Flamboyant veteran actress was fun to work with
A vivid hat full of cascading white feathers somehow symbolised Carmen Silvera, who died on August 3rd aged 80. She wore it as Edith Artois in the television comedy series 'Allo 'Allo, set in a French restaurant during the German occupation.
Her character tried to win a "new" husband for herself, not realising that the man posing as the twin brother of her "late" husband was the husband himself, who had faked his death to avoid her.
The feathers were very much part of her own flamboyant personality, which made her socially unpredictable but fun to work with. At dinner parties her excitement was such that hosts tended to serve dishes that would not easily cascade into other diners' laps. She was always losing spectacles: they seemed to have a magnetic repulsion and she could never keep track of them.
But her flamboyance was of a generous and courageous sort (she did much work for the Grand Order of Lady Ratlings, the women's side of the international show business charity).
Other actors were pleased to work with her, and when her 'Allo 'Allo "husband" Gorden Kaye, went to see her days before she died, he found her in sparkling form, as if she had all the time in the world. In June she had celebrated her 80th birthday with friends at the actors' retirement home in London.
She had always lied cheerfully about her age, which could vary by 20 years according to the needs of the moment: when her cancer was confirmed in April one newspaper described her as being 72 when she was 79.
Though 'Allo 'Allo made her reputation, she appeared in many British television series and individual shows, including an early episode of Dad's Army, in which she was the straight-laced Captain Mainwaring's unexpected bit on the side. New Scotland Yard, Z Cars, Beggar My Neighbour, Sergeant Cork, Dr Who (as Clara the Clown in The Celestial Toymaker), Two Women, Within These Walls and The Gentle Touch.
When "resting" her flamboyance did not desert her, and she was apt to take to lucrative poker games or pursue her other interests which included travel, watching athletics, golf and tennis, painting, reading, cooking or watching wildlife programmes on television.
She was also fond of horse racing. Her grandfather, who lived near Warwick racecourse, took her to the course from the age of six. As a child, she watched a horse being unloaded from a horsebox and so liked it that she insisted on betting on it, despite her father's orders that she should do nothing of the kind. It was called Light of Love and she was so desperate that her father gave her a shilling to bet on it. It won at seven to one. Thereafter he got her to choose horses for him. Carmen Silvera was born in Toronto, Canada. She travelled with her family when they returned to Britain to live in Coventry, but was evacuated back to Canada during the second World War.
She loved recounting how she nearly died in the process. She was due to cross the Atlantic on a ship that already had a full complement of children aboard and could not take any more. Instead, she safely crossed on another vessel. The ship she should have been on was sunk with the loss of many children's lives.
Despite her father's opposition, she trained at the London Academy of Music and Arts, gaining bronze, silver and gold medals. Her West End stage work included Serious Charge, Let's Get A Divorce, Torrents of Spring, People Are Living There, On The Rocks, Waters Of The Moon, Hobson's Choice and A Coat of Varnish.
In films she also tended towards the baroque, playing a grandmother in La Passione (1997), Lady Bottomley in Keep It Up Downstairs (1976), Mrs Berkley in On The Game, and in the American film Clinic Exclusive.
In 1990 she was the subject of a This Is Your Life television programme, and she remained active in her 70s, touring with the comedy You Only Live Twice.
The flamboyance concealed some emotional pain. She married a fellow actor called John at 19 after they had met when they were in the same show at Tonbridge. They lost a baby and at 26 she was divorced, never remarrying. It was a subject that tended to elude her normally extrovert manner.
Carmen Silvera: born 1922; died, August 2002