Thursday, 5 August 2010

Coronation Street - the first cast (continued)

Alan Rothwell – played David Barlow:

David was a footballer who married Stan and Hilda Ogden’s daughter Irma. He enjoyed a successful career until an accident put paid to his future. He and Irma moved to Australia in 1968 and were killed in a car crash two years later. Alan was cast after producers saw him in a TV version of Love on the Dole. Born just outside Oldham, Alan was a child star appearing in the Wilfred Pickles’ radio shows. After leaving the Street he had a long stint hosting the children’s show Picture Box. He has appeared in other UK soaps – Emmerdale and Brookside and now works solidly on TV and in theatre.

Arthur Leslie – played Jack Walker:

Jack, landlord of the Rovers, had a tough life with his wife Annie. He died in 1970 whilst visiting daughter Joan in Derby. Arthur Leslie (real name Broughton) was an experienced theatre actor with a career going back to 1916 – he had also run several of his own companies, most notably in Wigan. His real-life son was later to appear in the show as shopkeeper Les Curry.

Frank Pemberton – played Frank Barlow:

Ken’s dad was a postman who lost his wife in 1961. Three years later he won a great deal of money which allowed him to sell up and move to a more expensive area. He returned for Daughter-in-law Valerie’s funeral in 1971 and died at home in 1975. Frank was already a well-known face when he joined the show – he’d been in Emergency Ward 10 and films David Copperfield and Saturday Night Sunday Morning amongst many other roles. He died of a stroke in 1975.

Noel Dyson – played Ida Barlow:

Ida never went to the Rovers and spent all her time cleaning – she was knocked down by a bus in 1961 and killed. Noel was an experienced actress who planned to turn down the role of Ida – she only agreed to play her when assured that the Street would finish after thirteen episodes. When the show took off, Noel decided she wanted out – although hers wasn’t the first death in the show it was the first on-screen funeral. She died in 1995 – her last screen role being in Prime Suspect 3.

Margot Bryant – played Minnie Caldwell:

Minnie resided in the Street for 16 years, for some of that time with her cat Bobby. She almost died in a coach crash, was engaged to Albert Tatlock and held at gunpoint by an American looking for Elsie Tanner. She left to look after a friend whose wife had died. Actress Margot Bryant was a trained dancer – she had danced in the West End and even with Fred Astaire! She died in 1988 aged 90.

Doris Speed – played Annie Walker:

Annie ran the Rovers until 1983 when she retired to Derby to live with daughter Joan.  During her time in the Street she lorded it over many of her regulars and staff. Doris was from a theatrical family and was a highly experienced actress. Whilst performing in a Children’s Hour radio play she met child actor Tony Warren (he was only 12) but he remembered her – and when Annie was created he knew instantly who he wanted for the role. She fibbed about her age throughout her latter years and retired from the show to live in a home – she returned for the 30th anniversary special. She died in 1995 aged 95.

Betty Alberge – played Florrie Lindley:

Owner of the Corner Shop, Florrie was unlucky in love. She suffered a nervous breakdown and emigrated to Canada in 1965. The role of Ida Barlow had been written with Betty in mind but Tony Warren had a change of heart. Betty had a long career on stage and radio before joining the Street. The character was the last to go in the new producer’s cull of 1964. She continued to work extensively, working on films with Richard Burton and in the TV soap Brookside as Edna Cross. She died in 1991.

Anne Cunningham – played Linda Cheveski:

Elsie’s daughter, Ivan’s wife, was a headstrong young lady who emigrated to Canada only to make several return visits to her mother over the years. Her last appearance was in 1984. Anne was born in Yorkshire and brought up in South Africa. She returned to the UK to train as a nurse but got the acting bug instead. She worked with the great Orson Welles before arriving in Weatherfield. Anne played the Street’s first birth scene – having son Paul. When the actors were offered extended contracts, when the success of the programme became apparent, she declined and the Cheveski’s were written out – their exit episode got sixteen million viewers, a record-breaking episode at the time. Anne married a theatre director and, last I heard,  was running an antiques shop in London.

Patricia Phoenix – played Elsie Tanner:

With numerous relationships – and husbands – Elsie was the siren of the Street. She finally left Weatherfield for good in 1983 when she met old flame Bill Gregory and they headed off to Portugal together. Pat Pilkington, her real name, was born in Manchester in 1924, after working in an office she joined the local theatre and played varying roles. She married actor Alan Browning who played her screen husband but the marriage failed. On her death-bed she married actor Tony Booth, father of Cherie Booth, wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair. When she finally left the show she starred in a TV sit-com about a boarding house owner with a bitter rival – the rival was played by Prunella Gee who later played Maxine’s mother. She died of cancer aged just 62 in 1986.

Violet Carson – played Ena Sharples:

Ena was the scourge of the Street for twenty years – most famously, doing battle with Elsie or as caretaker of the Mission. She went to stay with an old friend in the seaside town of St Anne’s and never returned. When she left school Vi Carson was much in demand as a pianist in cinemas. She later worked extensively on radio and was famous as ‘Auntie Vi’ on Children’s Hour. Several actresses auditioned for Ena and the role was actually offered to Doris Hare (On The Buses) but she had theatre commitments. Vi turned Ena into a legend. She died in her sleep aged 85 in 1983.

Christine Hargreaves – played Christine Hardman:

After the death of her mother, Christine Hargreaves could see no future and the factory worker fell into a deep depression – even threatening to throw herself off a roof (Ken talked her down). She then met an old flame and eloped to London. Actress Chrstine Hargreaves was from Salford, raised in a terraced street very much like that depicted on the show. She had trained at RADA and appeared in Skyport with many of the other Street actors before landing the role. She passed away in 1984 aged just 45.

William Roache – played Ken Barlow:

Ken of course, still lives in Coronation Street – its longest surviving resident. He has been married 4 times – to Valerie, Janet and Deirdre (twice) and is father to Peter, Susan, Daniel (and soon, another!) and step-father to Tracy. William was born in Derbyshire and studied medicine before joining the army. He served in many countries across the world before returning to the UK and training as an actor. He appeared in many stage productions, married first wife Anna Cropper whilst they were at Oldham Rep together (she played Joan Akers in the Street in 1962). He appeared in a number of TV roles before landing the part of Ken Barlow. His second wife Sara died recently.  In November 2010 he will become the world record holder for an actor playing the same role continuously.

Lynne Carol – played Martha Longhurst:

Martha, the Rovers cleaner, was often to be found in the snug with Ena and Minnie. That’s where she died, glass of stout on the table before her, in 1964. Lynne came from a theatrical family – making her first stage appearance when only 9 days old. When the role was ‘killed off’ by a controversial new producer, the rest of the cast were furious. Lynne however returned to her roots and had a long stage career. She died in 1990 aged 76.

Elsie Lappin – played by Maudie Edwards:

Elsie, who had owned the corner shop for a number of years, had just sold up to Florrie Lindley. She was about to move to Knott End and indeed, episode two would be her last appearance. Elsie spoke the very first words on Coronation Street (apart from the sound of children playing that is!). Maudie Edwards was from Neath in South Wales where, for many years, she’d run her own theatre company at the Palace Theatre, Swansea. Her film and TV credits are numerous and include Under Milk Wood and Pink String and Sealing Wax. She had a beautiful singing voice and dubbed the voices of Margaret Lockwood and Diana Dors in I’ll Be Your Sweetheart and Diamond City respectively. She died in 1991.

Patricia Shakesby – played Susan Cunningham:

Ken’s girlfriend from university. They split up after a few weeks. Patricia was an ‘in-demand’ actress before the show – her first professional role being in the West End production of Where the Rainbow Ends co-directed by Sir Noel Coward. She continues to work extensively and is best known in the UK as Polly Urquhart in Howard’s Way but she has also appeared in many other classics such as Yes Minister.

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