Rag Trade star Miriam Karlin dies aged 85

image captionLondon-born Karlin was a committed political activist

Actress Miriam Karlin, known to many for her role as shop steward Paddy in TV sitcom The Rag Trade, has died in London aged 85.

The actress, who became an OBE in 1975, had cancer and died in hospital.

Born Miriam Samuels in 1925, Karlin was one of Malcolm McDowell's victims in A Clockwork Orange and also had roles in The Entertainer and Room at the Top.

Sir Antony Sher, one of her former co-stars, paid tribute to her as "a great actress [and] a great lady".

Working with Karlin on the play Torch Song Trilogy had been "one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career," he said.

"She gave a tremendous performance as the Jewish mother, full of power and anger, but there was always a twinkle in her eye."

Screen demise

Raised as an orthodox Jew in London, Karlin was a staunch political activist and an active member of actors' union Equity.

She had been a patron of Dignity in Dying, a body that campaigns for a change to the laws on assisted dying.

The Hampstead-born actress - who lost some family members in Auschwitz - trained at Rada and performed for troops with the Entertainments National Service Association (Ensa).

image captionKarlin played shop steward Paddy in both incarnations of The Rag Trade

Her stage work included engagements with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She also became the first woman to play the traditionally male lead in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker.

The actress frequently played formidable Jewish matriarchs, among them Golde in the original West End production of Fiddler on the Roof.

Karlin appeared as Paddy - known for calling "Everybody out!" at regular intervals - in the original 1960s version of The Rag Trade.

She would later reprise her role when the show was revived by ITV in the 1970s.

It was her startling demise in A Clockwork Orange, though, for which some film fans will remember her best.

As the so-called "Cat Lady", she was beaten to death with a phallic-looking sculpture in Stanley Kubrick's controversial take on Anthony Burgess's novel.

West End theatre producer David Pugh was a friend of Karlin's and remembered her as "a wonderful woman."

Equity spokesman Martin Brown has also paid tribute, remembering her in The Stage as "an absolutely indefatigable campaigner and a marvellous friend".

In a statement, Lord and Baroness Kinnock said the actress had been "superbly talented in roles of every kind".

"Mim was easy to love, an infectious friend, a true comrade and a sparkling spirit."