Actress Heather Chasen, who died at the age of 92, landed her most famous on-screen role in the television series Crossroads. As Valerie Pollard, she played a cheating wife whose bedroom conquests skyrocketed while her millionaire husband J Henry took care of business in the motel boardroom.
He came after playing over 20 characters – mostly female roles – throughout the BBC radio sitcom’s 18 years. The sea lark (1959-77), aboard the Royal Navy frigate HMS Troutbridge.
With skillful voice changes, Chasen’s roles included Ramona Povey, wife of Richard Caldicot’s commanding officer; Miss Simpkins, assistant to the Sea Lord; and Wren Chasen, alongside Leslie Phillips and Jon Pertwee as, respectively, the second lieutenant and the first master of the house perpetually trying to get the ship out of the troubles they had personally created.
Chasen stood up to the male cast during the Sunday studio recordings. Judy Cornwell, one of the few other women on the show throughout its history, impressed them at first, but told author Richard Webber: “Heather showed me how to push men aside. because they grab the microphones and don’t let us in so we had to kick them in the shins and access the microphones that way.
In 1981, four years after The Navy Lark ended, Chasen first appeared in Crossroads, as a reporter for a single episode. The following year, she returned for a four-year run (1982-86) as Valerie, whose husband (played by Michael Turner) became a shareholder in the motel.
A former model, Valerie was used to the finer things in life, spending her husband’s money, devouring Tom Collins cocktails – and men. Knowing his infidelity, J Henry canceled his credit accounts and effectively immobilized ValÃ©rie by finding her a job behind the motel bar.
She sought revenge by having an affair with Adam Chance (Tony Adams) – who was previously in a relationship with daughter Miranda (Claire Faulconbridge) – after becoming engaged to Jill Harvey (Jane Rossington). However, Valerie showed a softer side when she supported Miranda after her daughter’s rape ordeal.
Heather was born in Singapore to British parents, Agnes (nÃ©e McCullock) and Mickey (Frederick Nutter) Chasen, a authority on the birds and mammals of Southeast Asia who was assistant curator, then director, of the Raffles Museum (now the National Museum of Singapore). Her parents separated when she was 10 and both remarried. She was educated at a Malaysian boarding school, Pensionnat Notre Dame, in Pahang.
In 1942, Heather, along with her mother and siblings Christine and Jeremy, fled Singapore for England on the last boat to leave before the wartime Japanese occupation. Her father died the next day on a sinking steamboat, and her stepfather, Ginger (GCR) Franks, died in the fighting following the invasion.
After attending Princess Helena College in Hertfordshire, she trained at Rada in London in 1944, but quit after a term when she failed to secure a scholarship. She made her professional debut as Marcella in Donna Clarines at the Castle Theater, Farnham (1945). Her first stage role in London was as Leonardo’s wife in Federico GarcÃa Lorca’s tragedy Blood Wedding at the Arts Theater in 1954, directed by Peter Hall.
Chasen spent a year (1958-59) as Mollie Ralston in Agatha Christie’s thriller The Mousetrap (Ambassadors Theater, London) and many West End roles followed. She played Antonia in A Severed Head, JB Priestley’s adaptation of Iris Murdoch’s novel (Criterion, 1963-64), a production which transferred to Broadway (Royale, 1964).
On television she played the role of Helen Baker in Francis Durbridge’s thriller Tim Frazer’s world (1960), Caroline Kerr (1968-69) in the BBC soap opera The new comers, Isabel Neal in the afternoon soap opera Marked Personal (1973-74), Mary Queen of Scots in Children’s Adventure A time traveler (1978) and Aunt Rachel in Young Sherlock: Mystery of the Manor (1982), as well as the role of Margaret Thatcher in the documentary drama Who bombed Birmingham? (1990).
In 2011, Chasen returned to soap to reprise the role of Lydia Simmonds, Janine Butcher’s grandmother, in EastEnders for a short stint when Margaret Tyzack had to step down.
Six years earlier, Sean O’Connor, the producer of the soap opera Channel 5 Family affairs – who directed her in various plays – created the role of Madge Bennett, an elderly woman hospitalized in an Armistice Day story, especially for Chasen.
She had a natural eccentricity that was on display at O’Connor’s wedding – she showed up in camouflage pants and dark glasses with impenetrable blue lenses. Chasen also had an elegance and awe-inspiring air that made her dear to her friends, and she was often seen with a glass of champagne in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
However, this high standard of living meant that she often ran out of money. Former Coronation Street actor Amanda barrie, who had a 10-year relationship with Chasen after appearing on stage with her in 1980, recalled her “mastery of reality.”
âWe were at a cafe in Marylebone High Street once,â Barrie told me. âHeather was completely broke and said, ‘I’m going to phone the bank manager.’ She did, then said, ‘It’s wonderful. I managed to get an overdraft of Â£ 40.
Throughout her life she has had relationships with men and women – sometimes at the same time. In the 1940s, a stunning portrait of her was painted by Ella Mollo, with whom she had an affair while sleeping with the artist’s Russian husband.
She said she partly based the alcoholic lesbian she played in the Enid Bagnold play Call Me Jacky (Oxford playhouse, 1967-68) about the novelist Patricia highsmith, with whom she had a brief relationship in the 1960s.
Chasen’s 1949 marriage to John Webster ended in divorce. She is survived by their son, Rupert.
Heather Jean Chasen, actress, born July 20, 1927; passed away on May 22, 2020