Entertainment Television

Friday 18 October 2019

Obituary: Valerie Van Ost

'Carry On' actress who was also turned into a vampire by Christopher Lee

CARRY ON: Valerie Van Ost
CARRY ON: Valerie Van Ost

Valerie Van Ost, who has died aged 75, became a familiar face on film and television during the 1960s and early 1970s, having begun her career as one of the youngest dancers to tread the boards at the London Palladium.

It is perhaps her work in four Carry On comedies for which she will be best remembered, particularly as Nurse Parkin, who fights off an amorous patient played by Sid James in Carry On Doctor (1967). That year she also made a guest appearance in The Avengers episode 'Dead Man's Treasure', and in 1968 she was considered as a replacement for the departing Diana Rigg, but lost out to Linda Thorson.

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She was born on July 25, 1944 at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. With a passion for music and the arts, after leaving school she joined a dance troupe who were regulars at the Palladium, working alongside such stars as Tommy Steele and Sammy Davis Jr, as well as Bruce Forsyth in Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

In 1962 there were three uncredited appearances: on the small screen as a showgirl in The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre; and on film in the Norman Wisdom comedy On the Beat, and as another showgirl in the crime drama Locker Sixty Nine.

She made her first entry into the Carry On franchise in 1963 with Carry On Cabby, which saw Hattie Jacques take the reins of her husband's (Sid James) flagging taxi business and transform it into Glam Cabs, with Valerie Van Ost playing one of the cabbies.

Throughout the decade, Valerie Van Ost combined the odd film role with a career on the small screen: in 1966 she was in the Coronation Street comedy spin-off Pardon the Expression, in which Arthur Lowe reprised his Leonard Swindley role, and Two of a Kind, the show that made household names of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

In 1967 she rejoined the Carry On cast in Don't Lose Your Head, in which she shared scenes with Charles Hawtrey.

Her other screen credits that decade included the horror film Corruption (1968), with Peter Cushing and, the following year, School for Unclaimed Girls - "a perfumed zoo for teenage she-cats!" declared the movie poster - as well as playing an outpatients sister in Carry On Again Doctor.

In 1971 she was given her first lead role, as 'The Girl', in Rodney Giesler's disturbing arthouse piece The Insomniac.

Two years later she was in the Hammer horror The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) as Jane, a Secret Service secretary kidnapped by a satanic cult led by the mysterious Count (Christopher Lee). Falling victim to his beguiling charm - and fangs - Jane becomes a vampire herself and ends up chained to a cellar wall with a stake through her heart.

For the rest of the 1970s there were appearances in such programmes as Crossroads, and Space 1999. She also had a recurring role in the daytime drama Harriet's Back in Town (1972).

Following an episode of Bless This House and the television film Alien Attack in 1976, she quit acting and married the producer Greg Smith, who had made his name with the bawdy "Confessions" series of films.

Valerie Van Ost launched a new career as a casting agent: one of her first jobs was the 1980 film spin-off of the sitcom George and Mildred.

Following her divorce, in 1985 Valerie Van Ost married Andrew Millington, with whom she had established her casting company. He survives her.

Valerie Van Ost died on September 10.

Sunday Independent

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