SHE’S one of those actors whose name you don’t recognise, but whose face is familiar from TV and films, and Christine Ozanne doesn’t mind one bit!
One of her earliest appearances came within months of leaving RADA, and the young aspiring actress found herself among some rather-more-experienced faces.
They included Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Connor and Charles Hawtrey.
“Carry On Nurse was only the second job I did after graduating from RADA,” Christine recalls.
“I wasn’t nervous, but physically I was a wreck.
“This was because I had arrived in London with nowhere to stay, so I walked down Tottenham Court Road and threw myself at the mercy of the desk sergeant in the police station, and thankfully he let me stay there for the night!
“There I was, sitting on an upright chair, leaning on a table with a lightbulb hanging over me, and they woke me about 7am and told me where to get the train.
“I had to get a tube, then a bus, then walk along a country lane to a pub, and then a mile up the road to Pinewood Studios.
“By the time I got there, I was fit for nothing, really, but I survived.
“It was £15 a day, and I did four days on it. A huge amount then!
“At the end of my first day, when I had delivered my one line, Joan Sims very kindly offered me a lift.
“She was going back into London in her chauffeur-driven limousine.
“When we got to the West End, she asked the driver: ‘Could you take this young lady wherever she wants to go?’ I was tempted to say Northampton. That was my first day of work ever.”
It had been full of highs, but also lows like barbed comments from Kenneth Williams, not a chap who would bend over backwards to make new kids feel welcome.
“Most were very pleasant,” Christine recalls.
“Joan Hickson was lovely, very kind. I just met Hattie Jacques — who was charming — very briefly. But I felt junior in their company.
“Kenneth was not wonderfully pleasant. He did make a remark once I had finished my little scene. You’ll have to buy my book to find out what he said!”
Her career has seen Christine pop up as a traffic warden in the film Ooh You Are Awful, a fishmonger in Oliver, Auntie Doris in Chucklevision and Queen Victoria in two BBC productions.
She’s been a mortuary technician, Ronnie Barker’s fiancée, a witch, Florence in Billy Liar and Mrs Pickford in Harry Hill The Movie. Nothing if not diverse!
“Ronnie Barker was a nice man, he was gorgeous,” she says.
“Very nice to work with and great fun, and not at all full of himself.
“Ronnie was generous. First of all, he liked to have a team. I got a call that he would like to speak to me and I went along.
“The thing about me is that I’m very short. I’ve never got beyond 4ft 11ins, and am now shorter.
“Ronnie was looking for The Little Woman for a How To sketch about getting married. He stood towering over me, said: ‘Wonderful!’ and I got the job.
“That was in black and white. When he did The Two Ronnies many years later, and by now we had colour, he called me to do the How To sketches again.
“He also did another series, Six Dates With Barker, six separate stories. The one I did with him was called The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town.
“It was written by Spike Milligan, and I had three separate parts.
“The phantom raspberries, by the way, were blown by David Jason off camera! Ronnie liked David very much indeed, he was one of his team.
“In fact, Ronnie called me back again, to play Granville’s girlfriend in Open All Hours.
“I did the whole thing, but the episode was too long and they had to cut my scene. I never, ever saw it.”
If you get blows like that, you also get wonderful memories. Getting to shake hands with Sir Winston Churchill was one.
“That was extraordinary! I was in a play with Sarah, his daughter,” Christine recalls. “We did a Saturday matinee at Croydon and her parents came along.
“The cast were all introduced to him and shook his hand.”
That was in 1964, but another wonderful experience was with telly madcap Harry Hill, another comic Christine has lots of time for.
“In fact, doing that film with Harry sparked off my book,” she says. “All through it, I write about jobs where I replaced someone.
“I had gone for the job in the Harry Hill movie, didn’t get it, and five weeks later, my agent called to say they’d preferred someone else’s look, but had liked me and now wanted me to replace her.
“Harry Hill was a very pleasant man, quite shy and not like an obvious comic or comedy actor.”
Another big name Christine had a lot of time for was John Inman. She first worked with him when he was a stage manager who often did a bit of acting when called upon.
Years later, they bumped into one another once more when John was famous for Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served?.
“John never changed from being kind, generous, industrious and immensely talented,” says Christine.
“What really stands out in my career? I have to say my favourite moments were all on stage, as you get that wonderful reaction from an audience.
“I never really had an audience on TV where there was actually an audience.
“It doesn’t annoy me, that I am one of those actors whose name people don’t recognise! I have done extraordinary things.”
She certainly has, having begun it all with a night in the cells at Tottenham Court Road.
Christine’s autobiography, Tome Of The Unknown Actor, is out now. Find out more at christineozanne.com