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Dame June Whitfield: From Carry On to Absolutely Fabulous

Actress Dame June Whitfield (Fiona Hanson/PA)
Actress Dame June Whitfield (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Roles in some of Britain’s best loved shows made Dame June Whitfield a household name.

She appeared in the popular Carry On film series and starred in long-running sitcom Terry And June in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The comedy actress found new fans playing Edina’s slightly batty mother in Absolutely Fabulous in the 1990s, reprising her character in the spin-off movie in 2016.

June Whitfield Death
With the Absolutely Fabulous team (Ian West/PA)

She also voiced Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple on BBC Radio 4 throughout the 1990s.

Dame June was born to a telephone company executive and an amateur actress in Streatham, south London, on November 11, 1925.

In an interview with the Telegraph, the veteran actress said she knew from an early age she wanted to perform.

“There was never one moment when I decided,” she told the newspaper. “I went to dancing classes and elocution classes and the appeal was simply that I loved it all.”

Trained at Rada, Dame June’s big break came in 1953 when she was cast as Ron Glum’s fiancee Eth in The Glums, part of Frank Muir and Denis Norden’s radio comedy Take It From Here.

Her first starring role was in the sitcom Beggar My Neighbour in 1966 as Rose Garvey.

June Whitfield Death
with Terry Scott (PA)

Two years later, she joined Terry Scott in Scott On… marking the start of their working relationship, she appeared alongside him in Happy Ever After and its popular successor Terry And June.

Dame June starred alongside some of the acting greats of the past 60 years, including Frankie Howerd, Benny Hill and Tony Hancock, who were all eager to work with her.

She and Frankie Howerd recorded a spoof version of the late 60s hit Je T’aime, originally made famous by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, which was banned from the BBC for being too risque due to its comical heavy breathing.

It was in the 1990s that Dame June’s comedy skills gained recognition from a new generation of fans when she joined Absolutely Fabulous, becoming one of the show’s best known characters as the mother of Jennifer Saunders’ character Edina Monsoon.

She continued to be a regular face on British television, appearing in comedy series such Last Of The Summer Wine and The Green Green Grass.

Appearances on Britain’s best loved soaps, including a short stint on Coronation Street in 2010 and a one-off appearance in Albert Square for EastEnders in 2015, kept the veteran actress on the small screen well into the turn of the century.

In an interview published in the Daily Mirror on the day that her death was announced, Dame June bemoaned the amount of sex and violence in current shows, adding: “And where’s the humour gone?”

She said mobility problems meant she now could only play someone “in bed going to sleep”.

Dame June was made an OBE in 1985 and a CBE in 1998, and given the Lifetime Achievement Award for Comedy by the British Comedy Awards in 1994.

The former Carry On films actress was made a dame by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in 2017 for services to drama and entertainment, which she said at the time was “remarkable”.

Dame June, whose husband Tim Aitchison died in 2001, is survived by their daughter Suzy Aitchison who is also an actress.

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