Maureen Lipman

Maureen Lipman
Born Maureen Diane Lipman
(1946-05-10) 10 May 1946
Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Occupation Actress
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Jack Rosenthal
(m. 1974–2004, his death)
Children Amy Rosenthal, Adam Rosenthal

Maureen Diane Lipman, CBE (born 10 May 1946)[1] is a British film, theatre and television actress, columnist and comedian.

Early life

Lipman was born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, the daughter of Maurice Julius Lipman and Zelma Pearlman.[1] 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,[2] and became interested in performing as a youth; Lipman performed in school shows, attended an early Beatles concert, and watched Elizabeth Taylor's Butterfield 8 15 times.[3] Her first performances at home included impersonations of Alma Cogan – ' a nice Jewish girl, she was big in our house'[4] and she 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.[5] She was a member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vic from 1971–73 and of the Royal Shakespeare Company for its 1973 Stratford season.[6] She made an early film appearance in Up the Junction (1968).

After early appearances in the sitcoms The Lovers, and Doctor at Large, and a role in The Evacuees (1975), 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. 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. From November 2005 to April 2006 she played Florence Foster Jenkins in the Olivier Award nominated show Glorious! at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End.[7]

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 funfair. Later in 2007, she made a guest appearance in Casualty; this was followed by an appearance in a December 2011 episode of the Casualty-spin off Holby City, playing a different character. 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.

From October 2010 to February 2011 Lipman starred in a production of J B Priestley's When We Are Married at the Garrick Theatre. In 2012 she directed and appeared in a production of Barefoot in the Park on tour and starred in Old Money at the Hampstead Theatre. In 2013 she starred in Daytona at The Park Theatre followed by a tour, and in 2014 a season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. In 2015 she starred with James Dreyfus in Mary Chase's play Harvey at Birmingham Rep, on tour and at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. In 2016 she starred in My Mother Said I Never Should at the St. James Theatre.

Personal life and politics

Lipman is Jewish. She was married to dramatist Jack Rosenthal from 1974[8] 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 was a Labour Party supporter (until October 2014),[9] but in October 2014 declared that she will no longer be voting Labour due to the party's support for recognition of Palestine.[10] She is on the editorial advisory board of Jewish Renaissance magazine.[11]

Lipman supports the work of the Burma Campaign UK, Europe's largest NGO regarding Burma. Lipman supports the process of democratisation in the country. 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"[12] and 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".[13] 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.[14]

In The Jewish Chronicle, Lipman argued that media reporting of the conflict was "heavily distorted":

There is rarely any film of rockets being fired into Israel, nor any mention of the damage, nor of the 250,000 refugees who have fled to the centre of Israel, nor of rockets targeting Israel every day since it withdrew from Gaza, nor the damage done by 100 Hizbollah rockets a day...

More people are being killed in São Paulo, Somalia and Darfur than in this conflict. Where is the coverage? It is as if the Iraq War has completely stopped while this blanket coverage in Lebanon goes on and on and on... I sometimes think Israel should ban the press as Zimbabwe has. They are a democracy, though, and behave accordingly...

I respect freedom of speech, but I’m contemptuous of the 300 signatories [to the anti-Invasion Times advert and the Independent letter]". To English, assimilated, sometimes self-despising Jews such as Gerald Kaufman and Harold Pinter, I say: where are you going to go when the shit hits the fan? It doesn’t matter if you stand in Parliament or marry into the aristocracy, there will be no Israel to receive you, as they have received so many before. Why didn’t they put their ad in an Israeli newspaper? Because it is more important to impress their fellow Englishmen than to effect change in the situation. Where are their signatures against Burma, Nepal, Tibet and Zimbabwe?...[15]

In a January 2015 interview on LBC radio Lipman said she was considering emigrating to the United States or to Israel in response to increased anti-semitism in the UK.[16][17]

In May 2015, Maureen Lipman joined pro-Israel groups including Zionist Federation in a protest outside the London premiere of a Palestinian play, The Siege, at Battersea Arts Centre.[18]

Lipman is an enthusiastic collector of Scottish Fold cats, and has amassed over 40 (non-consecutively) of the unique breed. She is often seen with them in public, either walking them on Hampstead Heath or accompanying her to red carpet events.

Awards and nominations




  1. 1 2 "Maureen Lipman Biography (1946-)".
  2. "Maureen Lipman films TV doc at her old Hull school". Hull Daily Mail. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  3. Lipman, Maureen (28 August 2014). "Forty pairs of abandoned knickers: Maureen Lipman on the Fab Four in Hull". The New Statesman. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  4. "BBC - Radio 4 Desert Island Discs - Maureen Lipman".
  5. Exit Through the Fireplace by Kate Dunn, 1998.
  6. Who's Who in the Theatre. 1 (17 ed.). London: Pitman. p. 426. OCLC 567386306.
  7. "Maureen Lipman on soprano Florence Foster Jenkins". The Guardian. London. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  8. "Obituary: Jack Rosenthal". BBC News. BBC. 29 May 2004. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  9. Who's backing whom at the election? BBC news 21 April 2005
  10. "Labour has Lost Me - Standpoint".
  11. "Who We Are". Jewish Renaissance masthead, accessed 7 April 2010
  12. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, "Nothing but anti-Arab racism can fully explain the behaviour of the Israelis ",The Independent, 17 July 2006
  13. John Pilger, "Empire: war and propaganda", New Statesman, 31 July 2006
  14. Maureen Lipman, Letters, The Independent, 19 July 2006
  15. Maureen Lipman, "Prominent Jews speak out on the war", Jewish Chronicle, 3 August 2006
  16. "Lipman: I Might Leave UK Over Anti-Semitism". Leading Britain's Conversation. 27 January 2015.
  17. Gardner, Bill (27 January 2015). "Actress Maureen Lipman may leave Britain over attacks on Jews". The Telegraph.
  18. Firsht, Naomi (20 May 2015). "ureen Lipman joins protest outside theatre staging The Siege". Jewish Chronicle.
  19. "The Agent (2008/I)". Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  20. "The Agent – Filmhouse Cinema Edinburgh". Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  21. "Twitter / Account Suspended".

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