viveangrayActress Vivean Gray, best known to viewers as Mrs Jessup in The Sullivans and Mrs Mangel in Neighbours, has died at the age of 92.

The English-born actress came to Australia in the 1950s, just as TV was beginning in this country. Like many actors at the time, Gray appeared in guest roles in early Crawford cop dramas Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police.

tvweek_031081Other roles followed in Power Without Glory, Solo One, Bluey and the ABC series Lucky Colour Blue, but it was her role as Ida Jessup in the World War 2 drama The Sullivans that made her a household name. Gray played the gossipy Mrs Jessup for the show’s entire six-year run, winning TV Week Logie Awards in 1978 and 1981 for Best Supporting Actress. It was front-page news of TV Week when the widowed Ida Jessup married Arthur Pike (Wallas Eaton).

Later credits included Carson’s Law, Anzacs and All The Rivers Run and a brief stint as prison inmate Edna Pearson in Prisoner. But Gray’s next defining role would be one that had parallels to Mrs Jessup. The character of Nell Mangel, the stereotypical nosy neighbour that was never short of an opinion, was initially written in to Neighbours in mid-1986 as a guest role but proved so successful that she stayed on. Gray ended up leaving the series after only two years following negative public reaction from viewers unable to separate Gray the actress from Mrs Mangel the gossip. Her departure from Neighbours was marked with Mrs Mangel’s marriage to Englishman John Worthington (Brian James) and calling a truce with frequent opponent Madge Bishop (Anne Charleston).

YouTube: The Soapology’s Channel

Although Mrs Mangel left Ramsay Street almost three decades ago, the Mangel name lived on for years to come with various offspring still residing in Ramsay Street — and a portrait painted by Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy) still makes the occasional cameo appearance.

Film credits for Gray included Libido, A City’s Child, Picnic At Hanging Rock and The Last Wave.

Source: The Guardian, IMDB, Perfect Blend. TV Week, 31 May 1986.


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