Some time ago, I did a blog post about the actress who played Fred's maid in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, known in Britain as Scrooge. I wrote that viewers loved her, but no one seemed to know who she was. Recently, commenter Paul Tollet told me that he knew: She's his sister's mother-in-law. At the time she appeared in the film, he reported, her name was Theresa Derrington.
I e-mailed Paul, who put me in touch with Theresa's son Matthew Hepenstal, and the two of them supplied some information about her life and career. Her nickname is "Trip," as she was one of triplets. She attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and played only a few roles onstage and in films before marrying in 1951. She and her husband had five children. She was widowed and later married again; her last name is now Cozens-Hardy.
Matthew was kind enough to give me his mother's phone number and encourage me to call her. He also sent me a picture of her taken about 20 years ago (see below). I spoke with another of her sons, Tom, and then finally with Theresa Cozens-Hardy herself. She was delighted to hear that people love her work in Scrooge, and glad to talk about it.
She recalls of the audition, "I didn't have to do anything. . . . I only had to say my name." The filmmakers decided that she had the right look for the part; the only obstacle was her short hair. But with the cap she ended up wearing, that wasn't such a big problem.
Theresa worked on the film for one day. "It was all just sort of mime . . . but it took quite a long time to do," she says. The difficult part was when Scrooge was about to walk into the party. Though she was supposed to be looking at Alastair Sim, who was standing off-camera, he wasn't looking at her, which threw her off. Apparently he wasn't in a very encouraging mood; she recalls that he asked her, in a "sneering" way, "Is this your first film?" She came back with "No, it's my second film!" having previously played a goose girl in an American film version of Robin Hood that was made in England.
(Based on what she told me, and after doing some research, I think this must have been Disney's The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, released in 1952. The filming dates and location look right. But I haven't yet had a chance to watch the film and see if I can spot her!)
She "got on quite well" with other members of the cast, however, and "enjoyed doing the film." She was originally also in the party scene, walking around with drinks. (There were towels placed on the floor, she recalls, to show her where to go.) But this part didn't make it into the film. Also, she was asked to do some voiceover work for one of Scrooge's children -- "I think probably bits of it had gone wrong," she speculates when asked why -- but she doesn't know if her voice was actually used in the end.
Scrooge was Theresa's final film. As mentioned earlier, she married later that year, and concentrated on raising her family and teaching art. After about 13 years, she got her degree in art history and then started teaching that subject to adults. She taught well into her 70s, and though now officially retired, she still does a little teaching and lives an active life in Norfolk, England.
I had a lovely time talking with Theresa and hearing her reminiscences. I want to thank her for making time for me, and also to thank Paul Tollet, Matthew Hepenstal, and Tom Hepenstal for helping set up the interview.
(First image copyright Renown Films. Second image copyright Matthew Hepenstal.)