Actress and star of Carry On films

Born: July 25, 1944;

Died: September 10, 2019

VALERIE Van Ost, who has died aged 75, was, to employ the terminology of the time, one of the glamour girls of the 1960s and 70s. With flowing blonde hair and a distinctive beauty spot on her left cheek, the abiding screen image of her is smiling patiently while her co-stars had all the action and funny lines.

Her most regularly screened appearances were in four of the Carry On films. Somewhat resembling Shirley Eaton, who had enjoyed a similar career a little earlier, she appeared in comedic and dramatic subsidiary roles, did newspaper photoshoots in swimsuits and mini dresses, and made a TV commercial for chocolates. Utilising her industry knowledge, she would later move successfully behind the camera, working as a casting director.

Born in Berkhamsted, she was the daughter of an army major. She was sometimes billed as Valerie Ost, as in a BBC radio adaptation of L.P. Hartley’s Eustace and Hilda (1958). Joining the George Carden Dancers, she maintained that, aged 16, she became the youngest dancer on the London Palladium’s stage, when Carden’s troupe appeared there in Turn Again Whittington (1960-61), starring Norman Wisdom.

Her first film was an unbilled bit in a Wisdom vehicle, On The Beat (1962). Described as a “blonde ballerina”, she then played Fairy Fortune in Mother Goose (Hull New Theatre, 1962-63), supporting singer Ronnie Hilton. At the King’s, Edinburgh in 1964, she was in repertory as one of the Whatmore Players, named after their originating director at Dundee Rep.

Van Ost’s Carry On debut was as one of Hattie Jacques’ fleet of Glamcab drivers in Carry On Cabby (1963). In nurse’s uniform, she informed Charles Hawtrey he hadn’t given birth yet in Carry On Doctor (1967) and assisted Jim Dale in Carry On Again Doctor (1969), in addition to observing Hawtrey’s boastful frolics in Don’t Lose Your Head (1967).

An unfortunately typical role was in Mrs Thursday (ATV, 1966), as Miss Willing, an applicant for a secretarial post, and incapable of taking shorthand. She ran the gamut of comedy double acts - The Morecambe And Wise Show, Goodbye Again with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore; and Mike and Bernie’s Show, with the rather less hallowed Winters brothers. After guesting in an episode of The Avengers (1967), she underwent a screen test as Patrick Macnee’s next possible partner, but the role went to Linda Thorson.

Stage work continued, often in provincial productions of comedies requiring her to appear in her underwear; one such, Partners (Grand Theatre, Blackpool, 1971) featured the then little-known David Jason. A change of pace was playing a principled farmer’s wife in the children’s adventure series Arthur Of The Britons (HTV, 1973).

She then displayed a hitherto unseen side in The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973), with atypical brown hair, turned into a vampire and drooling with malicious glee as she attempted to enslave Joanna Lumley, then another occupant of the “glamorous stooge” category.

After encountering Sid James again in the sit-com Bless This House, she became an assistant to casting director Michael Barnes, on Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999 in 1976. Becoming a fully-fledged casting director herself, she recruited performers for commercials that ranged from cute children to James Dean lookalikes. She oversaw casting for The Boys In Blue (1982), the only film for another duo, Cannon and Ball, produced by her then husband Greg Smith.

Following a divorce from Smith, she married Andrew Millington, with whom she ran her casting business. He survives her.