This dark-haired barrel-shaped comedienne and character actress was thedaughter of a Lancashire comedian. She made her professional stagedebut in 1915 aged 10 and toured for decades in variety and second rankrevues, several of which she produced herself. She had a reputation forbeing difficult to work with, but this was probably because she was aperfectionist and had to fight for equal treatment in themale-dominated world of British show business. Her most popular act wasmalapropism-filled gossip with a tall, mute stooge called Cynthia (whowas nearly always played by a man in drag).
Baker became nationally famous in 1955 after a guest appearance on theTV show "The Good Old Days" (1953) and was kept busy in TV andon stage for the rest of her career. When success came she lived thelife of a star to the full: dressing in furs, buying a large house,driving huge cars and keeping monkeys as pets. She allegedly had avoracious sexual appetite and a liking for very young men and rumourscirculated about wild parties at her Blackpool home. She only appearedin five films but these include the classic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and the Oscar-winning Oliver! (1968) She is now best remembered for the role of Nellie Pledge in the TVsitcom "Nearest and Dearest" (1968) . This ran for seven seriesand spawned stage and film spin-offs.
In it she played a prim northernspinster forever locking horns with her dissolute brother Eli afterthey jointly inherit their father's pickle factory. Her screen brotherwas played by comedian 'Jimmy Jewel' . Off-screen the pair hatedeach other and their on-set battles became part of British showbizlegend. As the series progressed Baker found it increasingly difficultto remember her lines and began to rely on cue cards. This was thefirst symptom of the Alzheimer's disease that would eventuallyoverwhelm her.
Her next starring vehicle was the TV sitcom "Not on Your Nellie" (1974) , in which she played NelliePickersgill - a thinly disguised version of Nellie Pledge - this time ateetotal spinster called down to London to run her ailing father's pub. This series was less successful and ended suddenly when theaccident-prone Baker injured herself after slipping on prop beer thathad been spilled on the studio floor. She sued the production companyand effectively ended her television career. In 1978 she was teamed with cockney character actor'Arthur Mullard' to record a parody of the Grease (1978) anthem 'You're The One That I Want'. This became an unlikely noveltyhit, reaching number 22 in the UK singles chart and leading to the pairmaking a memorably embarrassing appearance on Top of the Pops (1964).
Clips of this performance are often used in 'Worst TV moments'compilation shows. This proved to be Baker's TV swansong. Her memorywas getting worse and she was unable to work. In 1981 she moved intoBrinsworth House, a home for retired variety performers in Twickenham,Middlesex and then in 1984, as her condition deteriorated further, toHorton Psychiatric Hospital in Epsom, Surrey. She died there in 1986from bronchial pneumonia.
Hylda Baker is now a cult figure and is often quoted by today's Britishcomediennes as an influence and a trailblazer. A one-women play abouther life and career called "She Knows You Know" has played in London'sWest End and toured throughout the UK and Baker is becoming known tonew audiences through satellite and cable TV showings and DVD releasesof her TV and film work. .
|1||100 Greatest TV Moments from Hell||2000||as Herself|
|2||Saturday Night and Sunday Morning||1960||as Aunt Ada|
|3||Top of the Pops: The Story of 1978||2013||as Herself|
|4||Alan Melville Takes You from A-Z||1956||as Herself|
|5||Val Parnells Sunday Night at the London Palladium||1955||as Herself|
|6||All Star Comedy Carnival||1972||as Nellie Pledge|
|7||Blackpool: Big Night Out||2012||as Herself|
|8||Nearest and Dearest||1972||as Nellie Pledge|
|9||Oliver!||1968||as Mrs. Sowerberry|
|10||She Knows YKnow||1956||as Herself|
|11||She Knows YKnow||1962||as Hylda Worswick|
|12||These Are the Shows||1957||as Herself|
|13||Up the Junction||1968||as Winnie|
|14||Where the Difference Begins||1961||as Bernie|
|15||Be Soon||1957||as Hylda|
|16||Best of Friends||1963||as Hylda|
|17||Big Night Out||1961||as Herself|
|18||Blackpool Show Parade||1957||as Herself|
|19||Call Boy||1957||as Herself|
|20||Comedy Bandbox||1962||as Herself|
|21||David Nixons Comedy Bandbox||1966||as Herself - Guest|
|22||Emergency-Ward 10||1957||as Nellie Staines|
|23||Face the Music||1953||as Herself|
|24||Get It Together||1977||as Herself - Guest|
|25||Holiday Hotel||1955||as Herself|
|26||ITV Play of the Week||1955||as Mrs. Wiltshire|
|27||Nearest and Dearest||1968||as Nellie Pledge|
|28||Not on Your Nellie||1974||as Nellie Pickersgill|
|30||Our House||1960||as Henrietta|
|31||Out of Town Theatre||1966||as Gran|
|32||Room 101||1994||as Herself|
|33||Saturday Variety||1972||as Herself|
|34||The Good Old Days||1953||as Herself - Performer|
|35||The Val Doonican Show||1970||as Herself|
|36||This Is Your Life||1969||as Herself|
|37||Top of the Pops||1964||as Herself|
|38||Z Cars||1962||as Madge Mills|