Last week I mentioned that Juliette Kaplan, who played Pearl in Last of the Summer Wine, was hoping to become a permanent resident on the world’s longest running soap opera, Coronation Street. If she does, I’m sure her LOTSW cast mate, Jane Alexander, who plays Auntie Wainwright, can give her some tips about life on the "Street".
Alexander appeared in Coronation Street for 23 years, from 1964 to 1987. She was actually in the show a little longer than that, having first appeared in 1962 as a different character. Her character, Hilda Ogden, though was probably the most popular in the show’s history. At one time, in fact, Alexander was voted the fourth most popular woman in Britain, after the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and Princess Diana!
When Alexander decided to leave Coronation Street, the producing station, Grenada Television, was inundated with letters from fans asking that they make her stay. She received so many, that even to this day, many of them remain unopened. Her last appearance in Coronation Street was on Christmas Day in 1987, when a record breaking 26 million viewers tuned in; a record that has yet to be broken. Almost 20 years later, Alexander still seemed to be on viewers’ minds, when a 2005 television magazine held a poll and she was voted the World’s Most Famous Soap Opera Star.
Not long after she left the "Street" in 1988, Alexander joined the cast of LOTSW, playing Auntie Wainwright. Initially she was supposed to be in just a couple of episodes, but by 1991 she had joined the cast permanently and appeared in the show until it was cancelled in 2010. According to an interview Alexander gave, Auntie Wainwright was her "favorite part of all time".
Before becoming an actress, the Liverpool born Alexander worked at a librarian, but she’d loved the theatre for as long as she could remember. Coming from a poor family, though, she hadn’t been able to afford to go to drama school. Instead she’d needed to go out to work. Eventually the pull of the stage was too much and she left her job at Liverpool Public Libraries to become an actress. For a dozen years she worked in repertory theatres throughout the north west of England and got small parts in television shows before finding her big break in Coronation Street.
Alexander retired from acting in 2012, at the age of 86. Last summer, she gave her fans quite a shock when it was reported that she had been hospitalized after suffering a stroke. The never-married Alexander was then moved into a care home, and it was doubted that she would ever be well enough to leave. By September though she was back on her feet and well enough to return to her own home in Southport; the home she had lived in for 40 odd years, having bought it for her parents and lived in with her mother when her father had died.
On arrival back home, Alexander told reporters that she was “happy, fit and well” and “getting on with life as normal.”
If you've got a favorite actor you'd like to know more about let me know, drop me a line.
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