Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Farewell, Kate O’Mara

Kate O’Mara, one of the great battle-axes, has left us at the age of 74

Sun, Mar 30, 2014, 22:35


They don’t make them like that anymore. Kate O’Mara, who has died at the age of 74, was one of the greatest glamorous bitches of her age. You know what I mean. I’m sure she was lovely in person. But, on screen, she competed in the bitchy glam stakes with the likes of Stephanie Beacham, Joan Collins and Linda Gray. There are rivals worth fearing there. But our Kate was up to them. She gained greatest fame as the hilariously named Caress Morell in Dynasty, but I first remember her eating up Sunday nights on The Brothers. That series — about a trucking dynasty, of all things — occupied a very particular spot in the British TV schedules: the comforting Sunday dinner-hour segment that we soak up before the trials of the week begin again. The Onedin Line, Lovejoy, Upstairs Downstairs, Downton Abbey: you know the sort of thing. Later she returned to that slot for yachting soap Howard’s Way.

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Anyway, though she did many things, she will be best remembered for those mink-clad tyrants. It could be argued that there is a streak of misogyny at play here. There are evil men in soap operas, but their wretchedness is rarely so tied up with their sexuality. Why must romantically aggressive females also be witches? We really don’t have the time or the space. But its being going on since the Ancient Greeks.

Instead, enjoy Kate as (an unavoidable role for British actresses of her generation) a saucy vampire in one of Hammer’s sexy horrors from the 1970s. In Roy Ward Baker’s The Vampire Lovers, my old pal Ingrid Pitt bites Kate on her neck in a fashion that some idiots think has lesbian overtones. I mean, really! Where do you get these ideas from? It’s a horror film, not any sort of groundbreaking gay romance.