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Sheila Betty Mercier (née Rix; 1 January 1919 to 4 December 2019) was an English actress of stage and television best known for playing Annie Sugden in Emmerdale's soap opera Emmerdale for more than 20 years, beginning in 1972 until the mid-1990s, with a guest appearance in 2009.
Early life and education
Mercier was born in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, and the daughter of Herbert Rix (of J.R. Rix & Sons Ltd) and his wife Fanny. She was their third child and second daughter; her younger brother, Brian Rix, was the actor and lobbyist. She trained at the Stratford-upon-Avon College of Drama under Randle Ayrton after attending both Hull and Hunmanby Hall.
Mercier had worked on stage long before deciding to pursue television. Donald Wolfit was discovered by a natural performer, and she toured with Wolfit's own Shakespeare company in 1939. She joined the WAAF Division of the Royal Air Force during the second World War, serving in fighter command and then adjutant. She worked in repertory theatre until 1951, receiving rave reviews from critics. "Sheila Rix is a natural housekeeper" in one review of her appearance in The Enchanted Cottage in 1948. "Sheila Rix superbly portrays the ex-actress, the emotionally deprived mother of the family," a reviewer said in No.l Coward's Hay Fever at the Tonbridge Repertory Theatre the same year. "The number of repertory companies that have dealt with this striking play has been very small," Cocteau's Two Heads said in another article. Sheila Rix, the tragic Queen, was the actress not notable in the role, and she kept her audience throughout."
She appeared in the Whitehall farces from 1951 to 1972, both at the Whitehall Theatre itself, on tour to regional theatres, and in televised performances on BBC television. "Sheila Mercier," critics referred to as "up to the second in terms of excitement and joy;" "In Chase Me, Comrade!" Jacqueline Ellis and Helen Jesson, as well as Sheila Mercier, all contribute greatly to the good times; "Sheila Mercier - the commander's wife," critics said. Peter Mercier, her husband, appeared in the television series Dial RIX (1963) with her partner.
In 1972, she appeared in the role she is best known for, namely, matriarch Annie Sugden, one of the main characters in the current British soap opera Emmerdale Farm (later called Emmerdale). She appeared as a main cast member until 1994, with occasional appearances later, including the funeral of on-screen son Joe in June 1995, alongside screen husband Amos Brearly. "I never cease to admire Sheila Mercier's performance as Annie Sugden in Yorkshire's Emmerdale Farm in 1979 wavers," Hazel Holt wrote in The Stage: "I never cease to marvel the sheer consistency of her work." ... Every Tuesday and Friday, week in and week out, she is never less than convincing." Mercier later reprised her role after the character's 1994 departure.