Monday 18 November 2019

Obituary: Juliette Kaplan

Actress best known as the formidable beret-wearing Pearl Sibshaw in TV's 'Last of the Summer Wine'

Regular: Kaplan as Pearl. Photo: Getty Images
Regular: Kaplan as Pearl. Photo: Getty Images

Juliette Kaplan, who has died aged 80, was an actress who became a stalwart in the long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine.

She played beret-wearing battleaxe Pearl Sibshaw, wife of the downtrodden philanderer Howard, whose attention was usually fixed on Marina, the mini-skirted peroxide blonde of the village.

Marlene Juliette Kaplan was born in Bournemouth, then in Hampshire but now in Dorset, in 1939.

When she was an infant she moved with her family to South Africa, birthplace of her father, Jeremiah. He was in the merchant navy, while her mother Pearle (nee Cress) was a nurse.

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Her parents divorced when she was three and Kaplan moved for a few years between England and South Africa before spending a year in New York, where her mother was a secretary. "I just fell in love with the place," she recalled.

They settled in London in 1951. "I was just too old to sit the 11-plus so mother sent me to a secondary modern school," she said. "I hated it. I lied to get noticed - the things I made up were just awful, like scenes from the old films I loved." She was sent to drama school for elocution lessons to get rid of an accent that drifted between Johannesburg and Brooklyn and her sights became set on acting as a career.

There had also been inspiration in her childhood, when her father took her to the cinema. "I thought I was the spitting image of Margaret O'Brien. I wore my long dark hair the same way. I knew then I wanted to be an actress."

To pay her way she worked as a waitress, chambermaid and telephone operator and took a Saturday job at Woolworths. She found acting work with a small company that made religious documentaries. She played Salome in A Voice Crying in the Wilderness.

During the late 1950s she toured in rep and in 1958, when a play she was appearing in at Margate closed unexpectedly, she stayed on as assistant stage manager on £5 a week.

It was around this time that Juliette Kaplan met her husband, Harold Hoser. He ran a tearoom and beach cafe before opening a gift shop - later expanded to a chain across Kent.

"I'd been offered the chance to play Anne Frank," she recalled. "I was six months' pregnant at the time but the stage manager and audience didn't seem to notice."

She continued to take the odd role when motherhood would allow. Then, when she was widowed in 1981, she put her career on hold, ready to run the gift shops, until the role of Pearl in the stage version of Last of the Summer Wine came along, alongside Robert Fyfe as Howard and Jean Fergusson as Marina.

Such was their success that all three were hired to join the regular television cast. And in 2003, Kaplan toured with her one-woman show Just Pearl, written for her by Summer Wine creator Roy Clarke. She was a fixture until the programme ended in 2010.

She also appeared in London's Burning, Brookside and Doctors, and played a hostage in the film The Death of Klinghoffer (2003). In 2015 she was in eight episodes of Coronation Street as Beth Tinker's grandmother, Agnes.

Kaplan had always believed she was an only child but in 1995 received a letter from South Africa informing her of two half-brothers and a half-sister. Her father, she discovered, had remarried.

She spent her free time gardening, playing bridge and travelling and took up snorkelling in her 60s. She is survived by her three children.

Juliette Kaplan, born October 2, 1939, died on October 10, 2019.

Sunday Independent

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