AT THE MILL-1981
This was one of Rita's last Tv interviews. Bob Langley was the interviewer.
BL - "Now if you were a television producer looking for people to appear on a new show the first thing you would turn to would be the televisions who's who. That's a book that gives you all the talent that's available. And in it our next guest described herself as in this manner. "Perpetually young, vital statistics 48 inch bust, 46 inch waist, 52 inch hips, dyed red hair, weight 15 stone, answers to the name of "Podge". Now that may not be terribly enticing for any television producer but as a comedian and an actress this lady is seldom off our screen. Ladies and gentlemen, Rita Webb."
Rita appears from right of orchestra coming down stairs hitting a man shouting "Get out of it, get out of it, get out of it!"
Orchestra plays as Rita dressed in a bright green Kaftan approaches Bob Langley
RW-"What do yer think that fella said? he's an Aston villa fan."
BL-"Yes, well the place is full of Aston Villa fans."
RW-"I know and he... (Audience cheer) he said, I don't know much about this courting, but lets feel yer bum for a start."
RW-"I mean I ask you, and my darling agent Peter Campbell said to me, now Rita he said don't swear on the show! I said 'no' Peter I won't. And before I start I want to tell you if I mention the name Jeffie. That's my darling husband to whom I've been married for forty-one years."(Audience clap) yeah, there you are." (Band plays as Rita laughs)
BL-"you always get great sympathy from our band. They're men with great compassion that group."
RW-"Yeah go on"
RW-"well you know once years and years ago, I think it was about the time of the Crimean war. Yes something like that (audience laughs) and my darling husband said, this was after everybody had written. I had a script once sent to me and it said 'old hag wanted, I suggest Rita Webb' and he was very upset and I didn't care a damn! I said 'look darling there are thousands of young beautiful girls, but when they want an old hag and if they have me its ok'. He said 'you go and have a photograph taken podge' he said. I said 'what's the good of me having a photograph taken I always look the bloody same' (audience laugh) most of the times I, oh I'm sorry Peter. Most of the times I had me mouth open. So anyway I went and had this photograph taken, it was a long time ago remember that. And I hid it. I looked at it. Gloated over it. Really thought I looked like it and then I put it away. In the mean time my darling brother, who was an actor and through, partly through him I started, Henry Webb and he lost an arm unfortunately or he'd had been a great actor. Well he married and had some children, and one of my nieces was twelve and they was always around my house. And this particular day after being told how ugly I was about a thousand times, I bought this photograph out to show to my niece. I said 'there you are darling do you recognize that?' 'No auntie' she said. 'Isn't she lovely, who is it?' But I said 'its someone you know very well' she said 'who is it auntie?' I said 'its me'. 'Oh auntie what a tragedy'" (audience laughs)
BL-"Were you really a chorus girl?"
RW-"Yes I was a chorus girl. I ran away from school. I was a chorus girl when I was fifteen. Mind you, you didn't have to do ballet and all this tap dancing. All you had to do, I had nice long red hair, it was natural then, it's dyed now of course. (Audience laughs) But then it was natural and you only had to cock your leg up and smile and everything was alright you see. (audience laughs) And then my Dadda made me come back home. but I always wanted to be an actress. I was an actress when I was three."
RW-"How did I get it? Well regarding television, I hadn't done anything for years and my hubby was in the 'Black and White minstrel show', oh this was later but he was in the music hall. And I hadn't done anything for years. And I watched this television and I thought gawd blimey its a bloody mess here I think I'll have a basin of this. So I wrote to the bloke at the BBC. It was the BBC that gave me my first chance, they were the only one around. And I must say that the BBC have given me some lovely parts. Anyway I wrote to a bloke named Val Gielguld. I said 'I've been watching your television and it looks as though you could do with a good actress', modesty being my second name (audience laughs) And he wrote back and he said 'dear Miss Webb you must understand I can't tell my producers who to use.' I said 'well don't tell them who to use just tell them to see me, they'll use me.' I eventually got a letter to go to the 'Goating Cumpus' to see a man named Robert Barr. And in I went and there were hundreds there. Red haired, green hair, pink hair, fat, thin. I thought my gawd I'm not gonna stop here. Anyway the boy called me in, I said 'its not my turn, there are all these people'. He said 'no you come in' and I went in he said 'can you do cockney? I said are you kidding. then I read this cockney thing and he said 'we'll let you know' I said gawd blimey there not still saying that are they (audience laugh)and I went to the pictures, I thought I'm not gonna hang around for that. And then before I went home I rang Jeffie. 'Podge' he said 'where have you been? They've been ringing for you, they want you at Lime Grove' and I went up to Lime Grove to see this Robert Barr again and I got my first television at Alley Palley, of course the BBC wasn't built you see. And I did five in a row. I did one of the first 'Dixon Of Dock Green' for Billie Whitelaw was the daughter, that'll tell you how long ago it was" (audience laughs)
RW-"Oh no that came after. Because living with me at the time was a beautiful actress named Sandra Dorne and she was a big star through the 1950's and the 1960's. And she had just landed the lead; amongst she had done thousands of pictures. But this was 'Hindle Wakes' and she said 'you should be in this Podge, I've spoken to the director and he wants to see you' but she said 'when you go down, tell him what you've done', So I said 'well what can I tell Him? She said 'oh you'll think of something' I thought gawd blimey what am I gonna tell him! Anyway I walked through Wardour Street and in the windows of Wardour Street were all the films that people have done, and I saw 'White Corridors' and I looked at it, there was loads of women in it. And I thought that's for me, I've been in that. (Audience Laughs) So in I go. I've been doing a little Repertory at a place, that's where I met that lovely Derek Waring and Barbara Mitchell do you remember her? Lovely girl. Anyway I was getting ten quid a week there, and the others were only getting seven, but I was a visiting guest so I got ten (audience laughs)so I thought well I'm gonna get this film I want a bit more see. So I went in and he said what have you done? So I said 'White Corridors' 'and what part did you play?' I said 'The Matron' and this just shows you. I was so ignorant that I didn't realize HE might have been the director of that film. Which was quite possible. But I didn't know that you see. Angels rush in with...no 'Fools Rush in where Angels fear to tread' (audience and Rita laugh) anyway he said 'what's your fee? So I said 'twenty five' and I was just gonna say 'a week!' when something shut me mouth up. I don't know what it was. I think I was suddenly aware of my incupiderty wanting twenty-five quid you know. So I shut up there and he said 'er well yes I think your`ll suit us' anyway I got the part. I went home and Sandra said 'what happened?' so I told her. I said 'I've got the part and I'm getting twenty-five quid a week!' 'Yer silly what-not' she said 'they don't pay weekly in films they pay daily! It's twenty-five quid a day! (Audience laughs) I thought it can't be, it can't be. Yes that's what I got, twenty five quid a day"... (Audience laughs)
BL-"Which was a fortune then presumably?"
RW-"Well I was a millionairess then you see. I was thinking of buying a yatghit. In case you don't know what a yatghit is that's a yacht (audience laughs),but anyway."
BL-"Are you really fifteen stone?"
RW-"Well I'm near enough to fifteen stone. I've been starving like buggery for the last week. (Audience laughs) oh Peter I'm so sorry. And I've been trying to lose a bit of weight. But it doesn't seem to make much difference does it? You know people go without food and the girls all look like that and I cant go without food"
BL-"Well I saw you on a slimming programme. You said you were going to lose a few stone!"
RW-"Oh ha ha ha ha ha. I went on a slimming programme. It was called Keep Britain Slim with Chris Kelly, Isn't he a lovely bloke. Him and Judith Chalmers. Anyway she wasn't in it, but Chris Kelly. And I went down and there was a doctor there. A real live doctor. And he weighed us and I was 13 stone. It was a long time ago. And in came a bloke with two sacks of potatoes. Two sacks of potatoes and a sack of bread and he said 'see that, that's what you're carrying about unnecessarily', I thought gawd blimey,(audience laughs) anyway this doctor got hold of Chris afterwards and said 'how old is she?' in this country they always bloody well wanna know how old you are, (audience laughs)how old is she, and Chris said 'I don't know' he said 'well she'll be dead before she's so and so. And I was well past that then." (Audience laughs)
BL-"Just let me break in on you at this point if I may"
BL-"Because you said earlier on that you've always wanted to be an entertainer. You had always wanted to be an actress. but have you ever felt the sense of bitterness or regret that you were not a star?"
RW-"Good gracious no! I know no actor or actress looking at
me tonight, if they are looking. Will never believe it. I never wanted
to be a star, never. I tell you why. I've had forty one years of real
happiness with the loveliest man in the world. Totally different to me,
I'm a bugger. And when your a star darling apart from all the tension
and all the work, you've got to be a little ruthless to reach up there.
And I knew I couldn't be that. And on the way up you might lose your husband
or your children and it ain't worth that mate! Is it Benny? Benny Hill,
my lovely Benny Hill. I must mention him because I love him so much. But
it ain't worth it. I haven't got a great big house with a big grounds
with a swimming pool and all yer friends come and pee in"
BL-"But you are happy?"
RW-"But I'm happy!"
BL-"Ladies and Gentlemen Rita Webb."
RW-"Thank you, thank you, thanks very much."