English-born actress Vivean Gray, who died recently, was no stranger to playing gossips - she was Ida Jessup in the Australian wartime saga, The Sullivans before she became Mrs Nell Mangel in Neighbours. But she believed that there was one important difference between her two gossipy characters:
"... Jessup had saving graces, she would help people. Mangel is mean and bitchy."
All quite true. And how we loved Mrs Mangel for her foibles. Incredibly, the character was only a resident of Ramsay Street from 1986 to 1988, but she certainly left her mark - both on the show, and in our affections.
Of course, Mrs Mangel was not originally intended to be a permanent Ramsay Street local. Vivean Gray in another 1980s interview:
"Mangel was only supposed to be around for three weeks, but I think people like watching her. I think they say, 'Isn't she dreadful? Thank goodness she doesn't live near me!' "
Analysing the character, Miss Gray said:
"The Mrs Mangels of this world are people who are disappointed in themselves. Perhaps they are lonely, too. At any rate, they can't adapt to a changing society. Such people need counselling."
Mrs Mangel's lovely granddaughter, Jane Harris (Annie Jones), stood by her "Nan" - and took to heart Mrs M's advice to "keep herself nice".
Mrs Mangel clashed regularly with Madge Mitchell/Ramsay/Bishop (Anne Charleston). She was a bit of a lonely soul at heart, but had a great friend in the beautifully batty Eileen Clarke (Myra de Groot), and was rather an admirer of Mr Harold Bishop (Ian Smith).
She also had an estranged son, Joe, played by Mark Little, who turned up in Ramsay Street in 1988, just before Mrs M. left. The two were reconciled, and rough diamond Joe and his son Toby ensured the Mangel name lived on in the street after Mrs M. married Englishman John Worthington and moved to the "old country".
Fans took Vivean's portrayal of Mrs Mangel very much to heart, which led to some unpleasantness for the actress, and contributed to her decision to leave the role.
But Mrs Mangel is a telly legend.
And we treasure the memories.
Rest in peace, Vivean Gray.
And thank you.
And our condolences to her friends and family.
Happy days - Eileen Clarke and Nell Mangel joined the local bowling club in 1987.