Revisiting Barbara Windsor in her Carrys Ons in the Queen Vic and more…
On the roles of Dame Barbara Windsor, the Chirpy Cockney who won our hearts.
I was sad to learn of the passing of the British born actress Barbara Windsor, a star that I watched in films and on telly from my childhood. My first memories of her were as the Carry on pin-up starlet as my father was a big fan of this bawdy, British film series. Years later, she appeared as Peggy, the Mitchell brothers mich well-loved matriarch in the British soap, EastEnders (1985-).
Barbara had won a BAFTA in 1963 for a British kitchen sink drama, Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963). This film used spoken Cockney slang and was mainly improvised by the cast. This film was the first film to be subtitled for viewings in America. Her films also included Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and TV Series such as Doctor Who (1963-) and Come Fly with Me (2011).
She had a lengthy theatre career, this was particularly in pantomimes. Interestingly her first role was in a pantomime in 1950 in Cinderella and her final role was 61 years later in the panto, Dick Whittington. She also appeared in a number of British TV adverts advertising cream cakes and bingo.
In Carry on Films…
Carry On Doctor – UK Trailer, LIVE3STREAM
In this British film franchise, Barbara Windsor appeared in nine of these British comedy movies. She was added to the team by Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers after she was spotted in the actor’s studio dining room. These films were known for their British comedy which was influenced by those seaside cartoon postcards, with double innuendo and an often recurring cast. These cast members also including Charley Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Sid James and Kenneth Williams.
Barbara’s debut was in Carry on Spying (1964), and this a comedy parody of the James Bond movies. Her character was Agent Daphne Honeybutt and the name and character based on a Dr No (1962) Bond girl. Off set, she made firm friends with actor, Kenneth Williams. This friendship lasted until he passed away, and he even joined Barbara on a honeymoon with one of her husbands.
She also starred in Carry on Henry (1972), in a film telling of alternative history for Henry VIII (Sid James), where she starred as Bettina, the daughter of the Earl of Bristol the and object of the unhappily married, Henry’s affections to another fictional wife played by Joan Sims.
Barbara’s infectious bubbly nature and curvy figure were often used as part of her storyline in many of these films which added to the mayhem. Other films included Carry on Camping (1969), which is most remembered for one of her most famous and iconic scenes. This in an on-screen moment where her character’s bikini top flies off during a group exercise session. She also appeared in Carry On Doctor (1967) as a trainee nurse (with a crush on a doctor) named Sandra May. She also starred as Goldie Locks, a film actress with a medical problem in Carry on Again Doctor (1969) and as a flirtatious widow, Sadie Tompkins in Carry on Abroad (1972).
In EastEnders (1985-)...
EastEnders – Peggy Slaps Phil Then Confronts Him & Grant (3rd April 1995), EE Scenes 85
Barbara Windsor joined the EastEnders cast in 1994 replacing actress Jo Warne. I remember being superimpressed at the versatility of this actress as she joined the series. She had been an actress who I had known from these Carry on films, so admittedly I was initially sceptical when I heard she was joining the cast. However, she shone in her more serious and dramatic role.
Barbara’s role was Peggy Mitchell, the mother of Grant, Phil and daughter, Samantha Mitchell in a recurring role. This role came to an end in 2016. Peggy was known for her disastrous love affairs, her on and off battle with breast cancer, and as the all too forgiving and highly protective mother to Grant and Phil. She also was the Queen Vic’s most prolific landlady with her defining catchphrase “Get outta my pub!”.
Barbara joined the soap as Peggy’s sons were at war (again) after Grant had discovered his big brother Phil was having a fling with Sharon, Grant’s wife. This news was naturally shared with the whole of the Queen Vic pub, with Grant playing a tape recording of Sharon confessing all to her best friend Michelle.
Peggy was also known for her many failed love affairs including her love triangle with Pat Evans (Pam St Clement) with both women vying for Peggy’s husband, Frank Butcher’s (Mike Reid) affections. She also married her one time brother in law, Archie Mitchell (Larry Lamb) and hooked up with Harry Slater (Michael Elphick). These romances lasted until in true soap fashion she found out the former a control freak and a liar, and the latter a paedophile.
In EastEnders, as Peggy developed breast cancer, Barbara’s performance won praise from the EastEnders audience and health professionals alike for its accuracy in the story development. Her scenes featuring her characters fight with breast cancer ranged from before diagnosis until Barbara’s last appearance in which this illness returned. This led to the suicide of this much-loved soap opera character.
It is now sad to learn of Barbara Windsor’s passing. This beautiful kind-hearted actress latterly was a passionate advocate of Alzheimer’s Disease. The fact that this was a condition she had herself, makes it all the more poignant. Gyles Brandreth added a tribute on Twitter which beautifully describes her as,
An extraordinary lady. An extraordinary life. She put the bubbles in the champagne of life.
This summing her up beautifully as the actress who had the bottle to make us laugh in those Carry on films and then to cry with her more dramatic soap storylines. She once commented she was lucky to have appeared in both the iconic British film franchise and soap. But we were also lucky, that she did.