Updated 30th January 2004
Sheila Mercier, who played Annie Brearly, is the elder sister of actor Brian Rix
IMDB entry for Sheila Mercier
Character's Full Name: Annie Sugden/Kempinski/Brearly
A Huge Big Thank you to Paul Berridge who has made various profiles and photos availabe to me. They were previously on his Beckindale site (that is no more). The following is one of those profiles - although the coloured boxes have been added, although in most cases the text comes from Paul.
|In 1972 Amos Brearly proposed to Annie Sugden but she turned him down. 23 years later SHE proposed to him and they were married on 5th november 1995 and now live in Spain.|
|For more than 20 years, Sheila Mercier was one of the lynchpins of Emmerdale. As the matriarchal figure of Annie Sugden, she was at the centre of the action when the serial began as Emmerdale Farrn in 1972, keeping the peace between her bickering sons Jack and Joe. From the late Eighties, Sheila cut back on her apearances, working only in the studio, and since 1994 she has made only a few brief appearances.|
|Some of the actress's happiest moments in the programme were with Toke Townley, who played her father, Sam Pearson. 'I had some lovely scenes with him,' recalls Sheila. 'They would be tender or angry always one or the other. When he died, Annie fell to pieces and her part in the programme was never the same because half of her scenes were with him.'|
|Sheila had already spent more than half of her career in the theatre when she was chosen to play Annie. Born in Hull in 1919, elder sister of Whitehall farceur Brian (now Lord) Rix, she trained at the Stratford-upon-Avon College of Drama under Randle Ayrton and was 'discovered' by another acting great, Sir Donald Wolfit. She toured with him as part of his Shakespeare Company at the outbreak of war in 1939.|
|Switching to RAF Fighter Command in the WAAF during hostilities, Sheila rose to the rank of adjutant. She returned to acting after the war, made her television ddbut in a play called Exercise Bowler in 1946 and worked in repertory theatre around the country. She then appeared in six of her brother's famous Whitehall Theatre farces during the fifties and sixties, as well two films with him - The Night We Dropped a Clanger and The Night We Got the Bird - and many television specials.|
|'I had done a lot of television from the stage of the Whitehall, but very little else before joining Emmerdale Farm,' says Sheila. 'I remember, at first, playing to the Gods! Tristan de Vere Cole, one of the first directors on the programme, told me to "take it down" until it was so low I was almost muttering. Then, Gordon Flemyng - another of the directors played back to me a scene 1 did so that 1 could see what 1 had done wrong.'|
|As she became used to working in television, Sheila settled into the character of Annie. 'She softened a lot,' says the actress. 'When Henry Wilks became her friend, that was the turning point in her life. After years with her husband, Jacob, who spent his last days boozing and letting the farm go to rack and ruin, she finally had a man friend she could trust and talk to. When he died, that was another blow.'|
|Annie eventually found a second husband in wealthy tax exile Leonard Kempinski and planned a future in Spain with him. But that was cruelly taken away when he died in the air disaster of December 1993, just two months after their wedding. Annie did, however, find a future in Spain with former pub landlord Amos Brearly, whom she married in 1995.|
|Sheilas real-life husband, actor Peter Mercier, died in 1993, after 42 years of marriage. The couple's son, Nigel, is a TV sound engineer and video editor. In her 1994 autobiography, Annie's Song.. My Life & Emmerdale, Sheila revealed that she also had a daughter, Janet, whom her parents forced her to give away for adoption after she suffered the ordeal of rape on the eve of her 21st birthday.|
Taken from the emmerdale companion by Anthony Hayward
ACTRESS Sheila Mercier was never anyone but Annie Sugden to the millions of fans who tuned in to Emmerdale.
In fact, the award winning ITV soap, which celebrates its 30th birthday this week, began with her. The first episode focused on the funeral of Jacob Sugden, Annie's beloved husband.
And from that opening scene of Annie standing in the farmhouse kitchen to the day she left the show, she was a firm favourite with viewers.
Keeping the peace between her bickering on-screen sons, Jack and Joe, quickly placed her at the centre of action of the soap, which has been shown five times a week since 2000.
Over the years, she was caught up in dozens of the soap's most gripping stories.
From the late Eighties, Sheila cut back on her appearances, working only in the studio. And after she retired in 1994, she starred in only a handful of Emmerdale episodes.
Two years ago, she came out of retirement briefly to take part in an internet mini drama to run side-by-side with the Emmerdale TV episodes. Sheila talked live on the Net with her troubled screen son, Jack, played by Clive Hornby.
Today, it looks like Sheila has finally put her days at Emmerdale's famous Woolpack behind her, but she is still in touch with many of the cast and crew. At 83, she is still very well and lives comfortably in Kent. Her husband, actor Peter Mercier, died in 1993 after 42 years of marriage. The couple's son, Nigel, is a TV sound engineer.
Enjoying her retirement, Sheila says she is much happier out of the spotlight. She said: "I don't want to act. I watch TV, read and live like an ordinary person."
But Sheila has been invited to return to the Emmerdale set at least one more time to celebrate along with the crew at the official 30th anniversary party.
As she raises a glass to the show's continued success she can look back on a lifetime in show business.
The elder sister of actor Brian Rix, Sheila was born in Hull in 1919. She trained at the Stratford-upon-Avon college of drama and took a break from acting during the Second World War when she served in the WAAF.
She returned to acting after the war, making her television debut in a play called Exercise Bowler in 1946.
By the time she was chosen to play Annie, she had already spent more than half of her career in the theatre.
Her 1994 autobiography, Annie's Song - My life And Emmerdale, revealed she has been through some tough times, too.
She had a daughter, Janet, whom her parents forced her to give away for adoption after she was raped by an RAF officer.
Thirty years later, her daughter traced her, but Sheila never totally got over the anguish of the loss.