Irene Handl

Irene Handl (27 December 1901 – 29 November 1987) was a British character actress who appeared in over a hundred British films.[1]

Irene Handl
Irene Handl 1966.jpg
Irene Handl in the 1966 BBC TV comedy Mum's Boys
Born(1901-12-27)27 December 1901
Maida Vale, London, England
Died29 November 1987(1987-11-29) (aged 85)
Kensington, London, England
Years active1937–1987


Irene Handl was born in Maida Vale, northwest London, the daughter of an Austrian banker father, Frederick, and German mother, Maria Schiepp. She took to acting at the relatively advanced age of 36, and studied at the acting school run by the sister of Dame Sybil Thorndike.

She made her London stage debut in February 1937 and appeared in over a hundred British films in supporting roles, mostly comedy character parts such as slightly eccentric mothers, grannies, landladies and servants. Among many stage appearances, she played Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest in 1975, directed by Jonathan Miller.

Personal lifeEdit

She was a passionate lover of Rock and Roll, especially Elvis Presley, and was president of the Lewisham branch of the Elvis Presley fan club.[2] She was also a fellow of the National Geographical Society, and one of Britain's most avid champions of Chihuahuas, being inseparable from the pair that she owned.[2]


Handl died at her flat in Kensington, London on 29 November 1987, from metastasised breast cancer; the death was registered by her agent, Glanville Evans[citation needed]. She was unmarried. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.[3]



Handl had minor roles in such landmark films as Night Train to Munich, Spellbound and Brief Encounter. Her notable appearances included I'm All Right Jack (1959) as the wife of Peter Sellers's union leader Fred Kite, Mrs. Gammon the formidable cook opposite Gordon Harker in Small Hotel, (1957) , Tony Hancock's landlady in The Rebel (1961) and Sherlock Holmes's housekeeper Mrs. Hudson in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). She was Morgan's communist revolutionary mother, Mrs Delt in Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966). She had small roles in two of the Carry On films (Nurse and Constable).


Handl also played Mrs Peach in the film The Italian Job


On television, she appeared as a guest in a number of comedy series, notably as a regular in the 1958 series Educating Archie and as Cockney widow Ada Cresswell in For the Love of Ada, which would later be adapted for the cinema. She would also appear in Maggie and Her (1978) opposite Julia McKenzie. In the early 1980s, she played Gran in the ITV children's comedy show Metal Mickey. She appeared in a rare aristocratic role as the Duchess of Sheffield in Mapp and Lucia and as another aristocratic character in Eric Sykes's 1982 television film It's Your Move where her chauffeur was played by Brian Murphy. She also appeared as Madame de Bonneuil in the BBC's film of Hotel du Lac in 1986.

She also appeared in Super Gran as magician The Great Ronaldo Tim Wylton mum Clinging Ivy (1985)

Her last appearance was in the BBC sitcom In Sickness and in Health in 1987, just before her death at the age of 85.


In addition to her acting career, she wrote three novels: The Sioux (1965), described by Margaret Drabble as "Strange and unforgettable...Highly original and oddly haunting"[4] and its sequel The Gold Tip Pfitzer (1966); and Green and Purple Dream (1973).[5] She began the novels when she was 19 in Paris , put them aside and did not start to write again until 1961.[2]

Selected filmographyEdit


  • Thomas, Jane. 'Irene Handl', Bete Noir, 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. 102–103.
  • Thomas, Jane. 'Irene Handl: The Last Interview', Bete Noir, 4 (Winter, 1987), pp. 104–116.


  1. ^ "Irene Handl". BFI. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Guide, British Comedy (22 January 2020). "The hidden world of Irene Handl - Comedy Chronicles". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  3. ^ "Irene Handl (1902-1987) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 27 April 2020.
  4. ^ Irene Handl. "The Sioux". Goodreads.
  5. ^ Green and Purple Dream
  6. ^ In the cast list of the film

External linksEdit