Here are a few interesting quotes from Frances over the years regarding the role of Miss Ruth Jones.
From the moment Rising Damp appeared on our screens, Frances was keen to point out she didn’t have a lot in common with Miss Jones.
‘I may have had at one time, but certainly have not now. I was brought up a little like her – she has middle-class values and these were instilled into me when I was young – but there the similarity ends. The only thing I can say about the character is that I was able to draw upon my own background experience in creating her.’
‘We were just doing it for the money…I certainly needed the money and if you’re offered a TV sitcom, you say ‘Yeah, fine.’
Frances would often note how she dragged around the role of Ruth, long after her appearances ended. Notably she would say ‘I found the character of Miss Jones behaved like the ghost of Hamlet’s father – she wouldn’t lie down. In the middle of my “Hamlet” in 1979, a child yelled “Look, there’s Miss Jones”.’
From an interview in the Sun from 1978, Frances, 32, says “Usually, everybody within earshot turns round and says ‘How is Mr Rigsby?’. The trouble is, no matter how you try to disguise your features, you can’t disguise your voice. I’ve tried wearing dark glasses, but that’s silly, because it only makes people look at you. Anyhow, I can’t see what I’m buying!
“Miss Jones might seem timid but I think that on the quiet she’s a bit of a raver. The fact that she can fancy the seedy Rigsby shows you how desperate she must be.”
She would recall Ruth as ‘an interesting character to play’, ‘We laughed a lot on set, but comedy is serious business and Leonard took it particularly seriously, and rightly so. Comedy, which is so much down to timing, is exhausting work. But it was a happy time.’
I didn’t think that Rising Damp (1974) would have quite the longevity it’s enjoying actually. At the time we knew it was good because it was very well written by Eric Chappell, and he wrote characters as well as situations. In fact, very little situation happens in this particular situation comedy, it’s character based. And we knew it was good but there were a lot of very popular and good sitcoms in the seventies. You could name at least five. It became more popular years later, five, ten years, even then 20 years and people started calling it a classic. But it’s like we left it behind and it never died.
‘I liked Rising Damp because it opened up a new dimension to me, and it was challenge. But even in television situation comedy one can draw profitably from one’s theatre experience.’
“It’s the tombstone thing, isn’t it?” she says. “I just know that, when I die, the papers will say, ‘Rising Damp Woman Kicks the Bucket’.”
Re. the 1980 movie version of Rising Damp for which Frances won the Best Actress at the Evening Standard Film Awards. “I remember. The Standard people got in touch and said, ‘You’re up for Best Actress in the Film Awards.’ I said, ‘But I haven’t made a film this year.’ They said, ‘It’s for Rising Damp.’ I said, ‘Oh, that.’ It made me laugh so much.”