04 August 2016

Neighbours: The Portrait Of Mrs Mangel... Who Did It?

Feast your eyes on the above - the divine portrait of Mrs Nell Mangel, painted by Mrs Helen Daniels in 1987. Both ladies, of course, were Ramsay Street fiction, but the re-emergence of the painting in a recent Neighbours storyline and the death of actress Vivean Gray, who was so spendid as Mrs Mangel, have prompted the following e-mail from Keiran:

I enjoyed your post on lovely Vivean Gray and Mrs Mangel. Another Neighbours legend gone! The painting of Mrs Mangel from the 1980s has recently turned up in 21st Century Neighbours. Do you know who really painted it? I don't suppose it was Anne Haddy, who played Helen Daniels?

Hello, Kieran! I can answer part of your question - no, Anne Haddy did not paint the Mangel masterpiece. The actress wanted it to be known in 1988 that the Daniels works were, in reality, the work of somebody "in scenery" and said: "They're awful, aren't they? The most upsetting fan letter I've received was from a little boy who wanted me to paint his dead cat. I had to explain I wasn't a real artist."

Who was the real life artist, then?

If anybody knows the person "in scenery" on Neighbours in 1987 who painted Helen's perceptive character portrait of dear old Nell, please let us know.

It's now an icon of 1980s artwork.

 UPDATE 09 June 2023:

In the 21st Century, the portrait returned to the Neighbours limelight, being displayed at Lassiters Hotel. I hadn't seen the show in years, but squawked with delight when me and my wife happened upon an episode a few years ago and saw it.

But something wasn't quite right. 'Mrs Mangel's hair's grown,' I said to my wife.

'Don't be daft!' said she.

I've finally got round to comparing the 1987 version with the modern day version, and it has. It's grown over her ears a bit and is now feathered down her neck. 

Are there such things as portrait hairdressers, I wonder? Because I suspect dear Nell will be needing a trim soon if this keeps up...

02 August 2016

Vivean Gray - The English Actress Who Gave Us Australia's Mrs Mangel...

Mrs Mangel puts on a severe face as she prepares for another day at Lassiters. 

English-born actress Vivean Gray, who died recently, was no stranger to playing gossips - she was Ida Jessup in the Australian wartime saga, The Sullivans before she became Mrs Nell Mangel in Neighbours. But she believed that there was one important difference between her two gossipy characters:

"... Jessup had saving graces, she would help people. Mangel is mean and bitchy."

All quite true. And how we loved Mrs Mangel for her foibles. Incredibly, the character was only a resident of Ramsay Street from 1986 to 1988, but she certainly left her mark - both on the show, and in our affections.

Of course, Mrs Mangel was not originally intended to be a permanent Ramsay Street local. Vivean Gray in another 1980s interview:

"Mangel was only supposed to be around for three weeks, but I think people like watching her. I think they say, 'Isn't she dreadful? Thank goodness she doesn't live near me!' "

Analysing the character, Miss Gray said:

"The Mrs Mangels of this world are people who are disappointed in themselves. Perhaps they are lonely, too. At any rate, they can't adapt to a changing society. Such people need counselling."

Mrs Mangel's lovely granddaughter, Jane Harris (Annie Jones), stood by her "Nan" - and took to heart Mrs M's advice to "keep herself nice".

Mrs Mangel clashed regularly with Madge Mitchell/Ramsay/Bishop (Anne Charleston). She was a bit of a lonely soul at heart, but had a great friend in the beautifully batty Eileen Clarke (Myra de Groot), and was rather an admirer of Mr Harold Bishop (Ian Smith).

She also had an estranged son, Joe, played by Mark Little, who turned up in Ramsay Street in 1988, just before Mrs M. left. The two were reconciled, and rough diamond Joe and his son Toby ensured the Mangel name lived on in the street after Mrs M. married Englishman John Worthington and moved to the "old country".

Fans took Vivean's portrayal of Mrs Mangel very much to heart, which led to some unpleasantness for the actress, and contributed to her decision to leave the role.

But Mrs Mangel is a telly legend.

And we treasure the memories. 

Rest in peace, Vivean Gray. 

And thank you. 

And our condolences to her friends and family.

Happy days - Eileen Clarke and Nell Mangel joined the local bowling club in 1987.