Penelope Keith (born 2 April 1940) is an English actress. Having started her television career in the 1950s, Penelope Keith became a household name in the United Kingdom in the 1970s when she played Margo Leadbetter in the sitcom The Good Life. This role earned Keith her first of two BAFTAs, the second being in 1978 for The Norman Conquests. One year after The Good Life's finale, Keith was the lead character in another BBC sitcom, To the Manor Born, a show that received audiences of more than 20 million. In the 1980s and 1990s, she appeared as the lead character in six other sitcoms. Since the 1990s, Keith has appeared rarely on television and works mainly in the theatre.
Penelope Anne Constance Hatfield was born in Sutton in 1940. Her father, who was a Major by the end of World War II, left her mother Connie when she was a baby, and Keith spent her early years in Clacton-on-Sea and Clapham. Her great uncle, John Gurney, was a partner in the coachbuilding firm J. Gurney Nutting & Company Ltd and Keith recalls sitting in the Prince of Wales's car.
Although not a Roman Catholic, at the age of six she was sent to a Catholic boarding school in Seaford. It was here that a young Keith first became interested in acting, and frequently went to matinees in the West End with her mother. When she was eight years old, her mother remarried and Penelope adopted her stepfather's surname of Keith. While she did not get on with her stepfather, her mother was a "rock of love" to her. She was rejected from the Central School of Speech and Drama, on the grounds that, at 5'10", she was too tall. However, she was then accepted at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, and spent two years there while working at the Hyde Park Hotel in the evening. She began her career working in repertory theatre across the UK, including Lincoln, Manchester and Salisbury. Keith's earliest appearances were in The Tunnel of Love, Gigi and Flowering Cherry. In 1963, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company both in Stratford and at the Aldwych Theatre in London.