Vivian Pickles (born 21 October 1931), is an English actress.
She began her career as a child star after being chosen by Mary Field for a series of Saturday Morning children's films, including the lead roles in Jean's Plan (1944) and the serial The Adventures of Peter Joe (1945). At the age of 14, she starred as Alice in George More O'Ferrall's BBC film of Alice in Wonderland which was broadcast live from Alexandra Palace in London. During this period, she acted at the Q Theatre in Vice Versa with Charles Hawtrey and made her West End debut as Wee Willie Winkie in Land of the Xmas Stocking at the Duke of York's Theatre, with Richard Goolden.
After being educated at Le Collège Feminin de Bouffément in Paris, she started her adult acting career in repertory and progressed to featured roles in West End revues. In 1952, she appeared with Roger Moore in I Capture the Castle at the Aldwych Theatre. The production won Roger Moore an MGM contract. When Moore left for Hollywood, Bill Travers assumed Moore's role.
In 1959, she worked with her future husband, Gordon Gostelow in Glimpse of the Sea by Willis Hall at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. In February 1961, she appeared with Henry Kendall in the first performance of Pool's Paradise at the Phoenix Theatre. Pickles' imperious performance in the world premiere of John Osborne's Plays for England at the Royal Court Theatre (on 19 July 1962) garnered considerable attention as well as praise by Osborne in his autobiography, Looking Back. The following year, Pickles appeared with Peter O'Toole in London in Berthold Brecht's Baal at the Phoenix Theatre (in April 1963).
Hired by Ken Russell for a supporting role for the BBC film, Diary of a Nobody (1964), she graduated to the lead role in Russell's film about Isadora Duncan (Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World (1966)). She received several awards for her performance in that film, including Best Actress at the Monte Carlo International Festival. In 1967, she appeared in Giles Cooper's BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy.
Her appearance in Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World helped Pickles win the role of Mrs. Chasen in Hal Ashby's cult classic Harold and Maude, playing Harold's weary mother. It is the only American-based film she has made to date. In the booklet accompanying the soundtrack album of the film, Ashby was quoted as saying:
"Vivian Pickles is one of the finest actresses in the world. I'd seen the thing that she did for Ken Russell - 'Isadora'".
Another memorable performance on British television was as Mary, Queen of Scots, in Elizabeth R (1971). She was reunited onscreen with Glenda Jackson in John Schlesinger's film, Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971), in which she played the bohemian mother who employed Jackson as a babysitter. Other notable screen roles include Play Dirty (with Michael Caine); Nicholas and Alexandra, as well as two films for Lindsay Anderson — O Lucky Man!, in which she plays the good lady feeding the downtrodden in London, and the pivotal role of the Matron in Britannia Hospital (1982).
Her later television films include Alan Bennett's The Insurance Man (1986), with Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Broadbent. On the stage, she worked again for Alan Bennett in the World-Premiere production of Kafka's Dick at the Royal Court Theatre. She can be seen in repeats of Midsomer Murders, and does radio work.