When Mary played to an empty house…

An interview with Mary Kenton, who plays Ann Harvey in ‘Family Solicitor’

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 13 August 1961

MARY KENTON, who plays Ann Harvey, partner in that august, thorough, much respected and well-established firm of solicitors, Naylor Freeman and Co., is an intelligent, sympathetic woman who fits my image of a solicitor much more than that of an actress.

But the truth is that Mary is a professional artist. She loves and lives acting, and is as serious about her profession as any woman lawyer.

After a few minutes talking to her in her North London home, I realised that she approaches her part with an extraordinary sense of responsibility.

Over coffee, auburn-haired Mary told me: “This is a fascinating series for me if only because of what I have learned about the law.

“Before I joined the programme I knew nothing about legal procedure, and I was in awe of it. But since I have been working in Family Solicitor, I have put in a little study and have learned things that have been a revelation to me.

“There are so many points of law vital to us in everyday life that the public are not aware of, and when simplified and explained, as they are in the programme, these points can be of immense use and help.”

Mary, who is married to actor Gerard Heinz, has two children, enjoys reading, playing classical records and cooking. But, basically, her hobby is her job.

Mary Kenton
Mary Kenton

She said: “I have tried doing many things as a relaxation, but I always go back to my only real interest — acting.

“Because I thought I was getting rather limited I once took up pottery when I was out of work. But it was no good. I was no potter.

“What I really enjoy is having friends round and discussing theatre — not that I enjoy first nights and all the nonsense and ballyhoo.”

Mary came into the theatre in a most romantic manner. “It’s so romantic, it’s corny,” she said.

She was born in the English home of classical drama — Stratford-on-Avon. As a child she wanted to be a dancer, but being modest and self-critical, she made up her mind that she hadn’t the special talent to he a ballet dancer. “So,” she said, “I decided to become an actress

“As it was wartime and I had no chance of going to drama school, I decided to train myself. So I took my Shakespeare to a large empty house, and there, alone, I declaimed my favourite speeches to the bare walls.

“I did this every day for months, until one day I found that I had an audience. It was B. Iden Payne, then director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, who heard my enthusiastic performance as he passed the house.

“He appeared tickled pink and offered me walk-on parts. I was overjoyed.”

Of the part of Ann Harvey, Mary said: “This is my first role in a series. Playing the same character in a number of situations gives me a chance to identify myself with the character

“After a few more programmes I think I will know how Ann Harvey will react in any circumstance; know her sympathies and methods of handling people.

“She loves her family life, but is also a career woman who is fascinated by her job, and has a tremendous respect and admiration for her father, the senior partner William Naylor.

“Ann is understanding and kind, and is the type of woman to whom I would feel confident to go for help.”

Mary’s 17 year old son, William. has followed her into show business. He has joined a circus.

Three people around a desk
Ann (Mary Kenton), standing, talks to Family Solicitor‘s William Naylor (A. J. Brown)

She said: “I couldn’t be more delighted. He’s so happy.

“He looks after the performing dogs and helps put up and take down the big top. In his spare time he takes lessons in tumbling.

“He tells me that his lessons cost him £1 a week, but he reckons it is a good investment. I agree with him. There are not many careers you can learn for a few pounds.”

We ended our chat because Mary had an appointment with a woman solicitor at the Law Society. “I’m doing a spot of … er … research.” she said.

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