Sylvia May Laura Syms OBE (born 6 January 1934) is an English actress, best known for her roles in the films Woman in a Dressing Gown(1957), Ice Cold in Alex (1958), No Trees in the Street (1959), Victim (1961) and The Tamarind Seed (1974). She remains active in films, television and theatre.
Syms was born in Woolwich, London, England, the daughter of Daisy (née Hale) and Edwin Syms, a trade unionist and civil servant. She was educated at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Artin London, on whose council she later served. Her daughter Beatie Edney is also an actress, and she is the aunt of musicians Nick and Alex Webb.
In her second film, My Teenage Daughter (1954), she played Anna Neagle's troubled daughter. In 1958, she appeared in the film Ice Cold in Alex (alongside John Mills, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews); that same year she appeared in the English Civil War film, The Moonraker. In 1962, she played Tony Hancock's wife in The Punch and Judy Man. The film also featured her nephew,Nick Webb. Other comedies followed, such as The Big Job (1965) with Hancock's former co-star Sid James, but it was for drama that she won acclaim, including The Tamarind Seed (1974) withJulie Andrews and Omar Sharif, for which she was nominated for a British Film Academy award. My Good Woman in 1972 was a husband-and-wife television comedy series which ran until 1974 with Leslie Crowther. At the same time, she was one of two team captains on the BBC's weekly Movie Quiz, hosted by Robin Ray. In 1975, she was the head of the jury at the 25th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1989, Syms appeared in the Doctor Who story "Ghost Light".
Shortly after the end of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher period of office in 1990, Syms portrayed her in Thatcher: The Final Days (1991), a Granada television film for ITV, which dramatises the events surrounding her removal from power. She later recreated the role on the stage. From 2000–03, she played Marion Riley in the ITV comedy-drama series At Home with the Braithwaites and in 2002, she featured in the serial The Jury and contributed "Sonnet 142" to the compilation album When Love Speaks. For Stephen Frears' The Queen (2006), she was cast in the role of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother with Dame Helen Mirren who, as her daughter, won an Oscar for her performance. She also appeared in The Poseidon Adventure (2005), an American TV movie with a neglible connection to the 1972 feature film. She has also taken up producing and directing.
In 2009, she appeared in the film Is Anybody There? alongside Michael Caine and Anne-Marie Duff and in the ITV1 drama series Collision. In 2010, she guest-starred as a patient in BBC1's drama series Casualty, having played a different character in an episode from 2007. Syms had also appeared as another character in Casualty's sister series Holby City in 2003. Since 2007, Syms has had a recurring role in BBC1's EastEnders, playing dressmaker Olive Woodhouse. Her most recent appearance in the role was on 20 July 2010. In 2010, Syms took part in the BBC's The Young Ones, a series in which six celebrities in their seventies and eighties attempted to overcome some of the problems of ageing by harking back to the 1970s.