Welcome to a site dedicated to the actress and variety star Renée Houston who died in 1980.
Funny . . . Feisty . . . Gritty . . . Controversial . . . Forgotten?
Everyone wonders why she isn’t better known to later generations, and it’s almost unfair. As well several thousands of theatrical appearances, Renée made at least forty seven feature films, appeared in several film shorts and news items, and made at least seventy British Television appearances. She was on countless radio broadcasts in Britain – most famously Petticoat Line.
Back in 1971 Renée was voted the BBC’s most popular woman broadcaster in a poll. Not that Renée was a ‘1970s star’. She was in her sixties then, known for her small parts in films and TV. Her glory days had happened decades before but her career revived on account of Petticoat Line, the all-women panel show. It was a kind of ‘Loose Women’ of the airwaves. Renée won many new fans because of it.
Radio was a medium that came naturally to Renée but Petticoat Line is more or less forgotten itself. Perhaps, forgetting the 1970s is something we’ve done a little too much of. A massive amount of British entertainment was great fun then.
Take the long view of Renée Houston – an entertainer who survived, and whose career encompasses several eras of British entertainment.
As well as having a surprisingly rich Film Career, she’s an interesting conduit for discovery about Britain’s theatrical past.
One of few Scottish actors in Carry On films, she was famed for her unforgettable ‘battle-axe’ characters.
Years earlier, she played the ‘comedy vamp’ to perfection.
She was sister-in-law to Hollywood Great Brian Aherne,
and wife of film actor Pat Aherne.
An immensely funny lady and a great entertainer in live performance, she toured indefatigably through the 1930s, through the war years, through the 50s and so on.
She was tirelessly youthful, sometimes in trouble owing to her high-spirits. You noticed the quality of her voice, its sweetness, its full range.
She produced film scripts, a handful of gramophone recordings, gave hundreds and hundreds of press interviews, and put her name to one book.
Step back in time to encounter the famous Houston Sisters, Renée and Billie.
Visit that extraordinary, colourful and rather shocking world of Variety that the Sisters knew so well.
Be a fly on the wall, listening to conversations in Dressing Rooms of long ago . . .
Renée left a subtle legacy on British entertainment, as did her sister Billie and later stage partner Donald Stewart.
Begin to explore the Theatrical World of Renée Houston: one that never lacked a touch of controversy – both off and on the stage.
By the end of the swinging 60s and into the 70s she had the same heart and was a woman of exceptional good cheer. So many timeless actors have come since but few give me so much hope as Renée or have a heart I admire so much. There was a lot of good in her, for all the insanities.
I’ve written a theatrical Biography that refers to Renée’s entire career.