Obituary: Juliette Kaplan, actress

Juliette Kaplan (left) and co-star Jean Ferguson
Juliette Kaplan (left) and co-star Jean Ferguson
0
Have your say

The actress Juliette Kaplan, who has died at 80, inhabited for 25 years the character of the battleaxe Pearl Sibshaw in the Yorkshire comedy, Last Of The Summer Wine.

A southerner by birth, she appeared in 226 episodes of the show from 1985 to 2010, attempting to thwart her serially unfaithful husband, Howard.

The cast of Last of the Summer Wine in the 1989 Christmas special. Back row (left to right): Ivy (Jane Freeman), Clegg (Peter Sallis), Compo (Bill Owen), Seymour (Michael Aldridge), Barry (Mike Grady) and Glenda (Sarah Thomas). Front row (left to right): Wesley (Gordon Wharmby), Edie (Thora Hird), Aunty Wainwright (Jean Alexander), Howard (Robert Fyfa), Pearl (Juliette Kaplan) and Nora (Kathy Staff).

The cast of Last of the Summer Wine in the 1989 Christmas special. Back row (left to right): Ivy (Jane Freeman), Clegg (Peter Sallis), Compo (Bill Owen), Seymour (Michael Aldridge), Barry (Mike Grady) and Glenda (Sarah Thomas). Front row (left to right): Wesley (Gordon Wharmby), Edie (Thora Hird), Aunty Wainwright (Jean Alexander), Howard (Robert Fyfa), Pearl (Juliette Kaplan) and Nora (Kathy Staff).

After the series ended, she was in Coronation Street, as Beth’s grandmother, Agnes Tinker. She had previously been seen in EastEnders, Doctors, Brookside and London’s Burning.

She also appeared in Just Pearl, a one-woman show written for her by the South Yorkshire writer Roy Clarke, creator of Summer Wine, as well as Open All Hours and a string of other hits. It told Pearl’s story before she and Howard met.

She had been cast originally after Clarke and Alan Bennett saw her in a stage adaptation of the show in 1984, by which time it had been on screen for a decade.

At the time, she was juggling her acting commitments with helping to run the chain of gift shops that her late husband, Harold, had established.

“Who’s going to look after the shop?” asked her son when she told him about the role.

Originally booked for a single episode, she became a regular because the sub-plot of an eternal triangle appealed to Clarke.

“My speciality has always been American Jewish, then I ended up basing my career on a North Country woman,” she said in a 2012 interview.

Born in Bournemouth to Jewish parents who divorced when she was three, Ms Kaplan was taken to South Africa, from where her father, a navy man, had come. She went to 17 different schools in Johannesburg, Pretoria and eventually, aged 11, in New York.

Back in Britain, she attended drama school in Bournemouth, paying her way by working as a chambermaid, sales girl and telephone operator.

She landed her first professional engagement, dancing as Salome and billed as Marlene Kaplan, in the 1958 movie, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, the story of John the Baptist told by an amateur cast in a Dorset village.

But theatre roles – she played the lead in The Diary of Anne Frank while six months pregnant – gave way to marriage, motherhood and the gift shop, before Summer Wine eventually came calling.

She is survived by two daughters and a son.