THE FORMIDABLE MISS WEBB

"Meet this woman in Blackpool" enjoined an arresting "Daily Express" day-bill embodying the head-and-shoulders likeness of a formidable - looking female easily recognisable as the one and only Rita Webb in one of her favourite poses. It struck me as a good idea and I phoned her at her flat in Blackpool-she is currently enjoying a summer season there as a principal in "The Arthur Haynes Show" at the winter gardens-for a "date".
Rita Webb is all woman, which in her case, means a good deal of woman indeed, for avoirdupois-wise she is big though she stands only four feet ten she weighs 14 stone. And she has personality to match her poundage: she exudes and her voice has the warmth of integrity one associates with innate stardom. In her time she has played not insignificantly with many of the "greats"- Cary Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Sydney Poitier, David Niven, Jose Ferrer, among them-now she deliberately chooses to restrict the magnitude of her achievement.

For 26 years Kilburn born Rita has been happily married to Al Jeffery a music master at Hendon Ealing technical school, formerly an artist of note and a member of the "Black and White Minstrels" Al specialises in instruments of the fretted family- banjo, guitar, mandolin-and with an associate. Ted Andrews is responsible for an ingenious which gives to guitar notes an organ sound. Domestic content and leisure time enough to enjoy it are top priorities for Mrs Jeffery-greater than anything the glittering lights can offer. To her the accumulation of wealth is the least consideration-"you can't take it with you".
Once her only drawback in the charm circle was a disproportionate nose-now she is thankful that in those days she never quite had to spare the £100 that would have paid for an operation to correct it. "There are millions of raving beauties but a strictly limited number of old hags like me." She told me. In fact, Rita, with the depth of her personality, the compassion of her understanding, and a rare capacity for living, makes the pretty-pretty girl look as pale and insipid as Vichy water. She has been places and could go to many others where rich rewards are offered for histrionic talents such as hers, but she is content to stay within her self-imposed orbit. A starring role opposite Bob Hope-or any other film idol- would not induce her to give up the five week fishing holiday she and her hubby take annually together. Rita gives abundantly in her professional career but she insists on keeping a fair ration of some valuable commodities for herself.

JAMES HARTLEY

RITA WEBB
FILMS

STAGE September 1966