With an acting career spanning nearly eighty years, Patricia Hayes, a British actress best known for her comedic work, proved that while her size did limit the roles she was given, she was diminutive in stature only. Hayes began performing on the London stage at age twelve in "The Great Big World" at the Royal Court in London. She went on to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she was awarded the prestigious Bancroft Gold Medal in 1928. After an impressive turn as Ruby Birtle, a young Yorkshire maid, in "When We Are Married" at London's St. Martin's Theatre in 1938, Hayes found herself frequently typecast as irreverent servants. A consistent presence on the London stage, the actress continued to work in the West End well into her career, after film and television success. She acted with the Royal Shakespeare company in "Twelfth Night" in 1974 and in 1987 was awarded the Clarence Derwent Award for Best Supporting Performance for her depiction of a deranged grandmother in Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba". The usually comedic actress infused the role with a powerful and eerie realism that proved her talent lie beyond that of a stock comic player. That same year she was awarded the OBE.
Hayes moved from the stage to other artistic venues due to necessity during World War II. For the duration of the war, she performed on the radio, most frequently with comedian Ted Ray on his program "Ray's a Laugh". In 1944, Hayes appeared with James Mason in the feature thriller "Hotel Reserve", an early role in the medium which she went on to grace with brilliantly portrayed albeit small roles. She was also featured in "The Battle of the Sexes" (1959), with Peter Sellers, and had a bit part in the Beatles' debut movie "A Hard Day's Night" (1964). Audiences caught Hayes in three supporting film roles in 1969: as Miss Honeybun in the musical adaptation of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", Mrs. Beasley in the silly "Carry on Again, Doctor", and Grandma in the musical comedy "Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?" Later in her career, the tiny actress continued to appear in many films, generally playing quirky elderly women, roles won because of her unselfconscious brand of comedy. She performed in this capacity most significantly in the zany "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988) where her depiction of loopy Mrs. Coady brought some much deserved attention to the veteran comedienne. The actress' size helped to earn her roles as small mystical beings in the children's fantasy "The Neverending Story" (1984) and 1988's adventure epic "Willow". Hayes gave one of her last performances in the 1993 modern adaptation of "Crime and Punishment", an American/Russian co-production starring John Hurt and Vanessa Redgrave.
While the stage was where Hayes' career was made, and her performances on film were scene-stealing, it was television that offered her the most opportunities. She began her television work as a frequent guest on "The Arthur Haynes Show", a comedy/variety program aired from 1955-1966 on England's ATV. She was also a regular on the comedy series "Hancock's Half Hour" (BBC, 1956-60) and was featured on "The Benny Hill Show" in it's early years on BBC-TV and later on Thames TV and in syndication in the USA. Hayes had one of her best roles in the 1971 TV-movie "Edna the Inebriate Woman" for which she won a BAFTA award for Best Television Actress of the Year. Four years later, she joined the cast of the long-running controversial BBC sitcom "Till Death Do Us Part", the predecessor of CBS' "All in the Family". The actress starred opposite Patricia Coombs in the 1983-1984 BBC sitcom "The Lady Is a Tramp", portraying another character with a drinking problem. On American television, Hayes was featured as Mrs. Watty in a 1979 CBS television adaptation of "The Corn Is Green" while PBS offered American audiences the opportunity to witness her award-winning performance of Maria Josefa in "The House of Bernarda Alba" in 1991.