Lynda Bellingham played many roles during her five-decade professional career, but became synonymous with one. "Being a mum making gravy was not quite how I had seen my career advancing," she said once. But between 1983 and 1999 that's what she did in 42 "episodes" of an award-winning TV ad. Since the early 1980s, her name was rarely mentioned in print without it being prefaced with "Oxo mum".
During her career, though, she starred on TV as the vet's wife Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small in the 80s and as one of two divorcees trying to forge a relationship in the 90s sitcom Second Thoughts, opposite James Bolam. On stage she was best known for playing the lead in a touring production of Calendar Girls between 2008 and 2012. She was also, for four years between 2007 and 2011, a regular member of the team on Loose Women, the daytime TV chat show. She had few regrets about how her career turned out, summarising its trajectory thus on her website: "Arrived in London at the Central School [for Speech and Drama] in 1966 and never looked back. I had a ball!"
Bellingham, though, knew that gravy, like Lady Macbeth's damned spot, left an indelible mark. "In many ways I was very proud of what we did, but there is no doubt that my credibility as an actress was knocked," she reflected. "Certain people in the industry would never employ me as a serious actress after it. On the other hand, it gave me the financial security to go off and work in the theatre for very little money." Her performances as Mrs Oxo were reportedly responsible for a 10% increase in stock cube sales.