Showbiz veteran Val Jellay, best known for The Flying Doctors, has died aged 89.
Son and performer Marty Fields shared the sad news online today after her hospitalisation earlier this week.
Jellay had a wonderfully varied career in entertainment, as an actress, singer, dancer and author and was married to the late, great Maurie Fields.
Her career began with dance lessons in 1931 when she was four years travelling through Britain, Scandinavia and to Australia. During WWII she joined the Tivoli circuit.
“The headlining comedians of that time were very serious people. Comedy, and its timing, is so delicate. Three years in England for the Moss and Stall circuit in the 1950’s took me to the Theatres of Europe with Joyce Grenfell and Harry Andrews after which Sorlies Revue in Australia invited me to come back home,” she once recalled.
“While touring with Sorlies Revue through NSW and Queensland, I met and married my beloved Maurie Fields. Our many vaudeville type double acts were polished to perfection and we became the busiest performers in TV variety shows. We were pioneers loaded with enthusiasm. The transition to drama was a neat segue. We were used to live audiences and the visual medium unlike radio actors who always had an unseen script. Creating many visual characters was always a pleasurable challenge in all the TV dramas.
“In a travelling company, theatrical pros become very close; it’s inevitable -the constant packing, unpacking, the formality on stage, informality off. The illnesses that must be ignored, the urgency of getting from one show to the next, ovations, deflations, heat, cold and a minimum of one year’s commitment. With some it was three or four years. In my case it was seven. Romance was sparked by familiarity.”
For over 40 years, Val & Maurie performed side by side on stage and on screen.
On screen Jellay is best known for The Flying Doctors, as publican Nancy Buckley (alongside Fields as Vic Buckley), a role she continued in the revamped R.F.D.S.
She also had credits in Prisoner, Carson’s Law, Young Ramsay, Bluey, Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, The Librarians, Blue Heelers and the film Dimboola.
On Neighbours she partnered with longtime showbiz friend Bud Tingwell to play the parents of Lyn Scully (Janet Andrewartha).
“Personally, my casting in Neighbours was the first ongoing role I had played without Maurie. We never actually planned to always work together – it was management’s preference because of the natural chemistry we displayed. Whether it be drama, comedy or dance, we were told we made magic. Forty years of loving what we did can do that,” she said.
She was later a regular on Good Morning Australia with friend Bert Newton, doing movie reviews and published three books, After You’ve Gone: My Life after Maurie Fields, So You Want To Be In Showbusiness, and Stagestruck: An Autobiography.