Gladys Denker is a character on the UK-US series, Downton Abbey. She was played by veteran UK actress Sue Johnston.
The bane of Spratt's existence!
Gladys Denker was the latest in a seemingly endless line of lady's maids (the previous lady's maids were Simmons; Smithers and Collins) of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley.
She was different in that she was not at all deferential to her superior, Septimus Spratt, Violet's long-time butler; which was unusual as usually in a household hierarchy, the butler was the head of the household staff (besides Denker and Spratt, the only other members of the Dowager Countess' household staff was Mrs. Potter, the cook, and Betty, a house maid).
Her troublemaking was so bad that at times, Violet could not tolerate Denker's behavior. At one luncheon, she said she would not visit Denker in prison, although if she had, she would have gone to make sure the locks in her cell were sound. This shows that sometimes, even Violet could not deal with Denker and her constant troublemaking.
Denker was notorious for gossiping and causing trouble for not just the Dowager's household, but the abbey's household as well. She could also be very spiteful, especially to those whom she did not like, and towards anyone whom she thought was "hurting" her mistress.
She would take Andy Parker, who would later work at Downton, to an underground casino called the Velvet Violin and would drink for free, all the while, lying to the bouncer.
One of her incidents showed her coming back to Grantham House totally drunk (singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" totally off-key). This earned her a scolding from the head housekeeper, Elsie Hughes and she was sent to bed due to her getting drunk. Phyllis Baxter, usually the Lady's maid for Cora Crawley, Violet's daughter-in-law, would get the Dowager Countess ready for bed that night.
When her conniving was revealed to the head bouncer, a Mr. Basil Shute, by Thomas Barrow whom she despised, she was ordered to pay four pound and twenty shillings for her three nights of drinking!
She was not deterred in her conniving. She would make her views known about the head of the Hospital, Dr. Clarkson not being on Violet's side during the later hospital wars. She would tell him off in the street (this would earn her the enmity of Dr. Clarkson's friend, Isobel Crawley Grey), by calling him a traitor and accusing him of treason!
He would be so angered by her impertinence that he wrote a letter to Violet stating what she had done by insulting him on the public street.
A shocked and furious Violet would reprimand her lady's maid for what she did and order her to leave the Dower house, as she would say, "Forthwith!" Due to her standing up for her, she would receive a tepid reference which would allow her to find work elsewhere.
Desperate to keep her job, and showing that she wouldn't be averse to using blackmail to get what she wanted, she threatened Spratt with the loss of HIS job (he had hidden his fugitive nephew in the potting shed) unless he spoke up for her and saved her job. Much to his disgust, he did, but the ingrate would still manipulate him and cause him no end of grief.
In the final episode, Denker found out that Spratt was, besides being the butler, also working as a journalist for Violet's granddaughter, Lady Edith Pelham's magazine, the Sketch, as an agony aunt columnist.
Angry and jealous over his success and doing it out of sheer spitefulness, she attempted to have him sacked for this, only for it to backfire in her face, when Violet, who had found his column and writing jolly amusing, saw that he had a bona fide talent for what he did, and she would not only keep him on as her butler, but she would also give him the encouragement he would need to succeed in his avocation.
She also announced that she would go to him in the future for his advice on entertaining and everything else. "I never knew we had an expert in the basement!" she crowed.
Spratt was pleased with his mistress' praise while the vanquished Denker was disgusted and infuriated that her scheming and conniving blew up in her face! The happy Spratt gloated in Denker's face at Edith's wedding. He said, "You made one mistake, Miss Denker, in your haste to be rid of me.....She never likes to be predictable!"
Besides her troublemaking, Denker was a terrible cook, and she could not cook chicken broth to save her life. She attempted to pass off Daisy Mason's, the assistant cook at Downton, excellent chicken broth as her own, after Daisy kindly tried to help her make it.
Spratt would expose her chicanery, and then would force her to make it herself. Although the broth was absolutely horrid, Violet lied to spare her feelings, and told her she could not do it justice that night.