(My parents, as I recall, were among the millions of Americans who loved this show.)
LONDON – The role of Ruby Finch, the dim-witted, put-upon scullery maid in Upstairs, Downstairs forever dreaming of running away with Rudolph Valentino, brought Jenny Tomasin fame worldwide. The familiar cry of “Oh, Ruby!” from the Bellamy household’s cook, Mrs Bridges, in response to the accident-prone servant’s clumsiness, was perhaps the closest the saga came to having a catchphrase.
Tomasin joined the programme for just one episode in its second series, in 1972, but her portrayal of the downtrodden Ruby was so admired that she was kept on until Upstairs, Downstairs ended three years later. She was seen “downstairs” alongside others including Angela Baddeley as the grumpy but warm-hearted Mrs Bridges, George Jackson as the dour butler Hudson, Jean Marsh as the pivotal housemaid Rose and Pauline Collins as the day-dreaming parlour maid Sarah in the drama set at 165 Eaton Place, London, against a background of events from the Edwardian era and First World War to the General Strike and Wall Street Crash.
The programme was Britain’s most successful period drama of the 1970s, watched by 300 million people in 50 countries, including the US, where it won seven Emmys.