Every Monday morning for the past seven years a perfect single rose has arrived for Wanda Ventham. They’re from her second husband, actor Timothy Carlton—and even when he is away filming or on tour, the rose arrives.
“Tim is a great romantic, which is really why—in the end—I decided I would remarry,” Wanda told me.
They were married in April 1976, but had been together virtually since they first met in Ireland in 1972 while filming sequences for A Family At War. At the time her first marriage, the businessman James Tabernacle, was well on the way to a conclusion.
“Tim didn’t break up a marriage,” she said, “but I suppose he was what was needed to help me make the final decision. All divorces are unpleasant, but I was lucky because I had someone in my life to cushion me.
“Even so, it didn’t make it easy, and I ended up feeling really sad and with an awful sense of failure.”
But that’s all well in the past now. She and Tim have a three-year-old son, Benedict, an energetic handful who was treating the living room like a sports stadium when I saw Wanda at her Kensington flat.
“Our brains go to jelly the whole time,” she said, watching him. “He has been rather vile today, though—you’ve hit on a bad day. He has just had his adenoids and tonsils out and his temperament has gone slightly loopy in the last day or so. But even at times like this Tim is fantastic with him.”
While Carlton was being fantastic, keeping the boisterous Benedict relatively quiet in another room, I asked Wanda about her daughter by her first marriage.
“It’s smashing to have a 20-year-old daughter because our interests are so similar,” she said. “She’s an art student now, something I always wanted to be when I was a child and before I decided to become an actress.
“Tracy was 13 when Tim and I got together, but I had no misgivings about living with him. Thirteen is a vulnerable age, but she was mature enough to realise there wasn’t a happy relationship between her father and me.
“She has never taken sides, although she leans towards me. I think it’s because she has always lived with me and that is where her security and her continuity have come from.
“When I first got married my parents, and my husband’s, would have been horrified if we had decided to just live together. But now—it’s an awful thing to say, perhaps—I would encourage my daughter to live with someone at first rather than jump into marriage straight away.”
Tracy took time off from school to be at Wanda and Tim’s wedding. Her own objection seemed to be her mother’s choice of a wedding outfit—jeans, held up by braces. And she was really delighted when her step-brother arrived on the scene.
I asked Wanda (who gives what she calls “a rather flashy cameo performance” in John Osborne’s play You’re Not Watching Me, Mummy on Monday and will star in a second series of Fallen Hero later this year) what she felt was meant by the word “raunchy”. A well-known gossip columnist she has never met recently described her as “a very raunchy lady”.
“I don’t know,” Wanda said. “It sounds rather game, and I’ve always led such a domestic life. Raunchy doesn’t sound at all domesticated…”
And Wanda Ventham, who seems to be rather more disturbing than domesticated, started to make Benedict’s tea. When you have a Benedict in the house, you can’t just sit around all day looking like Wanda Ventham.
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