Sheila Hancock's career as actress and author
- 31 December 2010
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Actress Sheila Hancock, who has been made a CBE for services to drama, has had a long career that ranges from William Shakespeare to a role in a Carry On film.
In recent years the 77-year-old has reinvented herself as a best-selling author, a West End musical star and a TV talent show judge.
The widow of Inspector Morse star John Thaw, she wrote movingly about their 30-year marriage in her memoir The Two of Us.
Earlier this month she accepted a lifetime achievement accolade from the Women in Film and Television organisation (WFTV).
Hancock was born on the Isle of Wight in 1933 and grew up in London.
She made her West End debut in 1958, going on to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in productions of Titus Andronicus and The Winter's Tale.
She got her first big television break playing Carol in BBC sitcom The Rag Trade in the early 1960s. Her early films included the 1964 comedy Carry On Cleo.
She went on to appear on such TV shows as Doctor Who, Now Take My Wife, Bleak House and New Tricks and was seen last year in the BBC's Moving On.
In 2009 she became a Mother Superior in the West End stage musical of 1992 film Sister Act.
She also featured as a judge on Over the Rainbow, helping Andrew Lloyd Webber find a Dorothy for his upcoming revival of The Wizard of Oz.
"When I started in the business, there were no women in executive positions, no women producers or directors and certainly no camerawomen," Hancock said this month as she received her WFTV award.
"We were destined to do very archetypal roles, very cliched things, so I was a dizzy blonde for years.
"It has changed immeasurably. Not enough, but it has changed immeasurably."
Hancock, a practising Quaker, was made an OBE in 1974.
The actress said she was "pleased" to be receive the honour but had had to check if it was compatible with the group's beliefs.
"I had some worries about how it fits with our beliefs in equality," she admitted.
"But they said it was fine, because it was for my work and it was earned."