No Job For A Lady. Jean Price (Penelope Keith). Copyright: Thames Television
Penelope Keith: From Margo To The Manor Born

Penelope Keith: From Margo To The Manor Born

  • TV documentary
  • Channel 5
  • 2022
  • 1 episode

A profile of the life and career of actress and sitcom star Penelope Keith. Also features Felicity Kendal, Judy Cornwell, Daliso Chaponda, Christopher Villiers, Rory Bremner and more.

Key details

Channel 5
Felicity Kendal, Judy Cornwell, Daliso Chaponda, Christopher Villiers, Rory Bremner, Graham McCann, Louis Barfe, Jason Hazeley and more
Simon Harries, Steve McConville, James Baudouy, John Piper and Aimee Silverman

Dame Penelope Keith is best known for creating two of TV's greatest comedy characters: Margo Leadbetter in the 1970s sitcom The Good Life, all outrageous fashions and withering put-downs; and the haughty-but-humorous Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in To The Manor Born in the early 1980s.

These formidable characters have so dominated the public consciousness that Penelope has struggled to break free from their shadow.

Penelope's big break as Margo came as a result of being spotted by BBC executives in Sir Alan Ayckbourn's smash-hit theatre trilogy The Norman Conquests and in a TV advert for Benson and Hedges. Within a year, newspaper articles were describing Margo as 'the super-bitch from Surbiton'. She became the breakout star of The Good Life, but even in the 1970s she expressed regret that the public seemed unable to think of her in any role other than Margo.

In 1977, she made an unforgettable appearance on The Morecambe And Wise Christmas Show, with Margo's forceful personality infusing her own. She was perhaps the only one of the show's guests to get Eric's name wrong and slap him around the face.

Her next sitcom, Sweet Sixteen, backfired because her character fell in love with a work colleague young enough to be her son. This was followed by a decade of sitcoms on ITV that are sadly neglected today, including the distinctly un-Margo-esque role of Labour MP Jean Price in No Job For A Lady.

Like many actors of her generation, Penelope took her first steps in acting by working in repertory theatre. After a spell with the Royal Shakespeare Company, she made her first forays into TV in iconic comedy and drama series such The Army Game, Dixon Of Dock Green and The Avengers. Penelope has been a constant force in theatre, with notable successes in the works of Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde. She was made a dame in 2013 in honour of her services to the arts and charity.

Penelope is famously tight-lipped about her family life, stating that she does not wish to invade the privacy of her adopted sons or her ex-policeman husband. Yet her colleagues and co-stars including Felicity Kendal and Judy Cornwell paint a portrait of her as a giggling, joke-loving, green-fingered, warm-hearted and nurturing personality, far removed from the TV characters that made her famous.


Additional details

Also known as
  • The Unforgettable Penelope Keith (Working title)

Broadcast details

First broadcast
Saturday 8th October 2022 at 8:40pm on Channel 5
Episode length
90 minutes
All previous repeats
  • Tuesday 2nd January 2024 at 8:00pm on BBC4
  • Friday 14th April 2023 at 9:00pm on C5

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