Maureen Diane Lipman CBE (born 10 May 1946) is a British film, theatre and television actress, columnist and comedienne.
Lipman was born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, the daughter of Maurice Julius Lipman and Zelma Pearlman. Her father was a tailor; he used to have a shop between the Ferens Art Gallery and Monument Bridge. She attended Newland School for Girls in Hull and was encouraged into an acting career by her mother, who used to take her to the pantomime and push her onto the stage. Lipman trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Lipman worked extensively in the theatre following her début in a stage production of The Knack at the Palace Theatre, Watford. In order to get the post she pretended that a documentary producer wanted to follow her finding her first job-this was a lie but it seemed to work. She was a member of Laurence Olivier's Royal National Theatre Company at the Old Vic. She made an early film appearance in Up the Junction. After early appearances in the sitcoms The Lovers, and Doctor at Large, Lipman first gained prominence on television in the 1979 situation comedy Agony, in which she played an agony aunt with a troubled private life. She played the lead role in the television series All at No 20 and took on a range of diverse characters when starring in the series About Face. She is well known for playing Joyce Grenfell in the biographical show Re: Joyce!, which she co-wrote with James Roose-Evans, and another memorable character Beatrice Bellman (Beatie/BT), a Jewish grandmother in a series of television commercials for British Telecom (HENCE THE TELEPHONE BOX CONNECTION) She has continued to work in the theatre for over thirty years, playing, amongst other roles, Aunt Eller in the National Theatre's Oklahoma! with Hugh Jackman.
In 2006 Lipman played Maggie Wych in the children's television show 'The Fugitives.'
In 2002, she played snooty landlady Lillian Spencer in Coronation Street, and the titular character's mother in Roman Polanski's award-winning film The Pianist. More recently, she has narrated two television series on the subject of design, one for UKTV about Art Deco and one about 20th century design for ITV/Sky Travel. In 2003 she appeared in Jonathan Creek in the episode "The Tailor's Dummy".
She also wrote a monthly column for Good Housekeeping magazine for over ten years, which spawned several biographical books, including "How Was It For You?", "Something To Fall Back On", "Thank You For Having Me", "You Can Read Me Like A Book" and "Lip Reading". More recently, Lipman penned a weekly column in The Guardian in the newspaper's G2 section. She performed as a villain in the 2006 series of Doctor Who in the episode entitled "The Idiot's Lantern" as The Wire. Until 29 April 2006 she played Florence Foster Jenkins in the Olivier Award nominated show Glorious! at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End.
After her playwright husband's death in May 2004 she completed his autobiography By Jack Rosenthal, and played herself in her daughter's four-part adaptation of the book, Jack Rosenthal's Last Act on BBC Radio Four in July 2006. She has created several volumes of autobiography from her Good Housekeeping columns and recently published The Gibbon's In Decline But The Horse Is Stable, a book of animal poems which is illustrated by established cartoonists including Posy Simmonds and Gerald Scarfe, to raise money for Myeloma UK, to combat the cancer to which she lost her husband.
She has also appeared a few times on Just a Minute, The News Quiz, That Reminds Me, This Week and Have I Got News For You. In 2007, Lipman appeared as a celebrity contestant on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice to raise money for Comic Relief. The show saw her helping to run a fun fair. Later in 2007, she made a guest appearance in Casualty. In May 2008 she appeared in the BBC documentary series Comedy Map of Britain. She currently writes for The Oldie. On Sunday 11 January 2009 BBC Four was devoted to a "Maureen Lipman Night". On 5 February 2009, she appeared in the third series of teen drama Skins, in the episode entitled "Thomas" as Pandora Moon's Aunt Elizabeth.
She appeared twice on The Paul O'Grady Show during its run, once alongside Julie Walters to promote her most-recent book Past-It Notes, the other to speak about her appearance as the wheelchair-bound Madame Armfeldt in the Sondheim musical A Little Night Music, showing at the Menier Chocolate Factory. In both of these appearances, she also spoke briefly about her role as Irene Spencer in the ITV3 comedy Ladies of Letters, in which she leads alongside Anne Reid. The show's first series started in 2009, and returned for a second series in 2010, shown divided into two five-week stints.
Lipman's appearance as Madame Armfeldt was criticised by Telegraph critic Charles Spencer, at the same time that he criticised Judi Dench's roles in Madame de Sade alongside Deborah Findlay and Jenny Galloway, and as "M" in the James Bond films. Madame Armfeldt is a woman who has supposedly slept her way through the European royal families; a role which Spencer described Lipman to be "too angular" to play. His analysis of Lipman was a "wildly unlikely grande horizontale". Both Lipman and Dench were annoyed by these reviews; and Lipman was quoted in a gossip column to want to pour a glass of wine over Spencer's head.
Personal life and politics
Lipman is Jewish. She was married to dramatist Jack Rosenthal from 1974 until his death in 2004, and has had a number of roles in his works. She has two children, writers Amy and Adam Rosenthal. Lipman is a Labour Party supporter. She is on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine.
Lipman supports the work of the Burma Campaign UK, Europe's largest NGO regarding Burma. Lipman supports the process of democratisation in the troubled nation. Lipman also supports the work of Prospect Burma, a non-political charity that offers Burmese students the opportunity to study at universities outside of Burma. Lipman spoke on behalf of Prospect Burma in the BBC Radio 4 Charity Appeal, which was broadcast on 6 September 2009.
Lipman supported Israel during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict. On 13 July 2006, in a debate on the BBC's This Week, she argued that "human life is not cheap to the Israelis, and human life on the other side is quite cheap actually, because they strap bombs to people and send them to blow themselves up." These comments were condemned by Muslim political columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who said "Brutally straight, she sees no equivalence between the lives of the two tribes" and left-wing journalist John Pilger, who in the New Statesman criticised the BBC for allowing Lipman – whom he described as "a Jew and promoter of selective good causes" – to present her allegedly insensitive remarks without, in his view, any "serious challenge". Lipman responded to Alibhai-Brown's accusation of racism by arguing that the columnist had deliberately misrepresented Lipman's comments as generalisations about Muslims rather than specific comments about terrorists.
In the Jewish Chronicle, Lipman argued that media reporting of the conflict was "heavily distorted":
Awards and nominations
She was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Comedy Performance in 1985 (1984 season) for See How They Run.
She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Hull in 1994.
Her show, Live and Kidding, performed at the Duchess Theatre, was nominated for a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Entertainment of the 1997 season.
She was awarded the CBE in 1999.
In 2003 she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for The Pianist (2002), at the Polish Film Awards.
Thriller – 'File It Under Fear' (1973)
The Evacuees (1975)
The Sweeney ("Selected Target") (1976) — Mrs Smedley
Agony (1979–81) — Jane Lucas
Smiley's People (1982) — Stella Craven
On Your Way, Riley (1985) — Kitty McShane
A Little Princess (1986) — Miss Minchin
All At No. 20 (1986–7)— Sheila Haddon
The Enid Blyton Story (1992) — Enid Blyton
Agony Again — Jane Lucas (1995)
Eskimo Day (1996) — Shani Whittle
Coronation Street (2002) — Lilian Spencer
Jonathan Creek: ("The Tailor's Dummy") (2003) — Louise Bergman
Doctor Who ("The Idiot's Lantern") (2006) — The Wire
The Agent (2008) — Charlie
The Paul O'Grady Show (2008, 2009) — Herself
Skins (2009) – Aunt Elizabeth
Minder ("The Art of the Matter") (2009) – Anita Richardson
Ladies of Letters (2009–present) — Irene Spencer
Loose Women (2010) — Herself
Tinga Tinga Tales (2010) Voiced of Hummingbird
Up the Junction (1968)
The Smashing Bird I Used to Know (1969) — Sarah
Educating Rita (1983) — Trish
See How They Run (1984)
National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)
Carry On Columbus (1992) — Countess Esmeralda
Oklahoma! (1999) — Aunt Eller
The Pianist (2002) — Mother Szpilman (Nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Polish Film Awards)
Run For Your Wife (2012) - Cameo role