen to become more involved in theatre and was influential in encouraging Rosalind to develop her acting career by seeking opportunities in something more substantial than "Carry On" films. Thus she was not unduly concerned when, having approached the producers of the "Carry On" series for a pay rise, she was dismissed on the spot.

Rosalind with Esmond on her wedding day, 25th July 1959. p
Picture courtesy of Rosalind Knight                                  
Instead Rosalind embarked on a number of substantial stage roles including parts in Platanov, with Rex Harrison, and A Cuckoo In The Nest, with Arthur Lowe, at the Royal Court. Michael had by now made the move from television and in 1961 directed As You Like It at Stratford Upon Avon for the Royal Shakespeare Company with Rosalind playing the part of Celia. The part of Rosalind was initially to be played by Dorothy Tutin, but she withdrew before the run began and was replaced by a young and not very well-known actress called Vanessa Redgrave, who made a huge success of the role.

t Vanessa Redgrave and Ian Bannen in the RSC's 1961 production of As You Like It in which Rosalind Knight played Celia.

Picture courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company

In 1963 Rosalind appeared on screen again as Mrs Fitzpatrick in Tom Jones, a magnificent film adaptation of Henry Fielding's novel, starring Albert Finney and Susannah York, and directed by Tony Richardson. Her former acting tutor, George Devine, was also in the cast, as Squire Allworthy. Rosalind then took a break from acting and had two daughters, Susannah and Marianne, however she did manage to squeeze in acting assignments as and when being a young mother allowed. Michael, meanwhile, had been appointed the last artistic director of the Old Vic Company before it was handed over to the National Theatre.

t As Mrs Fitzpatrick in Tom Jones which in 1963 won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Rosalind is talking to Susanna York who played Sophie Western.

With her children now a little older, Rosalind was able to take on more frequent acting assignments. In 1968 she appeared in On The Eve of Publication, one of the BBC's Wednesday Play productions, and also in an episode of the highly popular American series The Beverly Hillbillies.

Throughout out the late sixties and early seventies she worked on a range of engagements including familiar television series such as Dixon of Dock Green, also The Pallisers (TV 1974), and films such as Anthony Newley's Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness (1969) and a musical version of The Old Curiosity Shop (1975).

In the late 1960s Michael Elliott began a long association with the city of Manchester, initially directing at the University Theatre with his 69 Theatre Company. He then became involved in a project to develop an entirely new theatre in Manchester. This culminated in 1976 in the opening of the Royal Exchange Theatre in the Great Hall of the Manchester Royal Exchange building, although the 69 Company had already produced plays there in 1973 and 1974 in a temporary 'tent' theatre as part of a festival to celebrate the birth of Greater Manchester. One of these was The Family Reunion by T.S. Eliot with a cast that included Esmond Knight and Nora Swinburne.

A programme for Michael Elliott's 1973 production of  The Family Reunion at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.u

As a consequence of this strong connection with Manchester, Rosalind and Michael moved there permanently with their family in 1975. Rosalind's film work at this time included Eskimo Nell (1975), The Lady Vanishes (1979), The Wildcats of St Trinian's (1980) - this time as a teacher rather than a pupil - and on television she appearanced in episodes of Coronation Street (1981) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984), both produced in Manchester. She appeared on stage at the Royal Exchange in productions that included Present Laughter, Love On The Dole and Class K and also worked at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.

After Michael Elliott's untimely death in 1984, Rosalind remained in Manchester for a few years longer then returned to London in 1987 where she has lived ever since. She has appeared regularly in a wide range of television productions - Till We Meet Again (1989), Only Fools and Horses (1989), Poirot (1992), Jeeves and Wooster (1992), The Upper Hand (1995), Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1998), Dalziel and Pascoe (1999), Heartbeat (2000), Midsomer Murders (2003) - and in films such as Prick Up Your Ears (1987), Afraid of the Dark (1991), Solitaire for 2 (1995) and About A Boy (2002).

t As Mrs Cresswell, the strange and imposing landlady of the Villa Bella guest house in the 1989 Only Fools and Horses Christmas special - The Jolly Boys' Outing. Rosalind is flanked to the left by David Jason as Derek (Del Boy) Trotter and to the right by Buster Merryfield as Uncle Arthur who are obliged by force of circumstance (a burnt out coach, a rail strike and the fact that the Villa Bella is the only guest house in Margate with vacancies) to be her guests for the night.

In 1990s she returned to the Old Vic Theatre and appeared in The Illusion by Pierre Corneille (opened 7th June 1990) and again in 1995 as Miss Prism in their production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest, with Barbara Leigh-Hunt as the imposing Lady Bracknell.

Between 1999 and 2001 Rosalind was a regular cast member in the BBC TV sitcom Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, in which she played the part of Beryl Merit, a retired prostitute who lived in the flat above the two main characters, Lynda La Hughes and Tom Farrell, played by Kathy Burke and James Dreyfus. The series developed something of a cult following and made Rosalind familiar to a younger audience who were quite probably unaware of her considerable previous achievements on both stage and television.

Brandishing a gun as Beryl Merit in Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. u

Rosalind appeared on UK television on 31st January 2005 in an episode of the daytime series Doctors and in episodes of Shane with Frank Skinner. Most recently she filmed an episode of Miss Marple - The Moving Finger - and an adaptation of Rosamund Pilcher's novel The Shell SeekersThe Moving Finger, which also starred Ken Russell, Emilia Fox, Imogen Stubbs, John Sessions, Kelly Brook, Harry Enfield, Frances De La Tour and Thelma Barlow, was broadcast on ITV on Sunday 12th February 2006.

Rosalind is currently appearing with Zoe Wanamaker in The Rose Tattoo by Tenessee Williams at the National Theatre. For further details click here .

For a comprehensive list of Rosalind's screen and TV appearances click here.

Both Rosalind's daughters shared their mother's reservations about a career in the theatre and resisted until in their late twenties. Susannah gained a scholarship to RADA at 27 and went on to work in television and on stage, notably two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company with whom she appeared in productions including Macbeth, As You Like It, The Learned Ladies and Volpone.

t Susannah Elliott-Knight combines video production with work for the National Trust Children's Theatre and recently directed her first film.

 In 2000 Susannah played the lead in a play called Perfect Days and in 2002 worked with the Soho Theatre Company to present Goodbye Seattle Coffee Company by Julian Fox. More recently she has been involved with a video production company, Elbow, and with the newly formed National Trust Children's Theatre which mounts productions hosted by selected National Trust properties.

             Picture courtesy of Rosalind Knight

Susannah's younger sister, Marianne, began her theatrical career when she formed a fringe company, Small Talk, with two writer friends from university. From there she moved to the theatre her father helped to found, Manchester's Royal Exchange, where she became an Artistic Director. Her directing credits included  I Have Been here Before (1996), The Deep Blue Sea (1997), Nude With Violin (1999), As You Like It (2000) and Les Blancs (2001).

Marianne Elliott who has worked at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, the Royal Court Theatre, London, the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford Upon Avon, and is currently at the National Theatre.

In 2001 Marianne was directed The Little Foxes at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre in London and also received offers from the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. But after a brief spell in New York directing The Miracle Worker, it was the Royal Court Theatre that appealed to her most. There she directed The Sugar Syndrome by Lucy Prebble, which won two major awards in 2004. In April 2005, she directed Stoning Mary by Debbie Tucker Green and in October, for the National Theatre, a production of Ibsen's Pillars of the Community. In 2006 she directed Much Ado About Nothing for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford Upon Avon and Therese Raquin for the National Theatre. She is co-director of War Horse, an adaptation of the novel by Michael Morpurgo, which opened at the National Theatre in October 2007 and was produced again in October 2008 for a run lasting into 2009.

Marianne is married to actor Nicholas Sidi and they have a daughter, Eve, who was born in August 2004.


A lobby card for Carry On Teacher featuring Rosalind with Leslie Phillips
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