Peggy Swailscroft

Kay Skinner, now Kay Worsfold (I really like that picture), played Peggy Swailscroft in Melody. It’s always interesting to see whether the kids had been in other things before, and how long they acted after. In her case, that was her first role, and her short acting career ended with a 1972 release. Melody filmed during May through August 1970, when Kay was 12, and came out at the end of March 1971.

I bring her up for a few reasons. She is one of Melody’s closest friends. Besides her, that seems to include Rhoda, played by Lesley Roach, and Muriel, played by Camille Davis. Peggy plays an especially pivotal role, being with Melody at the dance. That makes her the foil – is that the right word? – making it harder for Daniel simply to go up and ask Melody to dance with him, but providing Daniel the excuse to bring Tom Ornshaw for moral support (courage in numbers). My take is that Peggy doesn’t read the situation right and, distasteful as dancing with Ornshaw may be, bear with it for the sake of Melody completing that dance with Daniel. Can’t really blame her, since he’d obviously rather be anywhere else but dancing with her.

Kay did a wonderful job playing that role. She captures the personality of the kid who would be amused to clue Robert Sinclair in so he’s aware of Muriel, then run away before Muriel can get her for doing it, and would play a central role in grilling Muriel about her apparent boy crazy exploits.

I’ve noticed that Kay has noted the cult following of Melody and has popped up online to note what a blast she had being in the film. The kids who were the stars have said similar, that it was a lot of fun.

Even if it was also work, can you imagine growing up, growing older, and having not only the memory, but also the thing you were in to watch. Like home movies, but different. So cool. And hey, she got to work with Roy Kinnear in her last role! She didn’t share scenes with him in Melody, but it looks like he might have played her dad in Raising the Roof. If so, that gives her something in common with both Melody Perkins and Veruca Salt.

We either never learn or have to be paying really close attention to learn both first and last names for the supporting kids. Is it strange that the girls we tend to know by first names and the boys by surnames? We learn Peggy’s name, though, except it took a transcript for me to catch it.

At the dance, there is an exchange between Ornshaw and the gang of boys, one in particular, in which we learn two things:

Hey, look at Swailscroft.
She thinks she knows it all.

Go on, Tom. Dance with her.

No, you won’t get me out there, mate.

I couldn’t hear all this clearly, watching even the best copy on YouTube. I thought Ornshaw was referring to Melody when he said something indistinguishable and that she thinks she knows it all. After all, there was no love lost between those two, and they had made faces at each other in the cafeteria scene. (Actually, Ornshaw does later say of Melody “She’s a bit stuck up, that one.” Forgot that when I first typed this.) But perhaps he’d know not to make fun of Melody in front of Daniel. If Melody was the last to know Daniel loved her, Ornshaw had to be the first. At that point, I had no reason to expect Ornshaw to dislike Peggy.

This is the one and only time in the entire film where Ornshaw is addressed as Tom, and the reason why the more perceptive or obsessed knew his full name. Then famous last words, not getting him out there. Between wanting to do most anything for Daniel and being susceptible to goading and the need to keep up his image with the guys, it was all over just after that.

As for the others, I think Lesley Roach as Rhoda is adorable in the film, and perfect in the key scenes she is in. Her last role was in 1976, but she was in a ton of stuff starting in 1966. She appears to have enough of a career that it’s odd that she stopped. But then, child actors often remain such and don’t make the leap to adult roles. Her name stands out because there was a Roach family locally that were family friends for a while when I was little. It appears that she and Kay have remained connected, or become reconnected. Here’s little clip of her playing a 9 year old when she was 16. I see that was 1971, which means she was closer to Jack Wild’s age than to the age of Tracy Hyde or Mark Lester. She tended to look as young or younger.

Of course, I’m going by IMDB, for film and TV roles. Any given actor could have gone on to do stage work. Camille Davis is listed with Melody as her first role, then with four more roles, all in 1982. She seemed older and more mature than some of the others, but she was “the big one” after all.

I took a big break with this unfinished, so I hope I didn’t lose the thread and end up sounding incoherent. The other kids, including Kay as Peggy, did a lot to help make the movie as great as it is. It’s just a shame it did so poorly in most markets.

I forgot to note that you hear Peggy’s last name not once, but twice in the movie. When Ornshaw is trying to get rid of Melody after the Latin punishment, before Daniel comes out, knowing full well why she is there, among other things he says: “Is old Swailscroft
waiting for you, is she?” That’s actually cleared than at the dance, but originally I had no clue who he meant.

Update:
The correct spelling may be Swailescroft. You never know what’s going to happen in something like a transcript. Both are out there, anyway. In either case, it doesn’t seem to be a real surname, so Google returns limited results. Kay seems to be involved in a Facebook group for Melody fans, which is cool.

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