Dolores Mantez (1936-2012)

Dolores Mantez, who died on 30th November 2012, was a singer and actress who found lasting fame among fans of classic television with her portrayal of Lt Nina Barry in UFO.

Born Dolores Mantey of Ghanian an Irish heritage she was a singer and model in the 1950s who created a more exotic sounding name for herself by the simple expedient of changing the last letter of her original one. Her acting career took off when she was spotted for a role in Basil Dearden’s groundbreaking 1959 drama Sapphire set among London’s growing Afro-Caribbean community. Black actors with screen experience we are relatively few in number on the British film and television scene at the time and more offers soon arrived. These included such high-profile projects as the 1960s film The Angry Silence and the 1961 The Avengers episode The Yellow Needle opposite Ian Henry and Patrick Macnee. She also acted alongside Patrick McGoohan several times firstly in the film Life For Ruth in 1962 then later in the Danger Man episodes Loyalty Always Pays and The Man On The Beach.

Dolores also maintained a stage career including a part in the fascinating theatrical oddity The Perils Of Scobie Priltwhich ran very briefly in June 1963. This was a James Bond-inspired science fiction space musical with music by Monty Norman which starred Michael Sarne, Nyree Dawn porter and Nigel Davenport. The sets were so large and complex that the play’s opening night had to be put back by a day and when the show did open Nyree Dawn Porter was hospitalised with a back injury after only a single performance. After four nights the producers admitted defeat and closed the show down.

Happily, this was not her only appearance on the West End stage, and Dolores could be seen the following year in both the London and touring production of Every Other Evening, starring Margaret Lockwood. She appeared in television series such as Z Cars, in 1967, in which she also sang, and in 1969 had a guest part in the pilot episode of the ITC series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). After this she was cast in UFO, staying with the series virtually until the end, with her character eventually being promoted to controller of SHADO’s Moonbase. She was especially notable in the episode Sub-Smash, which allowed her to give her most sustained dramatic screen performance and hinted at a past between Nina Barry and Ed Straker.

Post-UFO, Dolores appeared on television in 1972 with a role on BBC’s Iong-running serial The Onedin Line, in the episode Fetch And Carry, and in the same year returned to the musical stage on London’s West End in the Mercury Theatre’s production Cowardy Custard, a stage review of songs by Noel Coward.

At around this time she met businessman Robert Harding in a pub during a power cut. The pair married and on the birth of their son, Rob, Dolores retired from acting to raise her family. Overcoming her natural shyness, Dolores became a popular guest at conventions, including Fanderson’s The Secret Service Convention (her first appearance at a fan event) plus Space City, UFORIA, Fanderson 91 and Danger Zone events, and UFO conventions in Italy.

Dolores is survived by her son Rob, and will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

Originally published in FAB 74.