Pauline COLLINS (1940-)

Pauline Collins This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 329
  • Subject No: 330
  • Broadcast date: Wed 5 Apr 1972
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Wed 29 Mar 1972
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 12
  • Edition: 21

on the guest list...

  • David Langton
  • Nicola Pagett
  • Simon Williams
  • Gordon Jackson
  • Angela Baddeley
  • Christopher Beeny
  • Patsy Smart
  • Jean Marsh
  • John Alderton - husband
  • Nora - mother
  • Pat - father
  • Gordon - father-in-law
  • Ivy - mother-in-law
  • Gabrielle - sister
  • Claire - sister
  • Jackie - sister-in-law
  • Diane - sister-in-law
  • Sister Denise Calder
  • Patricia Hayes
  • Ann Marie Renault
  • Jean Louis Renault
  • Patricia Turner
  • Jim Mooney
  • Polly James
  • John Mortimer
  • Capt Frank Callanan - uncle
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Wolf Mankowitz
  • Recorded tributes:
  • Marie Herbert
  • Wally Herbert

production team...

  • Researcher: Martin Robertson
  • Writer: Martin Robertson
  • Director: Margery Baker
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

An Actor's Life For Me

spotlight on the stars

Family Life

keeping it in the family

Life Is What They Make It...

New producer Malcolm Morris reveals more behind-the-scenes secrets

How To Deceive Your Husband

TV Times takes a light-hearted look at keeping a secret

The Night We Shocked Petula

TV Times photo feature on Petula Clark's second This Is Your Life surprise

This is his life...

Irish magazine RTE Guide reveals some behind-the-scenes secrets

John Alderton

Patricia Hayes

Wally Herbert

Simon Williams

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Screenshots of Pauline Collins This Is Your Life

Pauline Collins recalls her experience of This Is Your Life in an interview with Graham Norton on his BBC Radio 2 show, broadcast in March 2017

Surprise Of Your Life book

Presenter Eamonn Andrews and producer Jack Crawshaw recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, Surprise Of Your Life...

As you've seen, to surprise Pauline Collins involved me in one of those situations which takes me weeks to live down with my family – dressing up as someone else. It's a ploy we often use on This Is Your Life. Sometimes it's a vital disguise to make sure that I'm not recognised before the moment of confrontation. On other occasions we do it to highlight the humorous element at the start of what we know is going to be a fun show.

Whatever the reason, it is always treated with the utmost seriousness by at least one member of the team, wardrobe mistress Pat Worth. She knows my clothes measurements off by heart now, although I have a feeling that her job would be a lot easier if I were nearer the tailor's dummy proportions favoured by the theatrical costumiers. Every week she pops her head around my door to check what I plan to wear. This particular week her brief was to check out what Gordon Jackson wore for his role as Hudson and find the identical outfit. Well, at least one like it, if a little bit bigger.

That is how I came to be driving down the Marylebone Road one evening late in March 1972 resplendent in black tails, sharply-pressed pinstriped trousers, a narrow black tie and a starched white wing collar.

We were heading for number 165 Eaton Place, Belgravia. Once that famous address was the home of Edwardian aristocracy. Today it stands in what is still one of London's most fashionable areas. But right then it was being used as a realistic film set by the cast of the London Weekend Television series which, only weeks before, had won the award of the Society of Film and Television Arts (now British Academy of Film and Television Arts) as the best drama series of 1971.

There had been many dramatic incidents in Pauline's brief, but event-filled, life and I wondered how she would react to this next one as we neared Eaton Place.

When we arrived she was in the middle of a scene with Gordon. As always she knew her lines well and as the cameras turned, she was impressing the crowd, who had gathered to watch, with another of her impeccable acting performances. But as she faced the camera she could not see another performance being acted out just up the street: yours truly leaping from a car to switch places with Gordon.

Gordon, in his role as Hudson, the butler, was behind her when, as the script demanded, he called her name. Without turning Pauline spoke the aptly scripted line: "Speak of the Devil". And as far as Pauline was concerned, it could have been the Devil himself when, instead of Gordon's next words, she heard my voice.

Pauline Collins This Is Your Life

She turned immediately and I think you'll agree that the picture tells the story!

I sometimes think it is more of a shock for an actor or actress when we catch them while they are actually acting. It is, in fact, a fictional situation in which I replace a fictional character. But in a real life situation no wonder they have a double, double take.

It is surprising enough to be stopped in the street or elsewhere in real life and told tonight it's your life. But when you've already acclimatised your mind to one particular charade, one particular fiction, one particular story, it's a mindblower.

All good actors and actresses have to get themselves enmeshed in the parts they're playing. Then when I arrive in such a situation as this one the brain has to assimilate that not only is there an added fiction, but fiction plus fact.

Pauline's first words were: "Why me?" and then she added "I haven't had a life". But what she didn't know was that by then we knew more about her life than she could ever have guessed.

Pauline Collins was undoubtedly a star of the Upstairs Downstairs series and had won herself new fans the world over with her role as Sarah, the downstairs maid. But then before that success she had won the hearts of millions of viewers as one of the girls in another top-rating television show "The Liver Birds".

Hardly a surprising role for a girl who was born on Merseyside. A bonny little 'war baby', she had survived when an enemy bomb demolished her home in Wallasey.

That dramatic story was told later by the woman who had pushed her pram to shelter in the porch as the house caved in around them – Pauline's mother Mrs Nora Collins. And as she talked, Pauline sat smiling, next to her husband, comedy actor John Alderton.

After the show, John told of a near miss he had had early that morning. Knowing that Pauline wouldn't want to go through This Is Your Life wearing the costume of an Edwardian downstairs maid, he had sneaked out of the back of their home in Weybridge with a change of dress for her to wear later when she reached the studio with me after the initial shock in Eaton Place. He had planned to hand it to Pat Worth for safe-keeping during the day. Simple enough for those in the know. But how does a fella explain that to an early morning milkman who spots you tip-toeing across the lawn with an elegant long evening dress over your arm?

Pauline Collins This Is Your Life

Series 12 subjects

George Best | Alfred Marks | Rolf Harris | Don Whillans | Sacha Distel | Les Dawson | Doris Hare | Keith Michell | David Frost
Barry John | Michael Flanders | Charlie Williams | Ginette Spanier | Hughie Green | Tom Courtenay | Hylda Baker
Gordon Banks | Alan Rudkin | Michael Wood | Graham Kerr | Pauline Collins | Ray Illingworth
Patricia Hayes | Nosher Powell | Richard Briers | Lulu