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Denise Bryer, actress who voiced Little Weed in The Flowerpot Men and was married to Nicholas Parsons – obituary

Denise Bryer, who has died aged 93, was a voice artist, actress, and the first wife of the host of Just a Minute, Nicholas Parsons.

The pair met when they were both members of the BBC Repertory Company, and married in 1954. For a time Denise Bryer was probably better known than her husband, as the voice of Little Weed (“Weeeed”) in The Flowerpot Men on the BBC’s “Watch with Mother” slot, and of Noddy in The Adventures of Noddy in the 1950s. She also did a stint as the voice of Playtex Cross Your Heart bra commercials.

The producer and director Gerry Anderson has described her as “my surrogate grandmother” and she became a regular on various of his puppet TV series, voicing Footso the Cat and Twizzle in his The Adventures of Twizzle (ITV, 1957-59) and Ma Jones and Little Jake in his cowboy series Four Feather Falls (ITV, 1960) in which her husband provided the voice of sheriff Tex Tucker.

Later, on Anderson’s puppet science fiction series Terrahawks (1983-86), she gave voices to the villainous Queen Zelda of Guk and to the heroic Captain Mary Falconer.

Denise Bryer was married to Nicholas Parsons for 35 years and played an important role in the early days of Just a Minute in helping him to make the radio panel game a success. It was through Denise that Parsons got to know one of the show’s original panellists, Clement Freud, whose wife Jill had known her from drama school.

Denise often cooked dinners for the Just a Minute line-up (other early panellists were Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams and Peter Jones), though as her daughter Suzy recalled, she was nervous of cooking for Freud, who was then the nation’s best-known gourmet, so much so that on the first occasion she burnt the main course. She asked him and his wife Jill back again, but this time Freud arrived early and cooked the meal himself.


Denise Bryers and Nicholas Parsons in 1955 - ANL/Shutterstock

© ANL/Shutterstock Denise Bryers and Nicholas Parsons in 1955 - ANL/Shutterstock

Denise Bryer and Nicholas Parsons drifted apart and divorced in 1989, but they remained good friends, and she attended his 90th birthday party in 2013 (he died in 2020).

Denise Pauline Rosalie Bryer was born on January 5 1928 in Kensington, west London, and began working as a voice actress aged nine. She went on to train at Rada, becoming a regular voice on the radio in the 1940s and making a rare appearance on television in 1946 as Lois Graves in a BBC film of Junior Miss, an adaptation of a US film about a teenager who meddles in people’s love lives.

In 1951 she featured in a BBC radio adaptation of Anouilh’s Eurydice and in 1954 she had a part in an adaptation of Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson. In 1968 she voiced the part of Kiki the Frog in Hector’s House (BBC1).

Nicholas Parsons once observed that because Denise Bryer was not keen on working in the theatre, “she was able to spend time at home with our young family, which was a great bonus for us.”

Once her children had grown up, however, she was able to devote more energy to her own career. She voiced Billina the hen in Disney’s 1985 film Return to Oz, and the Junk Lady in the 1986 David Bowie movie Labyrinth. She voiced Commander Makara in the Japanese puppet series Star Fleet (ITV, 1980–1982) and Dominique van Gysegham in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas The Reaping and The Gathering (both 2006).

Her last credit was in 2018 as the voice of Billina in Reflections in the Mirror, about a young man obsessed with Return to Oz.

Denise Bryer is survived by her son and daughter.

Denise Bryer, born January 5 1928, died October 16 2021 

Reference: Telegraph Obituaries

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