Personally, I wouldn’t give two hoots about being described as ‘matronly’. In fact I’d probably take it as a great compliment to be associated with that formidable, hard-working, leader of carers we commonly know as matrons. To me the term ‘matron’ also suggests that wonderful actress Hattie Jacques, who, along with Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe, Les Dawson and Kenny Everett, has that rare ability to make me smile every time she appears on screen.
Hattie Jacques was a beautiful wonderful woman – every TV biog on the star will tell you that. She radiated warmth, wit and charm and had a great delicacy about her – just watch the way she uses her hands, or how she moves. But best of all, she was a brilliant actress, something that gets over-looked in amongst all the tabloid stories about mad shagging and the fat jokes. Hattie acted every part as if it was real, and few actors can honestly do that. It’s all in the eyes. Just watch Hattie’s eyes and you’ll see what I mean.
For example, when you watch, say Meryl Streep in ‘Sophie’s Choice‘, it is as Chris Petit once wrote, like watching the inner workings of an expensive Swiss watch, which is fine for a technician, but what the audience really want to see is the beautifully crafted, jeweled exterior. That’s the thing about actors, a lot of them put their faces through a rigorous olympics, only to leave their eyes as spectators.
Hattie didn’t do that, she used her eyes to communicate what her character was thinking, in a similar way to the likes of Ben Kingsley in ‘Silas Mariner‘ or ‘Sexy Beast‘ or Michael Caine in ‘Alfie‘. It is a very rare talent, but one of the many Hattie had.
If you don’t believe me, then the next time you watch a ‘Carry On‘, just turn down the volume and watch Hattie excel at telling the story with her eyes. You’ll suddenly realise how wonderful Hattie Jacques truly was, and why being described as matronly isn’t so bad afterall.